brain and neuron IU COGS Q240 Philosophical Foundations of Cognitive Science

SYLLABUS Spring 2006

Professor: Colin Allen (with Jonathan Weinberg P360 Philosophy of Mind)
Assistant Instructor: Grant Goodrich

Office hours (C. Allen): Monday 1:30-2:30 and Thursday 2:15-3:15 in Goodbody 130

Contact info (C. Allen): 855-8916

Classroom Locations
Tue/Thu class meetings at 1:00-2:15 vary between two locations:

SY = Sycamore Hall 022

JH = Jordan Hall A106 [combined meetings with PHIL P360]
Fri meetings at 10:10-12:05

FR = Forest QuadRangle C238

You must check the schedule enough ahead of time to know where you are supposed to be on any given day.


There is no textbook for the course but there are roughly two required readings per week. The reading schedule has links to the required readings (a password is required for access to some materials).

Subject Matter

Cognitive Science emerged almost 50 years ago from developments in philosophy, computer science, psychology, and linguistics. Central to this emergence were new ideas about how the notion of mental representation could be understood in computational terms: the computational theory of mind. The belief that intelligence could be understood in terms of physical symbol processing served to unite artificial intelligence and cognitive psychology under a common philosophical framework, and it was believed that computers with human-level capacities would be rapidly achieved. Progress in artificial intelligence, however, has been much slower than anticipated, and developments in neuroscience, in artificial neural networks, and in dynamical and evolutionary approaches to cognition and robotics, have caused some to question whether cognitive science should remain committed to the notion of mental representation. In this course, students will learn about the original promise of computational theory of mind, and how it provided an alternative to earlier philosophical and scientific views about the relationship between mind and body. We will go on to consider the debate about whether evolutionary, embodied, and dynamical systems approaches to cognitive science amount to an overthrow of its traditional representationalist core as well as providing a philosophical challenge to our deep-seated conception of ourselves as human agents with rational beliefs.

Assignments and Grading

There are no scheduled examinations for Q240 students, but there are eight (8) writing assignments (roughly one every two weeks). Details will be provided in the Intensive Writing (IW) schedule.

Late submissions are unacceptable and will incur a grade penalty because several of the IW sessions will involve discussion of completed work. The writing assignments are tightly integrated with the main lecture content, so attendance at all three meetings each week is important. Occasional pop quizzes on readings may be used to determine attendance and participation. 80% of the course grade is based on the written assignments, 10% is for participation in discussions during main lecture and 10% for participation during discussion sections.

Statement for Students with Disabilities
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal anti-discrimination statute that provides comprehensive civil rights protection for persons with disabilities. Among other things, this legislation requires that all students with disabilities be guaranteed a learning environment that provides for reasonable accommodation of their disabilities. If you believe you have a disability requiring an accommodation, please contact IU Disability Services for Students.

Statement about Academic Misconduct

University rules concerning academic misconduct will be rigorously enforced in this class. See IU Code of Ethics, Part II for details.

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