Aug 7th 2017

Philosophy and the Sciences: Introduction to the Philosophy of Cognitive Sciences (Coursera)

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What is our role in the universe as human agents capable of knowledge? What makes us intelligent cognitive agents seemingly endowed with consciousness? This is the second part of the course 'Philosophy and the Sciences', dedicated to Philosophy of the Cognitive Sciences. Scientific research across the cognitive sciences has raised pressing questions for philosophers. The goal of this course is to introduce you to some of the main areas and topics at the key juncture between philosophy and the cognitive sciences.

Each week we will introduce you to some of these important questions at the forefront of scientific research. We will explain the science behind each topic in a simple, non-technical way, while also addressing the philosophical and conceptual questions arising from it. Areas you’ll learn about will include:

- Philosophy of cosmology, where we’ll consider questions about the origin and evolution of our universe, the nature of dark energy and dark matter and the role of anthropic reasoning in the explanation of our universe.

- Philosophy of psychology, among whose issues we will cover the evolution of the human mind and the nature of consciousness.

- Philosophy of neurosciences, where we’ll consider the nature of human cognition and the relation between mind, machines, and the environment.

Learning objectives

-Gain a fairly well-rounded view on selected areas and topics at the intersection of philosophy and the sciences

- Understand some key questions, and conceptual problems arising in the cognitive sciences.

- Develop critical skills to evaluate and assess these problems.



Philosophy and the Sciences Part 1

This course is the second part of the joint course 'Philosophy and the Sciences'. If you want to go to the first part of the course, 'Philosophy and the Physical Sciences' follow the link below

Stone-age minds in modern skulls: evolutionary theory and the philosophy of mind (Suilin Lavelle and Kenny Smith)

Scientists agree that our brains are a product of natural selection. How did human brains and human cognitive structures evolve ?

Graded: Week 1 Quiz: Do our modern skulls house stone-age minds?


What is consciousness? (Mark Sprevak and David Carmel)

Why do creatures with brains like ours have consciousness? What makes certain bits of our mental life conscious and others not?

Graded: Week 2 Quiz: What is consciousness?


Intelligent machines and the human brain (Mark Sprevak and Peggy Series)

How does one make a clever adaptive machine that can recognise speech, control an aircraft, and detect credit card fraud?

Graded: Week 3 Quiz: From intelligent machines to the human brain


Embodied cognition (Andy Clark and Barbara Webb)

Embodied cognition is all about the huge difference that having an active body and being situated in a structured environment make to the kind of tasks that the brain has to perform in order to support adaptive success.

Graded: Week 4 Quiz: Embodied cognition and the sciences of the mind

Suggested Readings:
Philosophy and the Sciences for Everyone

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