BASS Politics and Sociology / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Introduction to Philosophy of Mind

Course unit fact file
Unit code PHIL10631
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course explores philosophical issues about the nature of mind and mentality. Are mental states physical states of the brain, or are they states of an immaterial mind or soul, or are they something else altogether?

We will examine the chief metaphysical theories of the nature of mind: dualism, behaviourism, the identity theory, functionalism, and materialism or physicalism generally. Many, perhaps all, mental states are about or represent things in the world, such as our beliefs about Cleopatra. How do they do this? Is there some kind of mechanism that connects our beliefs about Cleopatra to that ancient Egyptian queen? More generally, can we explain mental representation physically or scientifically?

Many mental states are also conscious. But what is consciousness? Is consciousness physical? Can it be explained scientifically? What about thinking? Many of our thought processes are rational. Can we explain the rationality of thought?

We will explore the computational theory of mind, which purports to explain the rationality of thought physically by assuming the mind is a kind of computer, a computer that could in principle be realised synthetically as an artificial intelligence. We will also try to understand exactly what it means to say that the mind is physical or that mental states depend on physical states, such as brain states, and will try to determine whether the existence of physical-to-mental and mental-to-physical causation favours a physicalist view of mind.


This course aims to:

- Introduce some central problems concerning the relation between mind, body and the larger physical world

- Help students develop a philosophical approach to these problems, including the ability to explain, analyse and criticise arguments in the literature.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this course unit, students will be able to demonstrate:

- Introductory knowledge of some central philosophical problems in philosophy of mind.
- A clear understanding of the problems raised by the texts studied.
- A clear sense of the arguments and positions defended in the texts studied.
- The ability to respond to these positions and arguments critically and with arguments of their own.

Teaching and learning methods

There will be a mixture of lectures and tutorials.

Please note the information in scheduled activity hours are only a guidance and may change.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Group/team working
Oral communication
Problem solving
Written communication

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 50%
Written assignment (inc essay) 50%

Students will compelte two written assignments of 1500 words, both worth 50%

Feedback methods

The main forms of feedback in this course unit are markers’ written comments on assessed essays and exam answers. The School of Social Sciences (SoSS) is committed to providing timely and appropriate feedback to students on their academic progress and achievement, thereby enabling students to reflect on their progress and plan their academic and skills development effectively. Feedback, of course, is necessarily responsive: only when a student has done a certain amount of work and approaches us with it at the appropriate fora is it possible for us to feed back on the student's work.

There are also a variety of generic forms of feedback available to you on this as on all SoSS course units. These include: meeting the lecturer/tutor during their office hours; e-mailing questions to the lecturer/tutor; asking questions before, during (if appropriate) and after lecture; presenting a question on the discussion board on Blackboard; and obtaining feedback from your peers during tutorials.

Recommended reading

Simon Blackburn, Think, chapter 2
Barbara Montero, On the Philosophy of Mind
George Graham, Philosophy of Mind. An Introduction, 2nd ed.
Sean Crawford, Aspects of Mind

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 20
Tutorials 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 170

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Sean Crawford Unit coordinator

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