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.

Chatterjee, Anjan, and . The promise and predicament of cosmetic neurology

2006, Journal of Medical Ethics 32 (2): 110-113

Abstract: Advances in cognitive neuroscience make cosmetic neurology in some form inevitable and will give rise to extremely difficult ethical issues.

Comment: This short paper introduces the ethical challenges related to cognitive enhancement. It lists some existing enhancing drugs, discusses the differences between developing drugs which treat diseases and those developed to enhance healthy individuals. The ethical challenges it considers include: safety and possible harmfulness of enhancing drugs; whether suffering and hardships are integral parts of human development and thus removing them might be problematic; whether the possibility of enhancement won't result in explicit and implicit coercive pressure to enhance, at the cost of human happiness. Chatterjee's text will serve well as an introduction to human enhancement in medical and applied ethics classes. In higher level classes it will be useful to supplement it with other, more in-depth papers engaging with specific problems.

Churchland, Patricia, and . The impact of Neuroscience on Philosophy

2008, Neuron 60, November 6

Diversifying SyllabiChurchland claims that experimental science has gradually (and rightfully and successfully) replaced philosophical investigations of the world, and suggests that the time has come for philosophy of mind and moral philosophy to “cede” to experimental science. She claims that conceptual analysis has been undermined by “a torrent of neuro­psychological results” that contradict folk psychology (i.e. intuition). Thus, self­respecting philosophers of mind have begun to engage with experimental science. Moral philosophers have not yet realized that their field is going in the same direction, and that their stories are about to be superceded by a “naturalistic framework for looking at human morality and decision making” (409). She gives some examples from animal studies bearing on social behaviour and organization like monogamy, trust and cooperation, social attachment, group cooperation or amalgamation. One central point is that moral rules play only a partial role, if at all, in the “brain’s decision” when faced with “constraint­satisfaction problems” (410).

Comment: This text offers a perfect way to address the common reservations regarding the validity and usefullness of philosophy in the age of neuroscience among the students. It clearly distinguishes between the questions which can and cannot be answered empirically, and shows how the aims of philosophy and neuroscience differ. As the text is very approachable, it can easily be used even outside of a philosophy class; in more focused ethics or philosophy of mind classes it might be best accompanied by more specialised texts.

Churchland, Patricia, and . Epistemology in The Age of Neuroscience

1987, Journal of Philosophy 84 (1987): 546-83.

Comment: Churchland argues that advances in neuroscience should should bring about reform in a number of central areas of philosophy. Formal logic does not model human reasoning, formal semantics cannot account for how human language is meaningful, there are no foundations of knowledge, there is no a priori knowledge, and true belief is not a goal of human nervous systems.

Comment: This would be useful in a course on epistemology (in particular, a section on naturalised epistemology), the philosophy of cognitive science, the philosophy of biology or metaphilosophy. Though the paper touches on foundational issues in philosophy, it is a relatively straightforward read and an excellent conversation starter. Suitable for undergraduates of all levels, but also appropriate for graduate-level courses.

Cooper, Rachel, and . Classifying madness: a philosophical examination of the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders

2005, Dordrecht: Springer.

Publisher: Classifying Madness concerns philosophical problems with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, more commonly known as the D.S.M. The D.S.M. is published by the American Psychiatric Association and aims to list and describe all mental disorders. The first half of Classifying Madness asks whether the project of constructing a classification of mental disorders that reflects natural distinctions makes sense. Chapters examine the nature of mental illness, and also consider whether mental disorders fall into natural kinds. The second half of the book addresses epistemic worries. Even supposing a natural classification system to be possible in principle, there may be reasons to be suspicious of the categories included in the D.S.M. I examine the extent to which the D.S.M. depends on psychiatric theory, and look at how it has been shaped by social and financial factors. I aim to be critical of the D.S.M. without being antagonistic towards it. Ultimately, however, I am forced to conclude that although the D.S.M. is of immense practical importance, it is unlikely to come to reflect the natural structure of mental disorders.

Comment: The early chapters are particularly useful in teaching, as they discuss the treatment of mental disorders as natural kinds. They are particularly useful in teaching applied ethics related to mental disorders and can inform a discussion on the claims made by the members of the antipsychiatrist movement. The text can also provide good support for advanced level teaching focusing on natural kinds and social constructs.

Cooper, Rachel, and . Psychiatry and philosophy of science

2014, Routledge.

