A Romp Through the Philosophy of Mind: A Free Online Course from Oxford

These days, neu­ro­science seems to have a monop­oly on the mind. Flip to the sci­ence sec­tion of an estab­lished news­pa­per or mag­a­zine, and you’ll like­ly see the most allur­ing head­lines describ­ing the lat­est neur­al find­ings. So, now that pow­er­ful meth­ods of neu­roimag­ing can delve deep­er into the struc­ture of the brain than ever before, is there any­thing that we don’t know about the mind? Well, yes. Apart from stat­ing that it is a man­i­fes­ta­tion of the brain, sci­ence doesn’t offer much to explain what the mind is. In an unfor­tu­nate turn for neu­ro­science, no amount of brain scan­ning will reveal that, either.

It is at this sort of junc­ture that sci­ence pass­es the baton to phi­los­o­phy. Over the past few weeks, we’ve brought you two intro­duc­to­ry phi­los­o­phy cours­es (Crit­i­cal Rea­son­ing for Begin­ners and A Romp Through Ethics for Com­plete Begin­ners) by Oxford University’s Mar­i­anne Tal­bot.

Today, we bring you anoth­er of Talbot’s excel­lent philo­soph­i­cal primers: A Romp Through the Phi­los­o­phy of Mind.  The five-part lec­ture series begins with a dis­cus­sion of René Descartes’ dual­ism, which com­pris­es the idea that the mind is non-phys­i­cal and is there­fore dis­tinct from the body. The course then moves through an expo­si­tion of Iden­ti­ty The­o­ry, accord­ing to which all of our men­tal states are mere­ly man­i­fes­ta­tions of an anal­o­gous set of brain process­es. Once Tal­bot out­lines the draw­backs to each of these the­o­ries, she explains the views of sev­er­al oth­er phe­nom­e­no­log­i­cal camps, includ­ing the epiphe­nom­e­nal­ists, who see men­tal states as real but not phys­i­cal, and elim­i­na­tivists, who do not think that men­tal states are real at all. She then prompt­ly pro­ceeds to upend these con­cep­tions of the mind. As with all of Talbot’s pre­vi­ous cours­es, this one is high­ly rec­om­mend­ed.

A Romp Through the Phi­los­o­phy of Mind is cur­rent­ly avail­able on the Uni­ver­si­ty of Oxford web­site in both audio and video for­mats, and also on iTune­sU. (See the lec­tures above.) You can find it list­ed in our col­lec­tion of Free Online Phi­los­o­phy Cours­es, along­side class­es like Con­tem­po­rary Issues in Phi­los­o­phy of Mind & Cog­ni­tion, Hegel’s Phe­nom­e­nol­o­gy of Spir­it, and Mer­leau-Pon­ty’s Phe­nom­e­nol­o­gy of Per­cep­tion. They’re all part of our col­lec­tion, 1,700 Free Online Cours­es from Top Uni­ver­si­ties.

Ilia Blin­d­er­man is a Mon­tre­al-based cul­ture and sci­ence writer. Fol­low him at @iliablinderman, or read more of his writ­ing at the Huff­in­g­ton Post.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Oxford’s Free Course Crit­i­cal Rea­son­ing For Begin­ners Will Teach You to Think Like a Philoso­pher

Learn Right From Wrong with Oxford’s Free Course A Romp Through Ethics for Com­plete Begin­ners

The His­to­ry of Phi­los­o­phy With­out Any Gaps – Peter Adamson’s Pod­cast Still Going Strong

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