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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

Module Aims

To explore and critically discuss some of the central issues and theories in the philosophy of mind.

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.
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.
  • contribute to discussion in a critical but dispassionate way.
  • express views clearly and concisely.
Cognitive Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • interpret, synthesise and criticise complex texts and positions
  • Present ideas, both orally and in writing, clearly and carefully
  • take notes from talks and written materials.
  • debate and criticise ideas and arguments in an even-handed fashion.
  • articulate and defend your own views regarding the issues the module concerns.


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

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

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

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



MethodPercentage contribution
Examination  (120 minutes) 60%
Presentation 40%


MethodPercentage contribution
Examination  (120 minutes) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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