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Course Detail

Course Name Philosophy of Cognitive Science and Mind : An Introduction
Course Code 24CLT502
Program M. Sc. Cognitive Sciences, Learning and Technology
Semester I
Credits 3
Campus Amritapuri


Unit I

Unit I – Introduction to Philosophy of Cognitive Science

    • An introduction and review of long-standing philosophical problems and perennial questions regarding the nature of the mind addressed through a global perspective, drawing on Western and Eastern philosophies.
    • Cognition in a Physical World: introduces the mind-body problem and approaches to theorising the mind, including physical systems, computationalism, embodied cognition and the nature and role of mental representational. This will briefly introduce the Turing Test, the Chinese Room Argument, The Frame Problem, Connectionism, Extended and Embodied Mind and Artificial Consciousness. This is juxtaposed to Eastern philosophies, drawing on Vedanta and Taoism, where the philosophical assumptions are rooted in non-dualistic epistemology in theorising mind and body, or world.
    • The Problems of Consciousness: introduces the primary focus of cognitive science on cognitive capacities. The mind-body problem is related to enduring mysteries regarding consciousness. Addressing physical systems and Qualia, cognitive science is viewed from a critical perspective, and limitations are considered and debated. The Western empiricist conceptions of mind and consciousness are comparatively reviewed in light of German Idealism, Russian Psychology, Inferentialism, Advaita Vedanta and Taoism.
    • The Nature of Thought: introducing philosophical issues revived in cognitive science, focusing on Language and Thought, Thoughts and Concepts. These concepts are comparatively considered from both Western and Eastern philosophical perspectives, including Advaita Vedanta.
    • Case Studies: More Specific Mental Phenomena concerning attention, memory, and perception and recent empirical research on these topics. The remainder of the course will draw out and critically engage with the philosophical implications. These issues will be framed within wider debates and decolonial perspectives concerning the East-West philosophical divide, North-South relations and academic and biomedical hegemony. Implications for the future of cognitive science will be discussed from a global perspective addressing, diversity, decolonisation, and social justice.
Unit II

Unit II – Cognitive Science and its Foundational Assumptions

  • Foundational Assumptions: Critical engagement with theoretical and philosophical problems regarding the notions of cognition, computation, representation, and consciousness. These assumptions are discussed in relation to representationalism and Cartesian dualism and critically reviewed with emerging schools of thought and Eastern non-dualist perspectives.
  • Cognitive Science and Inter-disciplinary Relations: Critical debates on the relation between evolutionary biology and the science of cognition are discussed. Different scholars and positions on disciplinary alignments are presented and debated. These include evolutionary biology and psychology, but also AI and Neuroscience. These relations are explored in a comparative and global context of a philosophy of science as embedded within the Western Enlightenment project. Subsequent dualist epistemology and critical perspectives are explored and critically discussed.
Unit III

Unit III – Core Concepts in Cognitive Science and Philosophical Concerns

  • Innateness: The historical role of innateness rooted in David Hume relating to contemporary debates concerning developmental issues is critically reviewed.
  • Language Faculty and The Linguistic Turn: Developmental issues are further discussed in relation to language and cognition. Starting with Noam Chomsky and to philosophical debates and developments related to language, concepts and philosophy of mind. This includes the Linguistic Turn and its relation to empiricism and philosophy of mind.
  • The Role Of Conceptual Analysis About Mental Phenomena: Core cognitive science concepts are discussed in relation to different disciplinary perspectives and arguments. The debates aim to consider the role and utility of cognitive science, psychology and philosophy in theorising mental phenomena in relation to consciousness, representation, and innateness. These debates are extended within a more comparative philosophical consideration related to German Idealism and its recent revival, connections to Russian psychology and Eastern theories of mind, and nondualist philosophical frameworks.
Unit IV

Unit IV – First-order Empirical Issues in Cognitive Science

Theory of Mind: Historical, philosophical theories of mind are considered (e.g. eliminativism and functionalism) and reviewed in light of empirical research and cognitive science approaches to theorising the mind (e.g. simulation theory). The discussion is extended to consider contemporary research, German Idealism and Maya theory within Advaita Vedanta.
Language: Theories of language faculty and language acquisition. The role of language and linguistics in informing non-linguistic domains of cognitive science is also addressed.
Culture and Cognition: Theories of social learning and cultural transmission and their relation to distinctive human cognitive features and science and technology.
Mind, Learning and Epistemology: Considering developments in cognitive psychology and learning theories, the emerging relations and tensions in the philosophy of mind and education
are critically discussed. This debate is extended to consider Eastern philosophical perspectives, with a focus on non-dualist epistemology.