Publisher: Psychiatry and Philosophy of Science explores conceptual issues in psychiatry from the perspective of analytic philosophy of science. Through an examination of those features of psychiatry that distinguish it from other sciences – for example, its contested subject matter, its particular modes of explanation, its multiple different theoretical frameworks, and its research links with big business – Rachel Cooper explores some of the many conceptual, metaphysical and epistemological issues that arise in psychiatry. She shows how these pose interesting challenges for the philosopher of science while also showing how ideas from the philosophy of science can help to solve conceptual problems within psychiatry. Cooper’s discussion ranges over such topics as the nature of mental illnesses, the treatment decisions and diagnostic categories of psychiatry, the case-history as a form of explanation, how psychiatry might be value-laden, the claim that psychiatry is a multi-paradigm science, the distortion of psychiatric research by pharmaceutical industries, as well as engaging with the fundamental question whether the mind is reducible to something at the physical level. “Psychiatry and Philosophy of Science” demonstrates that cross-disciplinary contact between philosophy of science and psychiatry can be immensely productive for both subjects and it will be required reading for mental health professionals and philosophers alike.

Comment: This book is written in a very approachable way and requires little prior knowledge of psychiatry or philosophy, which makes it an excellent resource for undergraduate teaching. Chapters two and three contain one of the most informative and clear reviews of the debate about the nature of mental illness. Chapters four to seven focus on the scientific status of psychiatry and look at the possibility of neurobiological reductionism. The text can be used in a number of teaching situations, stretching from moral dilemmas related to mental illness, to the philosophy of mind questions on mind-brain reductionism.

Egan, Frances, and . Representationalism

2012, In Eric Margolis, Richard Samuels & Stephen Stich (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy and Cognitive Science, OUP, 250-272.

Abstract: Representationalism, in its most widely accepted form, is the view that the human mind is an information-using system, and that human cognitive capacities are to be understood as representational capacities. This chapter distinguishes several distinct theses that go by the name “representationalism,” focusing on the view that is most prevalent in cogntive science. It also discusses some objections to the view and attempts to clarify the role that representational content plays in cognitive models that make use of the notion of representation.

Comment: A very good overview of representationalism. Suitable for a preliminary introduction to the topic.

Egan, Frances, and . Computational models: a modest role for content

2010, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 41(3): 253-259.

Abstract: The computational theory of mind construes the mind as an information-processor and cognitive capacities as essentially representational capacities. Proponents of the view claim a central role for representational content in computational models of these capacities. In this paper I argue that the standard view of the role of representational content in computational models is mistaken; I argue that representational content is to be understood as a gloss on the computational characterization of a cognitive process.

Comment: Good paper about the relation of representation and content to computation. Best suited to higher-level courses on the subject.

Egan, Frances, and . Folk psychology and cognitive architecture

1995, Philosophy of Science 62(2): 179-96.

Abstract: It has recently been argued that the success of the connectionist program in cognitive science would threaten folk psychology. I articulate and defend a “minimalist” construal of folk psychology that comports well with empirical evidence on the folk understanding of belief and is compatible with even the most radical developments in cognitive science.

Comment: A good defense of folk psychology. Would be a good inclusion in a course on philosophy of mind/philosophy of cognitive science to show that scepticism need not be taken to extremes.

Gendler, Tamar Szabó, and . Alief and Belief

2008, Journal of Philosophy 105 (10): 634-663.

Abstract: I introduce and argue for the importance of a cognitive state that I call alief. Paradigmatic alief can be characterized as a mental state with associatively-linked content that is representational, affective and behavioral, and that is activated – consciously or unconsciously – by features of the subject’s internal or ambient environment. Alief is a more primitive state than either belief or imagination: it directly activates behavioral response patterns (as opposed to motivating in conjunction with desire or pretended desire.) I argue that alief explains a large number of otherwise perplexing phenomena and plays a far larger role in causing behavior than has typically been recognized by philosophers. I argue further that the notion can be invoked to explain both the effectiveness and the limitations of certain sorts of example-based reasoning, and that it lies at the core of habit-based views of ethics.

Comment: In this influential paper, Gendler argues for the existence of an important cognitive states that she calls alief. It is a highly-relevant material for teachings on many topics, for example forms of belief, rationality and belief, varieties of irrationality, implicit bias and etc, in upper-division undergraduate courses and postgraduate courses.