Akins, Kathleen, and . What is it Like to Be Boring and Myopic?

1993, in Dennett and His Critics: Demystifying Mind, ed. B Dahlbom, Blackwell, 124-160.

Summary: A response to Thomas Nagel’s famous paper “What is it Like to be a Bat?”. Akins uses neuroscientific data to argue that we can find out that bats may not actually have a point of view, and that, contrary to Nagel, this kind of objective study can bring us closer to understanding individuals’ subjective experiences, not further away.

Comment: As "What is it Like to be a Bat?" is frequently taught, this paper serves as an interesting counterpoint response to it, providing an alternative perspective. A bit technical and heavy on hard neuroscience, but full understanding of that part is not essential to grasping the basic argument.

Akins, Kathleen, and . Of sensory systems and the “aboutness” of mental states

1996, Journal of Philosophy 93(7): 337-372.

Summary: The author presents a critique of the classical conception of the senses assumed by the majority of naturalist authors who attempt to explain mental content. This critique is based on neurobiological data on the senses that suggest that they do not seem to describe objective characteristics of the world, but instead act “narcissistically”, so to speak, representing information depending on the specific interests of the organism.

Comment: This paper provides a good explanation of the integrated sensory-motor approach in philosophy of mind and how it differs from the classical conception. A good, easy to understand presentation of a challenge to the naive view that the senses give us objective information about the way the world is.

Anscombe, Elizabeth, and . On Sensations of Position

1962, Analysis 22 (3): 55-58.

Summary: In this paper, Anscombe defends the view that there are various bodily positions, such as sitting cross-legged, that we “just know” about and don’t deduce from sensations or feelings any more than we might from visual clues. We use the term “sensation” in such cases as both an external description of what is the case, and as an internal description of what it feels like. The sensation is not broken down into other more primitive data, which we may not even be aware of, though if we were to attend to we might come to know.

Comment: This short paper is suitable as a reading for teachings on perception. Given its difficulty for understanding, it might be a good idea to have some supplementary notes together with the original paper in use.

Anscombe, G. Elizabeth M., and . Causality and Determination

1981, In Anscombe, G. E. M. Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Mind: Collected Philosophical Papers Volume II. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Summary: A classic text in which Anscombe argues for a realist view of causation. Specifically, Anscombe holds that causation is both directly perceivable and not subject to philosophical analysis. Anscombe seeks to establish that causal relations do not presuppose laws, and that causal relations can be perceived in a direct way.

Comment: This would be useful in a course on metaphysics, philosophy of science or philosophy of action. Anscombe is not always an easy writer, but this paper is not technical and is widely considered to be a classic. This could be used at any undergraduate or graduate level.

Anscombe, G. Elizabeth M., and . The First Person

1981, In Samuel D. Guttenplan (ed.), Mind and Language. Oxford University Press 45-65.

Summary: In this paper, the author argues that the “I” that we often use to refer to ourselves, actually does not refer to an object, it does not refer to a non-physical mind, and it does not even refer to a physical body. Ascombe’s conclusion will be that the “I” fails to be a referring expression at all.

Comment: This can be used as secondary reading in a postgraduate course on philosophy of language. Otherwise, it can also be used as primary reading for a postgraduate course on philosophy of language focusing on indexicals.

Anthony, Louise, and . The Mental and The Physical

2009, in Robin Le Poidevin (ed.), The Routledge Companion to Metaphysics. Routledge. 555-567

Summary: In this paper the author addresses physicalism and the problem of whether physicalism can account for consciousness and intentionality of our mental states. After providing a good survey of problems posed by this phenomenon as well as possible physicalist responses, she concludes that there still is no satisfying explanation of how the nature of our mental states fits into an “otherwise physical world”.

Comment: Good as a background introductory reading on the nature of mental states. More precisely, good as introduction on the problem of physicalism and whether it can account for intentionality and consciouness of our mental states.

Brogaard, Berit, and . The Status of Consciousness in Nature

2015, In Steven Miller (ed.), The Constitution of Phenomenal Consciousness: Toward a science and theory. John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Abstract: The most central metaphysical question about phenomenal consciousness is that of what constitutes phenomenal consciousness, whereas the most central epistemic question about consciousness is that of whether science can eventually provide an explanation of the phenomenon. Many philosophers have argued that science doesn’t have the means to answer the question of what consciousness is (the explanatory gap) but that consciousness nonetheless is fully determined by the physical facts underlying it (no ontological gap). Others have argued that the explanatory gap in the sciences entails an ontological gap. This position is also known as ‘property dualism’. Here I examine a fourth position, according to which there an ontological gap but no explanatory gap.