Unit V

Unit V – Traditional Philosophical Problems and Contemporary Perspectives

Rationality: Debates in philosophy and cognitive science are directed at issues of reasoning and rationality. Consideration of Cartesian dualism and emerging alternative trends within philosophy and cognitive sciences as related to human judgments, decision-making and moral psychology. This debate considers emerging arguments within contemporary Analytic philosophy and relations to Eastern non-dualist perspectives.
Artificial Intelligence and Human Consciousness: The historical development of AI is discussed, with the Turing test and Chinese Room argument revisited. These arguments are discussed in view of contemporary developments and singularity. The future of AI is discussed in view of the debate regarding the relation of machine intelligence, the human mind and the concept of ‘intelligence’. Western and Eastern conceptualisations are reviewed and critically discussed.
Metaphilosophical Issues: Drawing on the various philosophical debates, the discussion debates the role of philosophy as a methodology and implications for cognitive science as a form of enquiry. Debates focus on empirical research and empiricist assumptions. These are discussed in view of methodological naturalism and experimental philosophy. These issues are critically discussed with a view to contemporary developments in non-dualist epistemology in Eastern philosophy.
Contemporary and Emerging Schools of Thought: In concluding the module, the topics are brought back to bear on foundational philosophical issues that remain at the heart of the philosophy of cognitive science, namely, representationalism, dualism, empiricism, materialism
and emerging philosophical schools of thought that challenge these assumptions, in addressing intentionality, rationality, learning and consciousness from alternative non-representational and non-dualist epistemological perspectives. These philosophical considerations draw from both Western and Eastern philosophies in discussing the future directions of Cognitive Science.


Prerequisite: Good reading and writing skills in English; Basic understanding of the field of cognitive and biological sciences.

Philosophy of Cognitive Science is a rich, topical and fast-growing area of philosophy. This module will address major works, concepts and theories in the history and development of philosophy of cognitive science. The approach will be philosophically oriented, involving critical debate and close reading of assigned texts. Students will be expected to engage critically with the work and supporting discussion to develop their own voice in arguing and defending their own position on the topics covered. The course will support students to engage with some of the most critical and current debates in cognitive science by understanding the role and implications of philosophy for cognitive science and cognitive science in doing philosophy.

Course Objectives & Outcomes

Course Objectives:

  1. To gain a basic understanding of philosophical perspectives and approaches to conceptualising issues within cognitive science.
  2. To develop a critical understanding of how philosophers engage with and debate cognitive science concepts and theories.
  3. To understand how the role of philosophy has influenced and continues to challenge and develop the field of cognitive science.
  4. To gain an overview of the foundational and contemporary issues within the field of cognitive science and philosophy of mind.
  5. To gain an overview of current and emerging trends with theoretical and empirical work within cognitive sciences and related disciplines.

Course Outcomes:

CO1: Acquire knowledge of the critical issues and current debates in the field of cognitive science.
CO2: Understand core concepts in cognitive science and their relation to philosophical issues.
CO3: Gain information on how philosophy has historically influenced current theories within cognitive sciences.
CO4: Gain insights into how empirical research in cognitive sciences has influenced philosophical debates and thinking.
CO5: Understand how philosophical concerns, issues, and debates can inform, clarify and develop concepts and theories within the cognitive sciences, such as attention, memory and perception.


Gain an overview of key philosophical perspectives and concepts in cognitive science.
Develop a deeper understanding of how philosophical and conceptual analysis has influenced concepts and theories in cognitive sciences.
Grasp how foundational assumptions have shaped cognitive science and how they can be challenged.
Differentiate between philosophical concepts and their application within empirical research in cognitive sciences.
Understand how the concepualisation of mind, language and cognition has influenced empirical research in the cognitive sciences.
Develop a basic understanding of the traditional philosophical issues that continue to challenge contemporary cognitive scientists and how empirical research has influenced philosophy.
Demonstrate an enhanced ability to engage in critical analysis and argument through reading and group discussions.
Demonstrate an ability to articulate their views in a systematic manner through their philosophical writing and dialogue, with a focus on clarity of idea and coherent justification.
Demonstrate confidence in undertaking work through independent learning and taking responsibility for their learning.

