Mind and Matter

Course description

These lectures will introduce the mind-body problem: the problem of the relation between mind and matter, or mind and body. We will consider the nature of mental life and physical processes, and the competing doctrines of dualism and materialism/physicalism. The nature of mind poses a dilemma for philosophy. If the mind is not physical, then how can it have effects in the physical world? But if the mind is physical, then how can we explain consciousness?

Feel free to contact me at ms2416@cam.ac.uk if you have any suggestions, questions, or comments about this course.

General reading

  • Crane, Tim, The Mechanical Mind. 2nd ed. (London: Routledge, 2003).
  • Ryle, Gilbert, The Concept of Mind (London: Hutchinson, 1949).
  • Descartes, Rene, Meditations on First Philosophy, 2nd and 6th Meditations.

Online resources

Outlines and handouts will be made available on: http://msteenhagen.github.io/teaching/2016mam/

Where and when

Friday 12-1pm. Lecture Block Room 5


Lecture 1: The distinction between mind and matter

Descartes famously proposed to conceive of mind and matter as distinct substances. What does this mean? Why should we accept this dualist theory? And what consequences does it have? (Handout)

Suggested Reading
  • Descartes, René. Meditations on First Philosophy, 2nd and 6th Meditations
  • Rozemond, Marleen (2008). “Descartes’ Dualism” in Janet Broughton John Carriero (eds.) A Companion to Descartes (Oxford: Blackwell).
  • Crane, Tim and Kati Farkas, (2004). ‘Introduction to part IX’ in Tim Crane and Katalin Farkas (eds.) Metaphysics: a Guide and Anthology (Oxford University Press).

Lecture 2: The problem of mental causation

One of the classical problems with a dualist theory is how the material world can impact on an immaterial soul, and how the soul in turn is able to change material reality. Can the problem of mental causation be solved? And if not, is the problem fatal for every kind of dualism? (Handout)

Suggested Reading
  • Fodor, Jerry (1994) ‘The mind-body problem’ in Szubka and Warner (eds.) The Mind-Body Problem (Oxford: Blackwell).
  • Campbell, Keith (1970). Body and Mind (Anchor Books). (read the first section)
  • Crane, Tim. ‘Mental Causation’, accessible via the online pages section at www.timcrane.com

Lecture 3: Materialism and Physicalism

Those who reject a dualist theory typically adopt a form of materialism or physicalism. What does this mean? Why should we accept a physicalist theory of mind, and what are its consequences? (Handout)

Suggested Reading
  • Smart, JJC (1959). ‘Sensations and Brain Processes’, Philosophical Review, 68, reprinted in Chalmers (ed.) Philosophy of Mind (Oxford University Press).
  • Armstrong, D.M. ‘The Causal Theory of Mind’ in Chalmers (ed.) Philosophy of Mind.
  • Putnam, Hilary ‘The Nature of Mental States’ in Chalmers (ed.) Philosophy of Mind.

Lecture 4: The problem of consciousness

One of the classical problems with a physicalist theory is how the material world can give rise to subjective experience or consciousness. Can the problem of consciousness be solved? And if not, is the problem fatal for every kind of materialism? (Handout)

Suggested Reading
  • Jackson, Frank (1982). ‘Epiphenomenal Qualia’ Philosophical Quarterly.
  • Nagel, Thomas (1974). ‘What is it Like to be a Bat?’ Philosophical Review, 83, reprinted in his Mortal Questions (Cambridge University Press) and in Crane and Farkas (eds.) Metaphysics: a Guide and Anthology.
  • Anthony, Louise (2008). ‘The Mental and the Physical’ in Routledge Companion to Metaphysics (London: Routledge).