version 2011-08-28

brain and neuron COGS Q540 Philosophical Foundations of Cognitive Science

Fall 2011 Schedule and Syllabus
Meeting time: MW 2:30-3:45; Location: PY 113


(Prof.) Colin Allen <> Goodbody Hall 113, 855-8916, webpage
Office hours: Wednesdays after CogLunch until class (location tba), 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 2011 that issue will be the question of just how radical are "embodied, dynamical" approaches to cognitive science.


  1. Readings provided electronically; see schedule below
  2. Required book: Anthony Chemero Radical embodied cognitive science MIT Press, 2009
  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. Ten weekly reaction pieces due most Wednesdays, beginning August 31 [1 page each]*
  2. Paper proposal due Nov 04 [2 pages]
  3. Draft of paper due any time between Nov 16 and Nov 21 [approx 10 pages]
  4. Final paper due Dec 12 [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. State what you liked or disliked most about the idea(s) and why, with special attention to the strength of the arguments that were presented. (See calendar below for due dates.)

** All students will be scheduled to give TWO classroom presentations: (1) on an assigned reading, 15 minutes maximum, in which like the reaction pieces should not be a linear summary of the reading, but in which you should identify and evaluate an argument contained in the piece; and (2) you will be scheduled between Nov 4 and Nov 11 to give a 5 minute presentation of your proposed paper topic for the course.

*** This is a discussion-oriented class. 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 Chemero are C#. This schedule may be altered in response to events in class. [Items in brackets are suggested/optional readings.]

DateTopicReadings & AssignmentsNotes and Events
Week 1
Aug 29Organization and Overview
Aug 31Cognitive Prehistory• Descartes Meditations I & II (alt. version: pdf)
• Hume Enquiry section 2 and section 3
• Tolman (1948) html pdf
Reaction1 due
Week 2
Sep 05Labor Day
Sep 07Beyond Behaviorism• Chomsky (1959/1967) html pdf
• Shepard & Metzler (1971) jstor pdf
• Goldstone & Kersten (2003) pdf
Reaction2 due
Week 3
Sep 12Turing Machines & Computational Theory of Mind• TM Wikipedia or SEP
• SEP "Computational Theory of Mind" html
• [Clark 1]
Sep 14AI as Empirical Enquiry• Newell & Simon (1975) pdf
• Schank & Abelson (1977) pdf
• [Clark 2]
Reaction3 due
Week 4
Sep 19Turing Test & Chinese Room• Turing (1950) html pdf
• Searle (1980) preprint pdf
Sep 21Functionalism• Fodor (1974) pdf
• Marr (1981) pdf
• Block (1996) pdf
• [Clark 3]
Reaction4 due
Week 5
Sep 26Instrumentalism & Rational Believers• Dennett (1981) pdf
• Tversky & Kahneman (1974) jstor pdf
• Todd & Gigerenzer (2007) pdf
Sep 28Eliminativism and Connectionism• Pollack (1989) pdf
• Ramsey et al. (1991) jstor pdf
• Churchland 2005 preprint pdf
• [SEP "Connectionism" html]
• [Clark 4]

Play with Backprop simulator
Reaction5 due
Week 6
Oct 03Theory of mind: Infants and Animals• Wimmer & Perner (1983) pdf
• Santos et al. (2007) pdf preprint
• Allen (2011) pdf
• [SEP entry "Simulation theory" html]
Oct 05Embodiment• Brooks (1991) pdf
• Clark (1998) pdf
• Barsalou, Smith & Breazeal (2006) pdf
• [Clark 5]
Reaction6 due
Week 7
Oct 10Dynamical Systems• Van Gelder (1995) pdf
• Beer (2000) pdf
• Harvey et al. (2005) pdf
• [Clark 6 & 7]
Oct 12Extended Mind• Clark & Chalmers (1998) pdf
• Adams & Aizawa 2010 pdf
• Rupert 2009 pdf

Reaction7 due
Week 8
Oct 17Group Cognition• Theiner et al. 2011 pdf
• Sutton et al. 2010 pdf
Oct 19Discussion of final paper requirementsReaction8 due
Week 9
Oct 24Hegel, Behe, Chomsky, FodorC1
Oct 28Embodied Cognition and Radical Embodied CognitionC2Reaction9 due
Week 10
Oct 31Theories of RepresentationC3
Nov 02The Dynamical StanceC4Paper proposal due
Week 11
Nov 07Presentation of paper topics
Nov 09Presentation of paper topics
Week 12
Nov 14Presentation of paper topics
Nov 16Guides to DiscoveryC5Paper draft due
Week 13
Nov 21Information and Direct PerceptionC6
Nov 23

(Thanksgiving recess)
Week 14
Nov 28Affordances, etc.C7Tony Chemero Colloquium at 4 pm
Nov 30Neurophilosophy meets Radical Embodied Cognitive ScienceC8Reaction10 due
Week 15
Dec 05The Metaphysics of Radical EmbodimentC9
Dec 07tba
Finals Week
Dec 12Final paper due

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!