Program outcome PO – Course Outcomes CO Mapping


Evaluation Pattern:

Assessment Internal External
Midterm Exam 30
*Continuous Assessment


End Semester 50

*CA – Can be Quizzes, Assignment, Projects, and Reports, and Seminar

Textbooks and Papers

  • Churchland, P. (1981). Eliminative materialism and the propositional attitudes. Journal of Philosophy
    78(2): 67– 90. 10.2307/2025900
  • Fodor, J., Garrett, M., Walker, E., and Parkes, C. (1980). Against definitions. Cognition 8(3): 263–67. 10.1016/0010-0277(80)90008-6
  • Fodor, J., and Piattelli-Palmarini, M. (2010). What Darwin Got Wrong. London: Profile Books.
  • Grice, P. (1987). Conceptual Analysis and the Province of Philosophy. In P. Grice (1989), Studies in the Way of Words. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Reference Books

  1. Anderson, J. (2007). How Can the Human Mind Occur in the Physical Universe? New York: Oxford University Press. 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195324259.001.0001
  2. Brandom, R. (1994). Making It Explicit: Reasoning, Representing, and Discursive Commitment. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  3. Carruthers, P. (2006). The Architecture of the Mind: Massive Modularity and the Flexibility of Thought. New York: Oxford University Press.
  4. Chalmers, D. (1996). The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory. New York: Oxford University Press. Google Scholar
  5. Chomsky, N. (1957). Syntactic Structures. The Hague: Mouton.
  6. Copeland, B. J. (ed.) (2004). The Essential Turing. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  7. Davidson, D. (1975). Thought and Talk. In D. Davidson (1984), Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  8. Dummett, M. (1993). The Seas of Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  9. Fodor, J. (1975). The Language of Thought. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  10. Hume, D. (1777/1975). Enquiries Concerning Human Understanding and Concerning the Principles of Morals, edited by L. A. Selby-Bigge (3rd edition revised by P. H. Nidditch). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  11. Jackson, F. (1998). From Metaphysics to Ethics: A Defence of Conceptual Analysis. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Google Scholar
  12. Lewis, D. (1972). Psychophysical and theoretical identifications. Australasian Journal of Philosophy
    50: 249– 58. 10.1080/00048407212341301
  13. Marr, D. (1982). Vision. A Computational Investigation into the Human Representation and Processing of Visual Information. San Francisco: W. H. Freeman.
  14. Moore, G. E. (1966). Lectures on Philosophy, edited by Casimir Lewy. London: George Allen and Unwin. Nagel, T. (1974). What is it like to be a bat? Philosophical Review 83: 435–50.
  15. Newell, A. (1980). Physical symbol systems. Cognitive Science, 4(2): 135–83. 10.1207/s15516709cog0402_2
  16. Newell, A., and Simon, H. (1976). Computer science as empirical inquiry: Symbols and search.
  17. Communications of the Association for Computing Machinery 19(3): 113–26. 10.1145/360018.360022 Pinker, S. (1997). How the Mind Works. New York: W. W. Norton.
  18. Pylyshyn, Z. (1984). Computation and Cognition. Toward a Foundation for Cognitive Science. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  19. Richerson, P., and Boyd, R. (2005). Not by Genes Alone: How Culture Transformed Human Evolution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  20. Tooby, J., and Cosmides, L. (1992). The Psychological Foundations of Culture. In J. Barkow, L. Cosmides, and J. Tooby (eds.), The Adapted Mind: Evolutionary Psychology and the Generation of Culture. New York: Oxford University Press.
  21. Turing, A. (1951). Can Digital Computers Think? In B. J. Copeland (ed.), The Essential Turing. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  22. Whorf, B. (1956). Language, Thought, and Reality: Selected Writings of Benjamin Lee Whorf, edited by J. Carroll. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  23. Vygotsky, L. (1986). Thought and Language, edited by A. Kozulin. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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