version 2009-01-07

brain and neuron COGS Q540 Philosophical Foundations of Cognitive Science

Fall 2008 Schedule and Syllabus
Meeting time: MW 9:30-10:45; Location: PV 273 (SPEA Building)


(Prof.) Colin Allen <> Goodbody Hall 113, 855-8916
Office hours: Wednesdays immediately after class, or 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: Keith Stenning and Michiel Van Lambalgen (2008) Human Reasoning and Cognitive Science 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 holistically on overall performance in the following five categories:

  1. Twelve weekly reaction pieces due each Monday, beginning Jan 26* [1 page each]
  2. Paper/research proposal due March 23 [2 pages]
  3. Draft of paper due April 17 [approx 10 pages]
  4. Final paper due May 4 [approx 15 pages]
  5. Oral presentations and classroom participation**

* Weekly reaction pieces. Identify which items you have read from the reading list for the previous two preceding class periods, 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 an argumentative response to something you read. What did you like or dislike most about the idea(s)? How good was the argument that was presented? (See calendar below for due dates.)

** All students will be scheduled to give 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

Articles for the first part of the semester are available to you via the links below for your personal use under fair use doctrine. Book chapters from Stenning and van Lambalgen are listed as SvL-#. This schedule may be altered in response to events in class. [Items in brackets are suggested/optional readings.]

DateTopicReadingsAssignment details
Week 1
Jan 12Organization and Overview
Jan 14Cognitive Prehistory• Descartes Meditations I & II (alt. version: pdf)
• Hume Enquiry section 2 and section 3
• Tolman (1948) html pdf
CA lecture
Week 2
Jan 19MLK Jr. Day, no class
Jan 21Beyond Behaviorism• Chomsky (1959/1967) html pdf
• Shepard & Metzler (1971) jstor pdf
• Goldstone & Kersten (2003) pdf
George Kachergis
Week 3
Jan 26Turing Machines & Computational Theory of Mind• TM Wikipedia or SEP
• SEP "Computational Theory of Mind" html
• [Clark 1]
Reaction1 due
Jan 28snow cancelled class
Week 4
Feb 02AI as Empirical Enquiry• Newell & Simon (1975) pdf
• Schank & Abelson (1977) pdf
• [Clark 2]
Reaction2 due
Richard Veale (CTM)
Feb 04Turing Test & Chinese Room• Turing (1950) html pdf
• Searle (1980) html
Dan Yurovsky
Feb 06HPS Colloquium: 1:30p.m. Carl Craver "A Field Guide" (to levels)
Week 5
Feb 09Functionalism• Fodor (1974) pdf
• Marr (1981) pdf
• Block (1996) pdf
• [Clark 3]
Reaction3 due
Feb 11Instrumentalism & Rational Believers• Dennett (1981) pdf
• Tversky & Kahneman (1974) jstor pdf
• Todd & Gigerenzer 2007 pdf
Keith Folsom
Week 6
Feb 16Eliminativism and Connectionism• Pollack (1989) pdf
• Ramsey et al. (1991) jstor pdf
• Churchland 2005 preprint pdf
• [SEP "Connectionism" html]
• [Clark 4]
Play with Backprop simulator
Feb 18Embodiment• Brooks (1991) pdf
• Clark (1998) pdf
• Barsalou, Smith & Breazeal (2006) pdf
• [Clark 5]
Seth Frey
Week 7
Feb 23Dynamical Systems• Van Gelder (1995) pdf
• Beer (2000) pdf
• Harvey et al. (2005) pdf
• [Clark 6 & 7]
Reaction4 due
Feb 25Theory of mind: Infants and Animals• Wimmer & Perner (1983) pdf
• Santos et al. (2007) pdf preprint
• Allen (in press) pdf preprint
• [SEP entry "Simulation theory" html]
Thom Gennaro
Week 8
Mar 02Reasoning and Rationality•Allen (2006) pdf
•Vigo, R., and Allen, C. (2009) pdf
Mar 04Logic and PsychologySvL-1Aaron Haltom
Week 9
Mar 09Logical ReasoningSvL-2Reaction5 due
Robert Mahaney
COGS Colloquium 4 p.m. Lori Santos
Mar 11The Wason TaskSvL-3Sean Matthews
Week of Spring Break
Mar 16No class
Mar 18No class
Week 10
Mar 23No classCOGS Colloquium Tatsuya Kameda
Mar 25Exploration vs. ExperimentSvL-4PAPER PROPOSAL DUE
Hongwei Shen
Week 11
Mar 30Lab vs. WildSvL-5Chung-Lin Yang
COGS Colloquium Melvyn Goodale
Apr 01Evolution of Human ReasoningSvL-6Alida Field
Week 12
Apr 06Planning and ReasoningSvL-7Reaction6 due
COGS Colloquium Michael Spivey
Apr 08Planning and ReasoningSvL-7Matthew Falk
Week 13
April 13Reasoning in ANNsSvL-8CA
COGS Colloquium Angela Yu
April 15Nomonotonicity and AutismSvL-9Viridiana Benitez
Week 14
April 20Nomonotonicity and AutismSvL-9Dimitar Nikolov
COGS Colloquium Jeff Elman
April 22Syllogisms and BeyondSvL-10Neal Utterback
Week 15
April 27Syllogisms and BeyondSvL-10Reaction7 due
April 29Rationality againSvL-11Georgi Chunev
Finals Week

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. Valid HTML 4.01!