Brains and cogs

Exploring some of the complex questions about the nature of the mind and its relation to the natural world

Module details

  • Offered to 3rd & 4th Years
  • Thursdays 16.00-18.00
  • Planned delivery: On campus (South Kensington)
  • Two-term module, worth 5 ECTS
  • Available to eligible students as part of I-Explore
  • Extra Credit, or Degree Credit where your department allows
Degree credit module options by departmentHow to enrol

The module will explore a range of topics in the philosophy of mind, such as the nature of consciousness and thought, the nature of human action and the problem of determinism, the relation between mind (or mental phenomena) and body (or physical phenomena), and the possibility of artificial intelligence. You will gain a deeper understanding of the interplay between philosophical research in these areas and research across a broad range of scientific disciplines, such as neuroscience, life sciences, medicine and computing.

By comparing the work of thinkers as diverse as Dennett, Davidson, Putnam, the Churchlands, Fodor, Ryle, Wittgenstein and Heidegger, you will encounter and critically evaluate the cutting edge of modern thinking about the mind, and the issues that must be resolved before embarking on any scientific exploration of the mind.

Please note: The information on this module description is indicative. The module may undergo minor modifications before the start of next academic year. 

Information blocks

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On successful completion of this module, you will be able to:
  • Analyse the structure of some of the major debates within the philosophy of mind.
  • Communicate verbally and in writing the contrasting arguments in the philosophy of mind.
  • Use creativity and innovation in approaching practical and conceptual problems
  • Evaluate and analyse the relevance of complex conceptual issues to your area of degree study.
  • Select and use a range of sources to critically evaluate and compare the merits of philosophical positions through independent research.

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  • The basic structure of the mind/body problem.
  • The nature of consciousness.
  • Dualist theories of mind and modern versions of dualism.
  • Reductive Physicalism, such as Identity theory, Eliminative Materialism and Behaviourism.
  • Property dualism, Emergentism and Machine Functionalism.
  • The Computational Theory of mind has gained many adherents in recent years, so the module will look in detail at what must be the case in order for this theory to be true.
  • Questions about the nature of personal identity and what it is that makes a person the same person throughout their lives.
  • Action theory and the question of mental causation.
  • The free-will/determinism debate
  • Heidegger’s challenge to conventional thinking about mind and his claim that mind is embodied.
  • Wittgenstein and Ryle
  • The Internalist/Externalist debate
  • Philosophy of mind and neuroscience.
  • What is the nature of emotions?
  • Is artificial intelligence possible?
Discussion is built into the classroom sessions, both in small groups and as a whole class. All lecture material is debated and discussed in class. You will also be required to do preparatory reading that will be discussed in class, where you will be encouraged to test your ideas. Written assignments require you to do independent research beyond the lecture material.
There will also be various practical learning techniques, each designed to illustrate and develop specific topics covered during the module e.g. a blindfolded (where acceptable to you) exercise designed to illustrate phenomenological engagement and focus.
Summative assessments will be submitted through the module VLE. You will receive written feedback via the VLE on your individual essays, as well as tutorials on essay technique and how to research and plan a discursive essay. The feedback from your Term 1 essay will be designed to support your development for your Term 2 essay. Extensive support materials on essay writing will also be provided through the VLE.
  • Coursework: 1500-2000 word essay due after the end of term 1 (40%)
    This assessment has a lower weighting than the later essay of the same length, as it comes early in the course and you may not yet have much subject experience
  • Coursework: 1500-2000 word essay due after the end of term 2 (60%)
    This assessment has a higher weighting than the prior essay of the same length because it comes at the end of the module and so will better evaluate your summative learning
  • Requirements: You are expected to attend all classes and undertake approximately 85 hours of independent study in total during the module. Independent study includes reading and preparation for classes, researching and writing coursework assignments and preparing for other assessments.
  • This module is designed as an undergraduate Level 6 module. For an explanation of levels, view the Imperial Horizons Level Descriptors page.‌‌
"The material was very engaging and well structured, and flowed naturally from one subject to another."
"This is an awesome module - totally different from anything I have done at university up until now and it is definitely teaching me to think more critically about myself, my mind, the way I learn and several other aspects of every day life. The overall structure of an hour of covering new material followed by an hour of discussion is excellent."
"Very interesting material with a highly engaging lecture structure."
"The module is taught in a very refreshing way, with the scope for discussion. I really enjoy the lectures and the material is introduced in an accessible and engaging manner."