PP2MM1-Meaning and the Mind 1

Module Provider: Philosophy
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Module version for: 2017/8

Module Convenor: Dr James Stazicker

Email: j.stazicker@reading.ac.uk

Summary module description:

This module introduces students to core philosophical issues about meaning and the mind, and to central connections between these issues. How could there be minds in a physical world? Are states of consciousness physical states? How do our thoughts and words come to represent the world around us? These questions are intimately related. The capacity to represent the world is a central, problematic feature of the mind. Moreover, to assess what minds are, we must pay careful attention to what our words for mental states mean, and to how they come to mean what they do. We will investigate these questions by reading and discussing recent work in the philosophy of mind and language, by authors such as David Chalmers, Hilary Putnam and John Searle, as well as classic texts by authors such as Gottlob Frege and Princess Elizabeth of Bohemia.


Students in this module learn to engage knowledgeably and critically, both in writing and in oral presentation, with core problems, arguments and theories in the philosophy of mind, philosophy of language and theory of meaning. Students learn how to bring the tools of philosophy to bear on perennial human questions, unsolved by science, about the place of mind and meaning in the natural world. Students also learn how different core areas of philosophy bear on one another. For example, they achieve an appreciation of how theories in philosophy of mind can turn on theories in philosophy of language. This prepares students for Part 3 modules in more specific and applied areas of philosophy, most notably PP3SC (The Science of Consciousness). This module also builds on Part 1 work, in particular work about physics and reality in PP1RBQ (Reality: the big questions) and work about intelligence and the mind in PP1MM (Mental machines). The programme of study in Philosophy is specifically designed to introduce you to progressive intellectual challenges and to consolidate your previous experience at each new level.

Assessable learning outcomes:

Students acquire knowledge of core areas of philosophy which ramify throughout the subject. For example, they learn to articulate and criticise arguments and theories about the meanings of our words, identity and reduction which are appealed to in various more specific philosophical projects, as studied at Part 3. Students develop skills of written and oral presentation, through tasks that equip them progressively to work more independently, from critical oral presentations of core arguments and set essay questions, through to more independent supervised essay work in the Summer Term. In this way, this module forms part of Philosophy’s graduated, supervised programme for developing independent-learning skills. Students learn to engage knowledgeably and critically with journal articles in philosophy, through a reading list which combines introductory material with key texts from the journals, and through lectures which walk them strategically through key technicalities and connections. They also learn to situate recent work within the history of ideas about the mind and meaning.

Additional outcomes:

Students in this module learn how to treat philosophy as a systematic discipline, appreciating how one’s answers to apparently disparate questions have consequences for one another.

Outline content:

Topics covered in the module include central questions in the philosophy of mind, for example: How could there be mental states---experiences, beliefs and so on—in a physical universe? How could mental states have physical causes and effects? Is your mind your brain? How do you know about other people’s mental states? Topics covered also include central questions in the theory of meaning and philosophy of language, for example: How must thoughts and words be connected to things in order to refer to them? Are names descriptions? What is the relationship between meaning and verification?

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

The module is taught by lectures and seminars. Students are expected to attend 20 hours of lectures and 10 hours of seminars during the term in which the module’s lecture and seminar classes take place. All students are required to write three essays from a list of questions supplied by the module convenor and to give one seminar presentation. Two of these essays will be undertaken during the term in which the module’s lecture and seminar classes take place, and the final essay will be undertaken during the Summer term. In addition, in weeks in which a student is not giving a presentation, they will be required to write a short précis of the topic for discussion at a given seminar class. Students are encouraged to be active in all classes, asking questions and trying to answer the questions posed by others. A reading list and sample questions will be given out at the start of the course.

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 assignment including essay 90
Oral assessment and presentation 10

Other information on summative assessment:

2 x 50% written assignments, including essay

Formative assessment methods:

Students will write a short précis of the topic for discussion for every seminar class in which they are not doing a presentation. Some lectures may involve quizzes.

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convenor 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:

    Requirements for a pass:

    A mark of 40% overall

    Reassessment arrangements:

    Written assignment, to be completed in August

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

    Last updated: 6 June 2017

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