Nature of the Universe: Mind and Matter
Science tells us that everything in the universe is made of particles, waves, and so on. But what about minds and meaning? Could thoughts and feelings be made up of chemicals and electricity, or are they some other kind of thing? Does a scientific view of the world allow for the existence of free will? Of rationality? Of meaningful thoughts at all? In this colloquium we will examine these questions by thinking about recent work in philosophy and science.
For syllabus, assignments, readings, announcements, and other material please see the course page on TCU Online.
Philosophy/psychology/cognitive science in the news
- 2 April, 2018 – The New Yorker published a piece about Andy Clark’s extended mind hypothesis. It doesn’t expand on the ideas in the original journal article very much, but it paints a quirky picture of Andy. If you can’t access it online, ask me and I’ll send you a copy.
- 16 November, 2017 – Boston Dynamics recently published new video of their latest robots and their abilities. It’s very impressive.
Other content relevant to class
Mind and language
- The public radio show Radiolab has a segment about the history of Nicaraguan Sign Language (NSL) and—something often not reported—the way that the expanding vocabulary for mental states and propositional attitudes changes the way NSL speakers understand themselves and each other. Check it out here.
Mechanisms and moral responsibility
- Radiolab reports on the case of a man who commits terrible acts, but (maybe?) only because of a brain tumor. Check out the original episode and their retrospective.
- In 2017 there was a popular news story that Facebook shut down an AI experiment because the chatbots developed their own secret language. But the story was very misleading—Snopes has a fact-check.
- If you want to learn more about the capabilities of Boston Dynamics’ robots, check out this 2017 TED talk by Boston Dynamics CEO Marc Raibert.