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PHI 433/633 Ė Philosophical Psychology


Fall Term 2005

Tues. & Thurs., 4:00 - 5:15

CBC C117

 Email: beiseckd@unlv.nevada.edu

Website: www.unlv.edu/faculty3/beisecker



Dave Beisecker

Department of Philosophy

CDC 429

Office Hrs: TH, 1:30-2:30

Office Phone: 895-4038


Course Description: Psychology purports to be the "science of the mind." But what should such an enterprise look like? Indeed, to what extent are our mental lives amenable to scientific inquiry at all? Does the notion of free will, for instance, preclude an appropriately scientific understanding of our behavior? Does the idea of unconscious mental processes even make sense? In this course, we will investigate the philosophical assumptions made by some of the most influential figures who have shaped psychology: James, Freud, Skinner, Piaget, Kohlberg, and Wilson (to name a few). And we will examine the prospects of the movements within contemporary psychology that they started: behaviorism, developmental psychology, cognitive science, sociobiology, and cognitive neurobiology.

Required Texts: There will be two required texts for this course:

                SM - Owen Flanagan, The Science of the Mind, 2nd ed., MIT (1997)

                MM Ė William Lyons, Matters of the Mind, Routledge (2001)

                Both should be available at the University Bookstore. Acquire them ASAP!

I reserve the right to assign additional readings, which will be passed out in class. It is your responsibility to be there to receive them.

Relevant Websites:

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: http://plato.stanford.edu/contents.html

A Field Guide to the Philosophy of Mind: http://host.uniroma3.it/progetti/kant/field/index.html

Dictionary of Philosophy of Mind: http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~philos/MindDict/main.html

Course Requirements:  As you can see from the schedule below, students will be asked to take two exams, in addition to leading class discussion and taking notes at least once. My current inclination is for the exams to be of the take-home variety; I'll pass them out in class, and they will be due back to me a week later. While I encourage you to discuss these exams with one another, I expect you to write your answers by yourself. Plagiarism will not be tolerated here, and will be prosecuted to the full extent the University allows (an "F" for the exam, at the very least!). You must not pass off someone else's work as your own, and you must document all your sources. Similar penalties apply to those who willingly allow their own work to be used by someone else.

I reserve the right to change my mind and hold in-class exams instead, and I'm certainly open to student input on the matter. Each of the exams will be equally weighted, contributing roughly 35% each to your final grade (70% total).  Roughly 20% will be accorded to your class presentations, while the remaining 10% of your grade will be based upon your attendance, general demeanor, and your contribution to class discussions.

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Additional Requirements for Graduate Students:  In addition to the above requirements, students wishing to take this course for graduate (600-level) credit will be required to write a 3000 word response to a recent article concerning one of the topics discussed in class and to present this paper to the class, much as if they were giving a professional conference commentary.  Students should consult with me as they select the target article for their response.

Copyright Disclaimer: The university requires all members of the university community to familiarize themselves and to follow copyright and fair use requirements.  YOU ARE INDIVIDUALLY AND SOLELY RESPONSIBLE FOR VIOLATIONS OF COPYRIGHT AND FAIR USE LAWS.  THE UNIVERSITY WILL NEIRTHER PROTECT NOR DEFEND YOU NOR ASSUME ANY RESPONSIBILITY FOR EMPLOYEE OR STUDENT VIOLATIONS OF FAIR USE LAWS.  Violations of copyright laws could subject you to federal and state civil penalties and criminal liability as well as disciplinary action under university policies.  To familiarize yourself with copyright and fair use policies, the university encourages you to visit its copyright website at http://www.unlv.edu/committees/copyright.

Learning and Enhancement Services (LES) houses Disability Services, Tutoring Services, and Learning Strategies. If you have a documented disability that requires assistance, you will need to contact LES for coordination in your academic accommodations. LES is located in the Reynolds Services Complex, suite 137. The DRC phone number is 895-0866 or TDD 895-0652. You may also visit their website at http://www.unlv.edu/studentlife/les.

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Course Plan: We will proceed simultaneously on two fronts. For about 50 minutes of each class period, I will lead discussions over the philosophical material presented in The Science of the Mind (SM). I will also assign one member of the class to take notes for that day. Everyone will be asked to take notes at least once during the semester. Notetakers will be expected to distribute their notes and to present a 5-10 minute summary of the lecture at the beginning of the next class meeting. Everyone should come to class having already read the material and armed with questions and objections in mind. Folk whoíve had the misfortune of taking my classes before will attest that I canít sustain a coherent lecture for much longer than 15 minutes; given half a chance, I will quickly soar over studentsí heads. Stop me if you feel the point of my ramblings slipping away (chances are, most everyone else is feeling the same way too)!

