PP3COG-Philosophy of Cognitive Science

Module Provider: Philosophy
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Spring term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Module version for: 2014/5

Module Convenor: Dr James Stazicker

Email: j.stazicker@reading.ac.uk

Summary module description:
This module explores the nature of human intelligence and what certain interdisciplinary studies can contribute to our understanding of traditional philosophical problems.

To explore some fundamental questions surrounding our mental life, such as how our minds are structured, how we can come to know what others are thinking, and how we are able to learn and reason about our environment. We will look at experimental findings in cognitive science and examine what they can tell us about the nature of human intelligence.

Assessable learning outcomes:
By the end of this module, students will be able to give an overview of certain core research in cognitive science and assess the extent to which it is able to support or disprove philosophical theories about the mind. Students will be familiar with the approaches of key figures in the area, such as Jerry Fodor and Noam ChomskyNed Block, and will be able to discuss the problems these approaches face. Students' oral skills will be improved by their presentation of material on a given topic in the seminar section of this module, and group interaction will be encouraged by discussion and questioning in both lectures and seminars.

Additional outcomes:
Students will gain an overview of one of the areas where philosophical thinking interacts with other research fields, in this case work in such areas as psychology, neuroscience, linguistics and anthropology, and will thus gain an appreciation of the way in which topics I the philosophy of mind may relate to empirical research. The material to be covered will include both classic work in the area and the current state of research in the field. Thus students will both deepen their understanding of purely philosophical work (of the kind covered in Philosophy of Mind in Part 2) and develop a sense of a currently very active interdisciplinary field.

Outline content:
The module will explore the nature of human understanding from an interdisciplinary perspective. Topics will include some, but not all, of the following:
- The modularity theory of mind
- The language of thought hypothesis
- Cognitive maps
- Experimental work on mental imagery
- Experimental evidence about the neural correlates of consciousness
- Brain scanning technology
- Knowledge of others’ minds
- The nature of perception and our relation to our environment
- What cases of cognitive impairment can tell us about the structure of the mind

Sample reading list:
Ned Block, 'Mental Pictures & Cognitive Science', Philosophical Review 1983, 92, No.4: 499-541.
Ned Block, ‘Consciousness and cognitive access’, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 108 (2008): 289–317
Jerry Fodor, The Language of Thought, Harvard University Press, 1975.
Jerry Fodor, The Modularity of Mind, MIT Press, 1983.
Zenon Pylyshyn, 'Return of the mental image: are there really pictures in the brain?', Trends in Cognitive Sciences 2003, Vol.7 No.3: 113-118.

Preparatory vacation reading:
Noam Chomsky, 'A Review of B. F. Skinner's Verbal Behavior', Language 1959, 35, No. 1: 26-58.
Eric Margolis, Richard Samuels, and Stephen P. Stich (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Cognitive Science, OUP 2012.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:
The format for this module involves lectures and seminars. Students are encouraged to be active in all classes, asking questions and trying to answer the questions posed by others. Seminar sections will focus on key papers in the area and begin with student presentations. Hand-outs are given for this module, including reading lists and sample questions.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 20
Seminars 10
Guided independent study 170
Total hours by term 200.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written exam 70
Written assignment including essay 30

Other information on summative assessment:
2 x 2,000-2,500 word essays.

Electronic Submission
All coursework should be submitted electronically via Blackboard and in hard copy to the Philosophy office.

Formative assessment methods:

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convener will apply the following penalties for work submitted late, in accordance with the University policy.

  • where the piece of work is submitted up to one calendar week after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for the piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at: http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/qualitysupport/penaltiesforlatesubmission.pdf
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Length of examination:
    The final exam will be two hours in which time you will be required to answer two questions from a choice of six.

    Requirements for a pass:
    A mark of 40% overall.

    Reassessment arrangements:
    Re-examination in August by written examination only.

    Last updated: 8 October 2014

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