brain and neuron COGS Q240 Philosophical Foundations of Cognitive Science

Fall 2008 Schedule and Syllabus


(Prof.) Colin Allen <> Goodbody Hall 113, 855-8916
Office hours: Wednesdays immediately after class, or by appointment.

(A.I.) Carlos Zednik <> Sycamore 021
Office hours: Mondays 1:30-2:30

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 minds could be understood in computational terms: the computational theory of mind. The belief that intelligence could be understood in terms of physical processing of symbolic representations 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 computational theory of mind. In this course, students will learn about the original promise of the computational theory, 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 symbolic-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

This course is designated Intensive Writing(IW).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.” There are no scheduled examinations, but there are weekly forum posting assignments and six formal pieces of writing required.

Late submissions are unacceptable and will incur a grade penalty of 1 point per 24 hrs because several of the Friday discussion sessions will involve discussion of drafts of submitted 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.

70 points for the IW assignments, distributed as follows:
IW-1, due 09/10, 5 points
IW-2, due 10/01, 10 points
IW-3, due 10/13, 10 points
IW-4, due 11/12, 15 points
IW-5, due 12/05, 10 points
IW-6, due 12/15, 20 points
20 points for forum postings (1 point off for each thread missed; 5 points off for missed starter assignment
10 points for participation in discussions during class lecture and discussion periods, and additional contributions to forums
100 total

Letter grades will be converted to and from points according to the following 10 point scale:

A+ 10 A 9.5 A- 9.0 B+ 8.7 B 8.3 B- 8.0 C+ 7.7 C 7.3 C- 7.0 D+ 6.7 D 6.2 D- 6.0


There is no required textbook for the course but there are roughly two required readings per week. The schedule below has links to the required readings. Some of these items require a password for access, and some (e.g. jstor) may be inaccessible if you are outside the campus network. Note: local pdfs of jstor articles are provided for convenience of IU students who have fair use rights to them through the university license.

For those interested in a text book that covers some of this material, Andy Clark's Mindware 2nd Edition, Oxford Univ. Press, may be a helpful companion.

DateTopicAssignment detailsReadings
Week 1
09/03What is (Philosophy of) Cognitive Science? Thagard (2007) "Cognitive Science" (html)
09/05Discussion Section Intensive writing (IW) objectives and assignments.
Week 2Forum starters: Zednik + Allen
09/08Rationalists and Empricists Descartes (1641) Meditations 1 and 2
Hume (1777) Enquiry sections 2 and 3 (skip secs. 1, 4, and 5)
09/10Chomsky and Skinner*IW-1 DUE* Write 250-500 words on the question "Are minds machines?" Chomsky (1959/1967) "Review of B.F. Skinner's Verbal Behavior" (html) (pdf)
09/12Discussion Section
Week 3Forum starters: Michael Hansen + Austin Steel
09/15Metaphors for Mind I: Maps and Images Tolman (1948) "Cognitive maps in rats in men" (html) (pdf)
Shepherd & Metzler (1971) "Mental rotation of three-dimensional objects" (jstor) (pdf)
09/17Metaphors for Mind II: MachinesExplore at least one of the interactive sites linked to these articles. Read the Wikipedia Turing Machine entry (html) entry first, then, for a more in-depth treatment see the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry (html)
09/19Discussion Section
Week 4Forum starters: Andrew Harbor + Kelley Gordon
09/22Functionalism Block (1996) "What is Functionalism?" (pdf)
09/24Turing Test and Classical AI Turing (1950) "Computing Machinery & Intelligence"(html) (pdf
Schank & Abelson (1977) excerpts from Scripts, Plans, Goals, and Understanding (pdf)
09/26Discussion Section
Week 5Forum starters: Aleksandra Hawryluk + Monique Goodwin
09/29Physical Symbols System Hypothesis Newell & Simon (1975) "Computer science as empirical enquiry: symbols and search" (pdf 2.5MB!)
10/01Chinese Room*IW-2 DUE* Write 500-750 words to explain functionalism to an 8th grader. Searle (1980) "Minds, Brains, and Programs" (html)
10/03Discussion Section
Week 6Forum starters: Jacob Henderson + Maxwell Frank
10/06Brains & Neurons Society for Neuroscience (2005) Brain Facts (pdf): read pages 4-25
10/08Autonomy of Psychology Fodor (1974) "Special Sciences (or: The disunity of science as a working hypothesis)" (pdf)
10/10Discussion Section
Week 7Forum starters: Aaron Kunkle + Nathaniel Cindrich
10/13Integrating levels Marr (1980) selection from Vision (pdf 2.8 MB!)
10/15The Place of Folk Psychology*IW-3 DUE* Write 1000-1250 words on the question "Could a digital computer be a thinking machine?" Dennett (1981) "True believers" (pdf 3.6MB!)
10/17Discussion Section
Week 8Forum starters: Marcus Lamaster + Kyle Carter
10/20Beliefs and Rationality Tversky & Kahneman "Judgment Under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases" (jstor) (pdf)
10/22Theory of Mind Wimmer & Perner (1983) "Beliefs about beliefs: Representation and constraining function of wrong beliefs in young children's understanding of deception" (pdf)
Optional: Gordon (2004) "Folk Psychology as Simulation" (html [SEP entry])
10/24Discussion Section
Week 9Forum starters: Thien Nguyen + Emily Cahill
10/27Connectionism I Learning in artificial neural networks (Background primer)
10/29Connectionism II Pollack (1989) "Connectionism: past, present, and future" (pdf)
10/31Discussion Section
Week 10Forum starters: Jenna Norden
11/03Eliminativism I Ramsey, Stich, & Garon (1991) "Connectionism, eliminativism, and the future of folk psychology" (jstor) (pdf 2)
11/05Eliminativism IIBrooks (1991) "Intelligence without representation" (pdf)
11/07Discussion Section
Week 11Forum starters: Darin Patrick
11/10Robotics 2Harvey et al. (2005) "Evolutionary Robotics: A new scientific tool for studying cognition" (pdf)
11/12Embodied Cognition*IW-4 DUE* 1500-1800 words on the question "Folk Psychology: Dead or Alive?" Clark (1998) "Embodiment and the Philosophy of Mind" (pdf)
11/14Discussion Section
Week 12Forum starters: Gail Rosenbaum + Nicole Beckage
11/17Extended Mind Clark, A. and D. J. Chalmers (1998) "The Extended Mind" (pdf)
11/19Dynamical Systems Beer (2000) "Dynamical approaches to cognitive science" (pdf)
11/21Discussion Section
Week 13Forum starters: Cameo Rye + Andrew Armington
11/24Dynamical Philosophy van Gelder (1995) "What might cognition be if not computation?" (pdf)
Week 14Forum starters: Lucas Sinex + Claire Alvis
12/01Emotion Damasio Descartes' Error ch 1 and ch 7
12/03Mirror neurons Allen (2009) "Mirror, Mirror in the Brain, What's the Monkey Stand to Gain?" (pdf)
12/05Discussion Section*IW-5 DUE* Choose either of the previous two writing assignments and revise it in light of the comments you received (1500-1800 words; total does not count towards IW minimum)
Week 15Forum starters: open mic!
12/08Bird Brains Emery (2006) "Cognitive ornithology: the evolution of avian intelligence" (pdf)
12/10Future directions tba
12/12Discussion Section
Week 16
12/15no classes*IW-6 DUE* Final paper: 2000-2500 words on "Are minds machines?" (Other topics acceptable if approved in advance, no later than 12/01)

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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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