brain and neuron COGS Q240 Philosophical Foundations of Cognitive Science

Fall 2014 Schedule and Syllabus

Meeting Times

All meetings are in Read 2-120B.
Main lectures, Tu-Th 11:15-12:30
Discussion section, Fr 12:20-1:10


(Prof.) Colin Allen <> Eigenmann 802 and Goodbody 113
Office hours: Thursday after class, and by appointment.

(A.I.) Branden Bryan <> Eigenmann 807
Office hours: Tuesday immediately after class, and Friday 11 a.m.

Subject Matter

Cognitive Science emerged about 60 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), which according to the faculty handbook means, “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 six formal pieces of writing required, and these will be extensively workshopped during discussion sections. Discussion sections will also be used to clarify and extend the discussion of course concepts.

70% for the IW assignments, distributed as follows:
IW-1, due 09/12, 5%
IW-2, due 10/03, 10%
IW-3, due 10/24, 10%
IW-4, due 11/14, 15%
IW-5, due 12/05, 10%
IW-6, due 12/16, 20%
25% for responses to readings, including in-class assignments which may not be announced in advance.
5% for participation in discussions during class lecture and discussion periods.


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 may require a password for access, or be otherwise inaccessible if you are outside the campus network (try IU's VPN). [Note: local pdfs of jstor articles are provided for convenience of IU students who have fair use rights to them through the university license.]

The syllabus contains references to a text book that covers some of the course material, and is recommended reading. It is Andy Clark's Mindware 2nd Edition, Oxford Univ. Press.

DateTopicReadingsAssignment details
Week 1Course Intro
08/26 Philosophy, Science, and the Philosophy of Science movie shown in class
08/28 What is (Philosophy of) Cognitive Science? Paul Thagard's SEP article on "Cognitive Science"
[Mindware Preface, Chapter 1, Appendix 1]
08/29IW requirements and strategies Bring questions
Week 2
09/02 Physical Symbols System Hypothesis Allen Newell & Herbert Simon (1975) "Computer science as empirical enquiry: symbols and search"
[Mindware 2.1]
09/04 Chinese Room John Searle (1980) "Minds, Brains, and Programs"
[Mindware 2.2]
09/05 Brainstorm IW-1 Try out at least one of the Turing Machine simulators linked at Wikipedia and SEP.
Week 3
09/09A peek inside the Chinese Room: Classroom visit of Professor John Searle Review readings from last week 7:30-9:00 p.m. first Patten lecture by John Searle "Consciousness as a problem in philosophy and neurobiology"
09/11The Turing Test Alan Turing (1950) "Computing Machinery & Intelligence". 7:30-9:00 second Patten lecture "The Logical Structure of Human Civilization"
09/12 Workshop IW-1 *IW-1 DUE*
Week 4 Dualism, or...?
09/16 Rationalists and Empiricists René Descartes (1641) Meditations 1 and 2
David Hume (1777) Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding sections 2 and 3 (skip secs. 1, 4, and 5)
[Mindware 3]
09/18 Metaphors for Mind I: Maps and Images Edward Tolman (1948) "Cognitive maps in rats in men") (pdf)
Roger Shepard & Jacqueline Metzler (1971) "Mental rotation of three-dimensional objects" (pdf).
09/19Knowing your audience Research age-appropriate vocabulary lists/tools for 12 yr olds.
Week 5 Functionalism
09/23 Functionalism Janet Levin's SEP entry on "Functionalism"
09/25 More functionalism review SEP article
09/26 IW-2 Analogy Brainstorming Bring your "2nd best" ideas
Week 6 Rationalism v. Empiricism Redux
09/30 Chomsky v. Skinner Noam Chomsky (1959/1967) "Review of B.F. Skinner's Verbal Behavior") (pdf)
10/02 The Place of Folk Psychology Daniel Dennett (1981) "True believers"
10/03 Workshop IW-2 *IW-2 DUE*
Week 7Connectionism
10/07Intro to connectionism Jim Garson's SEP entry on "Connectionism"
[Mindware 4]
10/09Eliminativism William Ramsey, Stephen Stich, & Joseph Garon (1991) "Connectionism, eliminativism, and the future of folk psychology" (pdf)
10/10 No class [fall break] A day on, not a day off!
Week 8Levels of Explanation
10/14 Marr's 3 levels Marr (1980) selection from Vision )
10/16 tba
10/17 Structuring Arguments (Logic) CA's guide to writing philosophy papers Monty Python's argument clinic
Week 9 Evolution and Mind
10/21 Evolution and Content Ruth Millikan (1990) "Compare and Contrast Dretske, Fodor, and Millikan on Teleosemantics"
10/23 Robots Inman Harvey et al. (2005) "Evolutionary Robotics: A new scientific tool for studying cognition"
[Mindware 6]
10/24 Workshop papers *IW-3 DUE*
Week 10Embodied Cognition
10/28 More robots Rodney Brooks (1991) "Intelligence without representation"[Mindware 5,6]
10/30 Embodiment Andy Clark (1998) "Embodiment and the Philosophy of Mind"
10/31 Brainstorm IW-4 tba
Week 11 Dynamical Systems
11/04 Dynamical Systems Beer (2000) "Dynamical approaches to cognitive science"
[Mindware 7]
11/06 NO CLASS
11/07 tba tba
Week 12 Mind Beyond Body
11/11 Dynamical Philosophy Timothy van Gelder (1995) "What might cognition be if not computation?")
11/13 Extended Mind Andy Clark and David Chalmers (1998) "The Extended Mind" [Mindware 8]
11/14 Workshop IW-4 *IW-4 DUE*
Week 13
11/18 tba tba
11/20 tba tba
11/21 tba tba
Thanksgiving Week No classes Gobble, gobble -- but don't eat too much!
Week 14 Charting the Revolution
12/02 Group Mind Georg Theiner, Colin Allen and Rob Goldstone (2010) "Recognizing Group Cognition".
12/04 Philosophy of Cognitive Science vs. Philosophy of Mind Tony Chemero and Michael Silberstein (2008) "After philosophy of mind: replacing scholasticism with science"
12/05 Workshop IW-5 *IW-5 DUE*
Week 15
12/09 The conservative view EITHER: Rob Rupert (2013) "Memory, natural kinds, and cognitive extension; or, Martians don't remember, and cognitive science is not about cognition"
OR: Rupert (forthcoming) "Against group cognitive states"
12/11 tba tba
12/12 Workshop IW-6 Bring paper drafts
Week 16Finals Week No classes
12/16 *IW-6 DUE*

