Note: Cognitive science, the interdisciplinary study of mind and brain, makes contact with many areas of philosophy, from ethics to epistemology to aesthetics. This course provides an integrated overview of some of major methods and results from cognitive science, and serves as a foundation for future, more focused philosophical investigations.
The course meets together with Psychology 447, 001, How the Mind Works: An Introduction to Modern Cognitive Science. The ideas and methods covered are drawn broadly from philosophy, empirical psychology, linguistics, neuroscience, computer science and artificial intelligence, biology, and ethology. (Prior background in the sciences, however, is not required.) Rather than discuss each discipline separately, we take up a large number of relatively independent topics, each one of which engages several of these approaches. Topics covered include: computation, modularity, innateness, learning, attention and perception, language, decision-making, reward, memory, emotion, morality, humor, evolution of cognition, and cognition in infants. Each time we visit a topic, we will ask: What theoretical issues are at stake? How are they being addressed? What are the key ideas? What are the basic phenomena, how were they discovered, and what counts as an explanation of them?
The topics covered in this course raise important philosophical questions, and indeed most topics have existing well-developed philosophical literatures. A key part of the course is writing a term paper, which will allow students to engage with one major topic from the course in depth from a mainly philosophical vantage point. (The course carries a prerequisite of two courses in philosophy.) In writing this paper, the in-class readings will serve as a touching off point, but it is expected that additional readings will be undertaken. Thus the course strikes a balance between delivering the empirical content of contemporary cognitive science with adequate breadth, and pursuing individual topics with philosophical depth.
? Quizzes (60%) At the beginning of each class, we will have a short quiz on the readings and previous lecture content. Each quiz consists of 5 questions and is worth 100 points. The three lowest grades are dropped, and then quiz scores are averaged.
? Term paper (40%) You will write one 10-12 page research paper during the term on a topic related to this seminar. Details of this assignment (including potential topics) will be provided in class. When your topic is selected, a modest number of additional readings (typically 2 readings) will be assigned to provide additional background regarding the philosophical issues raised by your topic.