Philosophy of Cognitive Science (PHIL 353/001)

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Instructor: Felipe De Brigard. This course meets Monday – Thursday from 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. in Caldwell 208.

Cognitive science is a truly interdisciplinary area of research whose objective is to understand what the mind is and how it works. Cognitive science exists at the interface of several different disciplines, all of which are interested in understanding the human mind. Among these disciplines we find psychology, neuroscience, linguistics, anthropology, computer science, artificial intelligence, education and, of course, philosophy. In this class we will study some of the philosophical problems inherent to the study of the mind from the point of view of cognitive science. In particular, we will explore some of the foundational issues assumed by cognitive scientists, and we will evaluate their status as foundations for a methodological approach to the study of the mind.

For instance, cognitive science assumes that minds represent the world, and that mental processes can be defined as computational operations upon those representations. But what exactly is a mental representation? And if the brain carries out those operations, in which sense can we say that the brain represents? Moreover, what and how does the brain represent? There are also questions about the scope of cognitive science. Can cognitive science explain all the operations of the mind? Can we explain the nature of emotions using notions like ‘computation’ and ‘informational processing’? Can we also explain dreams? What about consciousness? And there are questions about future developments too. If cognition is nothing but computations carried out by our brains, might it be possible to build an artificial device that could carry out those computations? Would that machine be intelligent? Would it be conscious? If we can build an artificially intelligent computer with more computational power than the human brain, would he or she (or it?) be smarter than us? Could it beat us in Jeopardy? These and similar other questions will be explored in this class.

Felipe De Brigard’s webpage