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.

Course materials:

For syllabus, assignments, readings, announcements, and other material please see the course page on TCU Online.

Philosophy/psychology/cognitive science in the news

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

Artificial intelligence

  • 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.



Based on this image, which is based on this article.