PHIL 2260 Seminar in Mind and Language 2015

Instructor: Dr. Michael Johnson
Office: 10.02
Office Hours: Thursdays 3-4pm
Email: micjohns [at] hku [dot] hk

Course Website: You’re here!
Meeting Times: Mondays 3:30-5:20
Location: CPD 3.01

Course Description

This course is an introduction to some of the central issues in the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of language. In particular, we will be concerned with questions like: What is the relation between the mind and the brain? What do mental states like beliefs represent? How do these states represent? What’s the relation between mental representation and representation in language? Finally, we will consider various radical positions such as, for example, that beliefs don’t exist, or that meanings don’t exist.


Participation: 10%
In-class presentation: 30%
Rough-draft paper: 20%
Seminar paper: 40%

Details of the in-class presentation can be found here.

Details of the rough-draft/ seminar paper can be found here.

Policy on Late Assignments

Academic Integrity

Students are required to read and understand the university’s policy on plagiarism and cheating. Here are some passages worth emphasizing from the guide:

“[P]lagiarism is copying the work of another person without proper acknowledgement.”

“The best approach is of course not to copy at all.”

“This University takes plagiarism seriously. Academically, it is almost certain that the plagiarized work will receive a fail grade (and most likely a zero mark). There may also be disciplinary action against the student who commits the offence of plagiarism.”

Please read the full guide for details.


PM = Ian Ravenscroft, Philosophy of Mind: A Beginner’s Guide
PL = William Lycan, Philosophy of Language: A Contemporary Introduction (2nd Edition)

7 September: Introduction
Powerpoint slides here
Read: PM, Introduction
Read: PL, Introduction

14 September: The Idea Theory
Powerpoint slides: here
Primary Reading: John Locke, Book III Chapters i-iv, ix-xi, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.
Primary Reading: Berkeley, A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge, Sections 1-33
(Note: skip Berkeley’s long introduction)

21 September: The Verificationist Theory of Meaning
Powerpoint slides: here
Primary Reading: Hempel, “Problems and Changes in the Empiricist Criterion of Meaning”
Background: PL, Chapter 8


5 October: Definitions and Descriptions
Slides here
Primary Reading: Searle, “Proper Names”
Supplementary Reading: Fodor, Garrett, Walker, and Parkes, “Against Definitions”
Background: PL, Chapter 3


19 October: Behaviorism
Slides here
Primary Reading: Hempel, “The Logical Analysis of Psychology”
Supplementary Reading: Watson, “Psychology as the Behaviorist Views It”
Background: PM, Chapter 2

26 October: The Identity Theory
Michael’s slides here
Primary Reading: Smart, “Sensations and Brain Processes”
Background: PM, Chapter 3

2 November: Functionalism
Michael’s slides are here
Primary Reading: Lewis, “Mad Pain and Martian Pain”
Background: PM, Chapter 4

9 November: The Use Theory of Meaning
Michael’s slides here
Primary Reading: Horwich, Ch. 3 of Meaning, “Meaning as Use”
(read at least the first 11 pages– to p. 51– and more if you like)
Background: PL, Chapter 6

16 November: The Causal-Historical Theory of Meaning
Slides here
Primary Reading: Kripke,
Secondary Reading: Evans, “The Causal Theory of Names”
Background: PL, Chapter 4

23 November: Naturalizing Content
Primary Reading: Loewer, “A Guide to Naturalizing Semantics”
Background: PM, Chapter 9

30 November: Eliminativism and Deflationism
Primary Reading: Stich, “Autonomous Psychology and the Belief-Desire Thesis”
Supplementary Reading: Field, “Deflationist Views of Meaning and Content”
Background: PM, Chapter 5

Last day’s slides here