IW Assignments 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.”

IW-1. Choose one of the "-isms" – e.g., rationalism, dualism, or behaviorism -- that has been discussed in lectures or readings, then (a) explain what it means and (b) summarize the main arguments for and against it.

IW-2. Explain functionalism to a 6th grader. In doing so, be sure to address each of the following:

  1. What does functionalism claim about the nature of mental states?
  2. How does the concept of the Turing machine relate to functionalism? In other words, 
what role does the Turing machine play in the functionalist account of the mind?

IW-3. The early part of the course has dealt with a related set
of questions, including:

The assignment for this essay is to pick two of the readings to compare and contrast, focusing on questions like the ones given above. On points where the two sides disagree, explain which side you find more convincing. 
Note: The bullet-pointed questions above are just meant as a guide. Depending on which pair of papers you choose, you might focus more on one or two of these questions and less on the other(s). Or you may find that there are other relevant questions or issues to focus on. The organization of this essay is more open ended than on previous assignments. However you choose to organize it, though, remember to be clear in terms of your introduction, paragraphing, and transitions.

IW-4. One of the themes in philosophy of cognitive science concerns the relationship between folk (or commonsense) psychology and scientific psychology (which, for our purposes, can be taken to include neuroscience, much of AI, and much of cognitive science in general). One way to understand this debate is in terms of the mind-body problem, which has been a recurring thread throughout the semester. What is the relationship between the mental realm and the physical realm (or are they identical)? Do mental states (e.g., beliefs, desires, and intentions) have "causal powers"? Why or why not? Finally, what should be the relationship between folk psychology and scientific psychology? Your assignment in this essay is to present your own argument on some aspect of the folk psychology debate. That could mean addressing one of the above questions, or it could mean focusing on another aspect of the recent material (e.g.,the Dennett paper on the intentional stance, Ch.3 of Mindware, or even some other relevant source, as long as you clear it first). Whatever the topic, make sure to inlcude the following in your essay:

  1. A clear, concise introductory paragraph that includes a statement of your thesis and a brief overview of how you plan to support it
  2. Two or three well-organized body paragraphs, each addressing a particular aspect of your argument
  3. A brief conclusion that revisits your thesis statement and (ideally) raises an additional question or two for the reader to think about in light of your arguments.

IW-5. Revision of earlier piece or draft of final piece. Choice must be pre-approved by 11/21.

IW-6. The assignment for the final paper is to write an argument-based (i.e., thesis- based) paper on a topic from the second half of the class, which means anything from Week 9 onwards, including the following topics: evolutionary approaches to cognitive science, embodied cognition, extended mind, dynamical systems approaches, etc. (Any of the material from the Discussion sections of Mindware from Ch. 4-7 would be fair game.)

You should have a discernible thesis that you back up with supporting arguments. For example, you might pick something we've read or discussed that you disagree with and want to argue against. Or you can pick something you agree with and argue for why you think so-and-so is right. In either case, you would need to offer support for your argument and also consider (and respond to) some potential counterarguments.

Writing Tutorial Services

For free help at any phase of the writing process—from brainstorming to polishing the final draft—call Writing Tutorial Services (WTS, pronounced “wits”) at 855-6738 for an appointment. When you visit WTS, you’ll find a tutor who is a sympathetic and helpful reader of your prose. To be assured of an appointment with the tutor who will know most about your class, please call in advance. WTS, in the Information Commons on the first floor of the Wells Library, is open Monday- Thursday 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. and Friday 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Walk-in tutorials are available when WTS has an opening, but the appointment book often fills in advance. WTS tutors are also available for walk-in tutorials (only) in the Academic Support Centers in Briscoe, Forest, and Teter residence halls, open Sunday-Thursday 7:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

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 Section G of the IU Code of Student Rights, Responsibilities and Conduct for details.

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