            For the remainder of most class periods (roughly 15-20 minutes), I will assign one or two students (ahead of time) to facilitate discussion of a portion of the Lyons Book (MM). Everyone will be asked to lead at least one discussion during the semester. The job of discussion leaders will be to 1) provide a quick (5-10 minute) summary of the chapter at hand, highlighting the key claims Lyons is trying to defend, 2) identify and work through any particularly significant and difficult portions of the text, 3) raise important challenges and objections to the arguments in the text, 4) draw connections to the philosophical issues raised in The Science of the Mind, and 5) solicit reactions and comments from other members of the class. I encourage discussion leaders to prepare a handout for the whole class (especially for the first three items on this list). As you can see, they will have their work cut out for them and will need to spend a significant amount of time preparing for their discussions beforehand. Iím perfectly happy to help see them through this task (observe in particular my office hours).

In turn, it will be the job of the rest of the class to foster a collegial atmosphere for discussion leaders. I expect everyone else to be familiar with the assigned material as well, and to come prepared with questions and challenges of their own. Nothing is duller and more discouraging to a discussion leader (and an instructor) than a group that is unwilling to become engaged in the discussion. Show that you care; thatís why attendance and participation for these discussions will be noted and rewarded accordingly!

Warning: The philosophical and scientific investigation of "the mindĒ has become an increasingly technical enterprise, and our texts sometimes reflect this development. Iíll be the first to admit that they are rather dry and in places unfortunately obscure. Donít get discouraged if you sometimes find them hard to follow! Thatís to be expected; indeed, itís the reason Iím around. Itís always fair game to ask me in class about some passage or argument you couldnít understand, no matter how hard you tried. Part of the reward of having taken this course should rest in your knowledge that you have the confidence and ability to grapple with a very challenging subject matter.

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Topics and Readings (tentative, stay tuned for updates and revisions)

Week 1

(Aug. 30, Sep. 1)

Introduction, Philosophical preliminaries

                SM, Chapter 1 - Minds and Bodies: Rene Descartes and the possibility of a science of the mind

Week 2 

(Sep. 6, 8)

 SM, Chapter 2 - Naturalizing the Mind: The philosophical psychology of William James

                MM, Chapter 1 (pp. 1-12)

Week 3

(Sep. 13, 15)

                 SM, Chapter 2 continued

                MM, Chapter 1 (pp. 13-24)

Week 4

(Sep. 20, 22)

SM, Chapter 3 - Science and the Secret Self: The case of Sigmund Freud

                MM, Chapter 1 (pp. 24-36)

Week 5

(Sep. 27, 29)

SM, Chapter 4 - The Science of Behavior, Antimentalism, and the Good Life: B. F. Skinner

                MM, Chapter 2 (pp. 37-45, pp. 45-54)

Week 6

(Oct. 4, 6)

 SM, Chapter 4 Ė Skinner, Part II

                MM, Chapter 2 (pp. 54-68, pp. 68-78)

Week 7

(Oct. 11, 13)

 SM, Chapter 5 - Cognitive-Developmental Psychology, Part I (Piaget)

                MM, Chapter 3 (pp. 79-94, pp. 94-107)

Week 8

(Oct. 18, 20)

SM, Chapter 5 - Cognitive-Developmental Psychology, Part II (Kohlberg)

                MM, Chapter 3 (pp. 107-114, pp. 114-121)



 Week 9

(Oct 25, 27)

 SM, Chapter 6 - Cognitive Science and Artificial Intelligence: Philosophical Assumptions

                MM, Chapter 3 (pp. 121-128); MM, Chapter 4 (pp. 129-142)

Week 10

(Nov. 1, 3)

 SM, Chapter 6 Ė Cognitive Science & AI, part II

                MM, Chapter 4 (pp. 142-151, pp. 151-162)

Week 11

(Nov. 8, 10)

SM, Chapter 8 Ė Consciousness

                MM, Chapter 4 (pp. 162-174), MM, Chapter 5 (pp. 175-185)

Week 12

(Nov 15, 17)

SM, Chapter 8- Consciousness continued

                MM, Chapter 5 (pp. 185-196, pp. 196-207)

Week 13

(Nov. 22)

 SM, Chapter 8 Ė Even more consciousness              

Week 14

(Nov. 29, Dec. 1)

 SM, Chapter 7 - Minds, Genes, and Morals: E.O. Wilson's Sociobiology

MM, Chapter 6 (pp. 209-220, pp. 220-230)

Week 15

(Dec. 6-8)

Conclusions: Grand and Otherwise

                 MM, Chapter 6 (pp. 230-241, pp. 241-253)  



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