We cannot hope to understand what we are if we lack an adequate understanding of our minds and mental lives: our experiences, thoughts, feelings, the consciousness that pervades our waking lives, the very desire to understand that leads us to contemplate such questions in the first place. But while there is nothing more familiar to you than your own mind, there is, perhaps, nothing more mysterious and puzzling. What are thoughts? What are feelings? What is consciousness? Do such phenomena give us reason to believe in the existence of souls that are distinct from our bodies? Or has science established that our conscious mental lives are reducible to a sequence of brain events? Should we instead deny that the organic matter of a brain is strictly necessary for consciousness? For should we grant that computers or artificial intelligence machines could, in principle, think and feel?
This module investigates these central and deep questions about ourselves. We will be addressing the question of what minds are, what consciousness is; what the relation is between mind and brain, and mind and body. We will also be considering how answers to such questions bear on the question of how we can know about the minds of others. How can you tell when another creature is conscious? How could you know if a computer or artificial intelligence machine was conscious? And how could you know what it was like for them to be conscious?
This module will teach students to understand, analyse and apply key theoretical approaches in contemporary philosophy of mind. Students will learn to identify and assess different argumentative strategies used to answer questions about minds, consciousness, artificial intelligence, and the relation between mind and brain. They will learn to develop and defend their own judgement about competing views in philosophy of mind, and express themselves clearly and with precision.