The Sociality of Reason

Term: Fall 2011

Subject Code: GPHI

Course Number: 6648

When thinking about the minds of others, whether human or animal, it  is easy to worry that we can never really know what their mental lives are like.  That is, it is easy to think that there is a distinction between our inner mental lives and the outer world, that our ownmental lives have a kind of ineliminable privacy, and that thisprivacy implies that the qualitative character of our mentalexperience can never find full outward expression.  Such worries aboutknowing the minds of others rest upon a conception of the mind as aself-contained, private, inner space whose contents can beindividuated independently of its relations to the outside world andothers.  In many ways, such a conception of the mind has becomephilosophical common sense, as evidenced, for example, by the easewith which we worry about the ineffability of qualia.  Over the pasthalf-century, however, this conception of the mind has come undersustained attack from a variety of angles.  This course is anin-depth look at one such line of attack: the externalist challenge incontemporary philosophy of mind.  We will begin by setting the stagefor this attack by surveying a number of prominent philosophical viewsabout the mind that support conceiving of it as self-contained, suchas Cartesian dualism, mind-brain identity theory, and functionalism.We will then trace the emergence and development of the externalistchallenge, focusing on figures such as Hilary Putnam, Tyler Burge,Donald Davidson, John McDowell, John Haugeland, and Andy Clark.


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