Comment: In this paper, the author addresses the so-called "explanatory gap". In a nutshell, the "explanatory gap" refers to the existing difficulty of explaining consciousness in physical terms. The author considers Chalmers's argument which aims to show that there is a metaphysical gap. She argues that the existence of a metaphysical gap does not entail the existence of an explanatory gap, thereby failing to prevent scientists from discovering the nature of consciousness. Good as background reading on the topic of consciousness, its nature, and on whether we can explain in physicalist terms. The first half of the paper is particularly useful, as the author provides a survey of different theories regarding the link between consciousness and the neurological system.

Brown, Jessica, and . Anti-individualism and knowledge

2004, MIT Press.

Publisher’s note: Contemporary philosophy of mind is dominated by anti-individualism, which holds that a subject’s thoughts are determined not only by what is inside her head but also by aspects of her environment. Despite its dominance, anti-individualism is subject to a daunting array of epistemological objections: that it is incompatible with the privileged access each subject has to her thoughts, that it undermines rationality, and, absurdly, that it provides a new route to a priori knowledge of the world. In this rigorous and persuasive study, Jessica Brown defends anti-individualism from these epistemological objections. The discussion has important consequences for key epistemological issues such as skepticism, closure, transmission, and the nature of knowledge and warrant.

According to Brown’s analysis, one main reason for thinking that anti-individualism is incompatible with privileged access is that it undermines a subject’s introspective ability to distinguish types of thoughts. So diagnosed, the standard focus on a subject’s reliability about her thoughts provides no adequate reply. Brown defuses the objection by appeal to the epistemological notion of a relevant alternative. Further, she argues that, given a proper understanding of rationality, anti-individualism is compatible with the notion that we are rational subjects. However, the discussion of rationality provides a new argument that anti-individualism is in tension with Fregean sense. Finally, Brown shows that anti-individualism does not create a new route to a priori knowledge of the world. While rejecting solutions that restrict the transmission of warrant, she argues that anti-individualists should deny that we have the type of knowledge that would be required to use a priori knowledge of thought content to gain a priori knowledge of the world.

Comment: A very interesting defense of anti-individualism. Contains interesting discussion on the topics of semantic externalism and introspection. Sections of it could be taught in any epistemology course covering these topics.

Coliva, Annalisa, and . Extended Rationality: A Hinge Epistemology

2015, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Publisher’s Note: Extended Rationality: A Hinge Epistemology provides a novel account of the structure of epistemic justification. Its central claim builds upon Wittgenstein’s idea in On Certainty that epistemic justifications hinge on some basic assumptions and that epistemic rationality extends to these very hinges. It exploits these ideas to address major problems in epistemology, such as the nature of perceptual justifications, external world skepticism, epistemic relativism, the epistemic status of basic logical laws, of the Principle of the Uniformity of Nature, of our belief in the existence of the past and of other minds, and the nature of testimonial justification. Along the way, further technical issues, such as the scope of the Principle of Closure of epistemic operators under known entailment, the notion of transmission failure, and the existence of entitlements are addressed in new and illuminating ways.

Comment: In this interesting book, Annalisa Coliva develops an account of the structure of justification inspired by Wittgenstein's epistemology (Ch.1-3), argues a constitutivism about epistemic rationality (Ch.4) and reveals its significance for many contemporary problems (Ch.5). Ch.1 involves a overview of three dominant views of perceptual warrants: liberalism, conservativism and moderatism, so it could be a useful reading material for teachings on epistemic justification and perceptual warrant. Ch.4 can be used as a further reading for topics on epistemic rationality, Wittgenstein's epistemology and external world skepticism.

D. Mitchell, Sandra, and . Unsimple Truths: Science, Complexity and Policy

2009, The University of Chicago Press Chicago and London.

Publisher’s Note: In Unsimple Truths, Sandra Mitchell argues that the long-standing scientific and philosophical deference to reductive explanations founded on simple universal laws, linear causal models, and predict-and-act strategies fails to accommodate the kinds of knowledge that many contemporary sciences are providing about the world. She advocates, instead, for a new understanding that represents the rich, variegated, interdependent fabric of many levels and kinds of explanation that are integrated with one another to ground effective prediction and action. Mitchell draws from diverse fields including psychiatry, social insect biology, and studies of climate change to defend “integrative pluralism” – a theory of scientific practices that makes sense of how many natural and social sciences represent the multi-level, multi-component, dynamic structures they study. She explains how we must, in light of the now-acknowledged complexity and contingency of biological and social systems, revise how we conceptualize the world, how we investigate the world, and how we act in the world.

Comment: The first five chapters, dealing with scientific methodology and epistemology could serve for undergraduate courses in general philosophy of science. The last chapter dedicated to integrative pluralism, is more specialized and thus more suitable for postgraduate courses.