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The University of Southampton

PHIL2009 Philosophy of Mind

Module Overview

Philosophy of mind explores questions about the nature of the mind and mental states – states such as perceptual experiences, beliefs, desires, and emotions. What is the mind? Is it an immaterial substance? Is it the brain? Is it something like a computer? Might it just be a useful fiction? In considering these questions we will pay particular attention to two central features of the mind: (i) that mental states play a central role in explaining behaviour (for example, my desire for coffee helps explain why I’m heading to the cafeteria); (ii) that some mental states are conscious: there is something it is like to feel pain, taste marmite, or see a sunset. We will study the various ways in which philosophers have tried to give an account of the mind that makes sense of these features.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • the central doctrines of contemporary philosophy of mind
  • how to evaluate and compare these doctrines by reference to their capacity to account for key elements in our understanding of the mind, science and nature.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • articulate and defend your own views regarding the issues the module concerns.
  • interpret, synthesise and criticise complex texts and positions
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • undertake independent work, including identifying and using appropriate resources.
  • work effectively to deadlines.
  • debate and criticise ideas and arguments in an even-handed fashion.
  • contribute to discussion in a critical but dispassionate way.
  • express views clearly and concisely.


The syllabus may vary from year to year. Topics may include: 1) Dualism: is the mind an immaterial substance? 2) Behaviourism: is the mind reducible to behaviour? 3) Identity Theory: is the mind the brain? 4) Functionalism: are mental states functional states? 5) Mental Causation: can we make sense of the common-sense notion that mental states cause behaviour? 6) Consciousness: can we make sense of the familiar fact that some mental states are conscious? 7) Externalism about the Mind: what is the relationship between mind and world? Are mental states “in the head”?

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include: - Lectures - In class discussion - One to one consultation with the module coordinator Learning activities include: - Attending classes - Contributing to class discussion - Preparing for and giving presentations - Preparing for and taking the exam

Independent Study117
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

I Ravenscroft. Philosophy of Mind: A Beginner’s Guide. 

J. Heil. Philosophy of Mind: A Contemporary Introduction. 

D Chalmers. Philosophy of Mind: Classic and Contemporary Readings. 



Group presentation


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  ( words) 60%
Group presentation  (15 minutes) 40%


MethodPercentage contribution
Exam  (2 hours) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Examination  (120 minutes) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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