Assignments From the faculty handbook:
“For a course to qualify for IW credit, students must be
required to write at least 5,000 words (roughly 20 typed pages), not
counting revisions (and excluding essay examinations and informal
writing, e.g., journals or brief response statements). Students must
receive periodic evaluations of their writing, and they must be
required to redraft one or more papers in light of the instructor’s
criticism. Ordinarily students will write a series of papers over the
course of a semester, not one long term paper.”
IW-1. Choose one of the "-isms" – e.g.,
rationalism, dualism, or behaviorism -- that has been discussed in
lectures or readings, then (a) explain what it means and (b) summarize
the main arguments for and against it.
- Due 09/12.
- The audience for this paper is a friend or acquaintance who has
not taken this course. Do not be overly casual in your writing, but do
focus on being clear, concise, and
accessible. Briefly explain any
technical terms and avoid unexplained jargon.
- You are not expected to consult any sources beyond what we have
covered in class, but you are welcome to do so if you would like. Just
make sure that you cite any sources that you refer to in your
- A good secondary source for many of the topics we will cover this
semester is the
Encyclopedia of Philosophy. For this paper, the most relevant
entries would be the SEP entry on
dualism and behaviorism. You
may also find related items at the InPhO page for Cognitive
- If you do consult other sources, keep in mind that the terms
"dualism", "behaviorism", "functionalism", and "materialism", can mean
different things to people in different fields, even within philosophy
and cognitive science. The kind of dualism we have discussed is often
referred to as Cartesian dualism, or mind-body dualism. The kind of
behaviorism we've discussed is sometimes known as methodological
behaviorism, or, more generally, psychological behaviorism. There is a
distinct (but related) strand of behaviorism in philosophy, which was
prevalent around the same time as the psychological version. If you
read the appendix in Mindware, this is the sense in which
"behaviorism" is used there. Keep this in mind if you consult
other sources, and stick to the kind of -ism that we focused on in
- Min. length: 600 words.
IW-2. Explain functionalism to a 6th grader. In doing so, be sure to address each of the following:
- What does functionalism claim about the nature of mental states?
- How does the concept of the Turing machine relate to functionalism? In other words,
what role does the Turing machine play in the functionalist account of the mind?
- Due 10/03.
- Cite all sources used, including any we read in class.
- Min. length: 600 words.
IW-3. The early part of the course has dealt with a related set
of questions, including:
- Can machines think (understand, be intelligent, etc.)?
- If so, what kind of machine? If not, then why not?
- How can we judge whether a machine is intelligent (capable of thought, understanding, etc.) or not? That is, what kind of evidence would should we use?
The assignment for this essay is to pick two of the readings to compare and contrast, focusing on questions like the ones given above. On points where the two sides disagree, explain which side you find more convincing.
Note: The bullet-pointed questions above are just meant as a guide. Depending on which pair of papers you choose, you might focus more on one or two of these questions and less on the other(s). Or you may find that there are other relevant questions or issues to focus on. The organization of this essay is more open ended than on previous assignments. However you choose to organize it, though, remember to be clear in terms of your introduction, paragraphing, and transitions.
- Due 10/24.
- Include at least one specific reference (with page number) from each of the two papers.
- Cite your sources using APA or MLA formatting.
- Min. length: 1000 words.
IW-4. One of the themes in philosophy of
cognitive science concerns the relationship between folk (or
commonsense) psychology and scientific psychology (which, for our
purposes, can be taken to include neuroscience, much of AI, and much
of cognitive science in general). One way to understand this debate is
in terms of the mind-body problem, which has been a recurring thread
throughout the semester. What is the relationship between the mental
realm and the physical realm (or are they identical)? Do mental states
(e.g., beliefs, desires, and intentions) have "causal powers"? Why or
why not? Finally, what should be the relationship between folk
psychology and scientific psychology? Your assignment in this essay is
to present your own argument on some aspect of the folk psychology
debate. That could mean addressing one of the above questions, or it
could mean focusing on another aspect of the recent material (e.g.,the
Dennett paper on the intentional stance, Ch.3 of Mindware, or
even some other relevant source, as long as you clear it
first). Whatever the topic, make sure to inlcude the following in your
- A clear, concise introductory paragraph that includes a statement of your thesis and a brief overview of how you plan to support it
- Two or three well-organized body paragraphs, each addressing a particular aspect of your argument
- A brief conclusion that revisits your thesis statement and (ideally) raises an additional question or two for the reader to think about in light of your arguments.
- Due 11/14
- In contrast to the previous essays, you will need to formulate an argument of your own rather than to explain or evaluate someone else's argument. However, these tasks are not entirely unrelated, since one way to formulate a topic is to take someone else's argument and look for ways to evaluate it, critique it, or expand on it.
- Min. length: 1000 words.
IW-5. Revision of earlier piece or draft of final piece. Choice must be pre-approved by 11/21.
- Due 12/05.
- Min. length 1200 words (does not count towards 5,000
word IW requirement).
IW-6. The assignment for the final
paper is to write an argument-based (i.e., thesis- based) paper on a
topic from the second half of the class, which means anything from
Week 9 onwards, including the following topics: evolutionary
approaches to cognitive science, embodied cognition, extended mind,
dynamical systems approaches, etc. (Any of the material from the
Discussion sections of Mindware from Ch. 4-7 would be fair game.)
You should have a discernible thesis that you back up with
supporting arguments. For example, you might pick something we've read
or discussed that you disagree with and want to argue against. Or you
can pick something you agree with and argue for why you think
so-and-so is right. In either case, you would need to offer support
for your argument and also consider (and respond to) some potential
- Due 12/16.
- Min. length: 1500 words.
Writing Tutorial Services
For free help at any phase of the writing process—from
brainstorming to polishing the final draft—call Writing Tutorial
Services (WTS, pronounced “wits”) at 855-6738 for an appointment. When
you visit WTS, you’ll find a tutor who is a sympathetic and helpful
reader of your prose. To be assured of an appointment with the tutor
who will know most about your class, please call in advance. WTS, in
the Information Commons on the first floor of the Wells Library, is
open Monday- Thursday 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. and Friday 10:00 a.m. to
5:00 p.m. Walk-in tutorials are available when WTS has an opening, but
the appointment book often fills in advance. WTS tutors are also
available for walk-in tutorials (only) in the Academic Support Centers
in Briscoe, Forest, and Teter residence halls, open Sunday-Thursday
7:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.