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Unit information: Philosophy of Psychology in 2019/20

Please note: Due to alternative arrangements for teaching and assessment in place from 18 March 2020 to mitigate against the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, information shown for 2019/20 may not always be accurate.

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Philosophy of Psychology
Unit code PHILM0020
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Karim Thebault
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Philosophy
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

This unit focuses on philosophical issues raised on contemporary work in psychology, topics to be covered might include:

  • What is a mind, and how is it organized?
  • In what sense is thought representational? Do thoughts have a linguistic structure?
  • Which of our cognitive capacities are innate and which are learned?
  • Is the brain organized around a set of rigid, anatomically localized functions, or is it hugely malleable?
  • What is the role of the emotions in our cognition?
  • Does cognition happen solely in the brain? Or do cognitive processes crucially involve the body, and maybe even the environment?


The aim of the course is to provide students with an introduction to some central topics in philosophy of mind and philosophy of psychology including the topics of intentionality, cognitive architecture of thought, the nature of emotion, and the location of cognition.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students should:

  1. Have acquired knowledge and understanding of core issues in philosophy of psychology. Have acquired knowledge and understanding of the bearing of psychological theories on traditional philosophical issues. Have acquired knowledge and understanding of foundational and methodological problems in contemporary psychology.
  2. Be able to conduct independent research into a new topic, using online and library resources. Be able to analyze and understand difficult philosophical texts. Be able to write clear academic prose.

Teaching Information

1 x 2-hour lecture + 1 x 1-hour seminar each week + essay tutorials

Assessment Information

One essay of 5,000-6,000 words (excluding notes and bibliography)

Reading and References

Week 1 Introduction: Intentionality and phenomenology

Required Reading:

  • Montague, M. 2010. ‘Recent work on intentionality’, Analysis.

Week 2 Intentionality

Required Reading:

  • Byrne, A. ‘Intentionality’ In Philosophy of Science: An Encyclopedia, ed. J. Pfeifer and S. Sarkar (Routledge).
  • Searle, J. 2004. Mind, ch 6. (Oxford: OUP).

Recommended Reading:

  • Crane, T. 2001. The Elements of Mind, ch 1. (Oxford: OUP)
  • Frege, G. ‘Sense and Reference’ (widely anthologized)

Week 3 No lecture

Weeks 4&5 Language of Thought

  • Brandon, M. & Jackson, F. 1996/2007, Philosophy of Mind and Cognition, ch 10 (Blackwell).
  • Clark, A. 2001. Mindware, chs 1 and 2 (Oxford: OUP).
  • Crane, T. 1995/2003. The Mechanical Mind, chs 3 and 4 (London: Routledge).
  • Fodor J. 1987. Psychosemantics, Appendix (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press).
  • Fodor, J. LOT2, ch 3 (Oxford: OUP).

Week 6 Connectionism

Required reading:

  • Clark, A. 2001. Mindware, ch 4 (Oxford: OUP).
  • Chalmers, D. ‘Why Fodor and Pylyshyn were Wrong: The Simplest Refutation’ In Proceedings of the Twelfth Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society: 340-347.
  • Fodor, J. and Pylyshyn, Z. 1988. ‘Connectionism and Cognitive Architecture: A Critical Analysis’, Cognition. (Only need to read pp. 15-28)

Recommended Reading:

  • Garson, J. 2010. ‘Connectionism’, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Weeks 7&8 Unconscious perception

Required Reading:

  • Merikle, P. and M. Daneman. 2000. ‘Conscious vs. unconscious perception’ in The New Cognitive Neurosciences (ed) Gazzaniga (MIT press).
  • Merikle, P. Smilek, D. and Eastwood, J. 2001. ‘Perception without awareness: perspectives from cognitive psychology’ Cognition 29: 115-134.
  • Dretske, F. 2006. ‘Perception without awareness’ in Perceptual Experience, T. Gendler and J. Hawthorne (eds). (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
  • Brogaard, B. 2011. ‘Are there unconscious perceptual processes?’ Consciousness and Cognition, 20: 449-463.
  • Searle, J. 1992. The Rediscovery of the Mind, ch 7. MIT Press.
  • Holender, D. 1986. ‘Semantic activation without conscious identification in dichotic listening and parafoveal vision, visual masking: A survey and appraisal’ Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 9: 1-66.

Recommended reading:

  • Reingold, M. and Merikle, M. 1988. ‘Using direct and indirect measures to study perception without awareness’. Cognition and Psychophysics, 44 (6): 563-575.
  • Marcel, A. 1983. ‘Conscious and Unconscious Perception: Experiments on Visual Masking and Word Recognition’ Cognitive Psychology, 15: 197-237.

Weeks 9&10 The unconscious and who we are

  • Doris, J. 2009. ‘Skepticism about Persons’ Philosophical Issues, 19.
  • Gladwell, M. 2005. Blink, chs 1, 2, & 5 (Allen Lane).
  • Wilson, T. D. 2002 Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious (Harvard).
  • Kahneman, D. 2011. Thinking, Fast and Slow. (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux).