Syllabus for Philosophical Foundations of Cognitive and Information Science COGS Q540 Valid HTML 4.01!
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COGS Q540 — Philosophical Foundations of Cognitive and Information Science
Meeting time: MW 9:30-10:45; Location: PY 230 (Psychology Building)
Instructor: Colin Allen, PhD <>
Office / Telephone: [Eigenmann 804 / 856-3868] and [Goodbody 113 / 855-8916]
Office hours: [Wed immediately after class] [Thu 1-3 in GB 113] and by appointment

Course Description

The cognitive sciences began with great enthusiasm for the prospects of a successful multi-disciplinary attack on the mind. This enthusiasm was fueled by the faith that computational ideas could put flesh on abstract notions of mental representation, providing the means to make good physical sense of questions about the nature of mental information processing. The challenges of understanding how minds work have turned out to be much greater than many of the early enthusiasts predicted — in fact they have turned out to be so great that many (especially here at IU) have argued that we need new paradigms to replace the standard computationalist-representationalist assumptions of traditional cognitive science. This course aims to provide an understanding of the philosophical issues underlying this discussion and to apply this understanding to a specific cutting edge topic. For Fall 2007 that issue will be the nature of the cognitive construction of a conscious self.


  1. Readings provided electronically; see schedule below
  2. Required book: Metzinger, T. 2004. Being No One: The Self-Model Theory of Subjectivity. MIT Press.
  3. Optional/recommended book: Andy Clark Mindware 2nd Edition, OUP.

Course Objectives

By the end of this course you should have broad knowledge of the history, philosophy and major concepts and trends in cognitive science, along with an appreciation for the philosophical issues that motivated the emergence of cognitive science and underlie the controversies within it. By the end of the course you should have the ability to read works written for professional academic cognitive scientists and philosophers of cognitive science, and to summarize them accurately both orally and in writing using your own words. You should also be able to relate foundational issues in cognitive science to your own research interests.

Grading Basis

Grades will be based on performance in the following four categories:

  1. Weekly journal due each Monday* [1 page] (15%)
  2. Paper/research proposal due Oct 17 [2 pages] (10%)
  3. Draft of paper due before Thanksgiving [approx 10 pages] (20%)
  4. Final paper due Dec 10 [approx 15 pages] (40%)
  5. Oral presentations and classroom participation** (15%)

* Weekly journal, due each Monday. Identify which items you have read from the reading list during the previous 7 days, and write a one page reaction to at least one of them. This should not be a summary or restatement of the reading. Rather, write about your reaction to something you read. What did you like or dislike most about the idea(s)? How good was the argument that was presented?

** All students will be scheduled to give at least two class presentations. Also, if you do not speak up regularly during class discussions, you may also be gauged by an oral exam to be scheduled at the instructor's discretion during finals week.

Schedule of Readings and Presentations

This schedule may be altered in response to events in class.

Mondays Wednesdays Other
Aug 27
Organization and Overview Aug 29
No class
Sep 03
Cognitive Prehistory
• Descartes Meditations I & II
• Hume Enquiry section 2 and section 3
• Tolman (1948) html | pdf
Sep 05
Beyond Behaviorism
• Chomsky (1959/1967) html | pdf
• Shepard & Metzler (1971) jstor | pdf
• Goldstone & Kersten (2003) pdf
Sep 10
Turing Machines
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
• [Clark 1] COGS Colloquium Jesse Prinz
Sep 12
Classical A.I.
• Newell & Simon (1975) pdf 2.5MB!
• Schank & Abelson (1977) pdf 6.9MB!!
• [Clark 2]
Sep 17
Turing Test
• Turing (1950) html | pdf
• Searle (1980) html
Sep 19
• Marr (1981) pdf (2.8 MB!)
• Block (1996) pdf
• Fodor (1974) pdf
• [Clark 3]
Sep 24
Beliefs, Believers, & Concepts
• Wimmer & Perner (1983) pdf (2.2MB!)
• Dennett (1981) pdf (3.6MB!)
• Tversky & Kahneman (1974) jstor | pdf (2.1MB!)
• Gordon (2004) html [SEP entry]
Sep 26
• Pollack (1989) pdf
• Ramsey et al. (1991) jstor pdf 2.6MB!!
• [Clark 4]
Sep 28
HPS Colloquium: Oron Shagrir
Oct 01
• Brooks (1991) pdf
• Clark (1998) pdf
• Barsalou, Smith & Breazeal (2006) pdf
• [Clark 5]
Oct 03
Dynamical Systems
• Beer (2000) pdf
• Harvey et al. (2005) pdf
• [Clark 6 & 7]
Oct 08
Infants & Animals
• Hauser & Carey (1998) pdf of text | figures (3.7MB!)
• Allen (2006) pdf COGS Colloquium Jay McClelland
Oct 10
Consciousness & Perception
• Pessoa et al. (1998) pdf (pages 1-26 only req'd)
• Chalmers (2004) pdf
• Lenggenhager, Tadji, Metzinger & Blanke (2007) pdf
Oct 15

Metzinger 1.1-2.3 (focus on 1-9,13-31)
Oct 17

Metzinger 2.4-3.1 (focus pages 62-69, 83-87, 96-101, 107-110)
Oct 22

Metzinger 3.2-3.2.9 (focus pages 122-131, 151-162) COGS Colloquium
PAPER PROPOSAL DUE (delayed deadline)
Oct 24

Metzinger 3.2.10-4.2.4 (focus pages 215-237)
Oct 29

Metzinger 4.2.5-6.2.2 (focus 265-270, 277-288) COGS Colloquium
Nov 07

Metzinger: Summary discussion of book so far
Nov 05

Metzinger 6.2.3-6.3.3 (focus pages 353-362, 368-379)
Nov 07

Metzinger 6.3.4-7.2.1 (focus pages 380-386, 411-420, 429-437)
Nov 12

Metzinger 7.2.2-7.2.3.p488 (focus pages 437-445, 454-474)
Nov 14

Metzinger 7.2.3.p488-8.1 (focus pages 488-506, 547-558)
Nov 19

Metzinger 8.2-8.3 (focus pages tbd)
Nov 21 No Class - Thanksgiving Break
Nov 26 Student presentations Nov 28 Student presentations
Dec 03 Student Presentations Dec 05 Student Presentations

COGS Colloquia are at 4 p.m. unless otherwise noted.

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.