FA21 PHIL493/593

Note: This course is currently scheduled for some in-person instruction, but will run on a hybrid schedule.

Special Topics in Metaphysics: The Mind and its Environment (PHIL493/593)
Prof. Wayne Wright
Mondays & Wednesdays  ·  11:00am–12:15pm  ·  LA5–149

This course will address the connection between the contents of our minds and those of the world around us. Our primary concern will be visual perception. Roughly the first half of the semester will be spent dealing with color vision, with particular emphasis on whether the colors we encounter when we open our eyes are real properties of mind-independent objects. Besides opening the door to familiar philosophical issues such as the appearance/reality distinction and the status of the so-called ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ qualities, this study should prompt further reflection on what sort of ‘match’ between the world as we experience it and the world as it is in itself, we might expect (hope for, be interested in, etc). In the second half of the semester, we will turn to more general themes regarding the nature of perception and its connection to not just the external environment, but also our cognitive and behavioral capacities. Overall, we will go beyond fairly provincial concerns in the philosophy of perception and the philosophy of mind, and will also take up issues in the philosophy of science and the foundations of empirical research on vision.

No books are required; all course readings will be available as PDFs through the course’s Beachboard page. Our readings will be drawn from both philosophy and science. Some authors likely to be included in the course reading list include Alex Byrne, Hasok Chang, Mazviita Chirimuuta, Patricia Churchland, Noam Chomsky, Andy Clark, Daniel Dennett, Frances Egan, C.L. Hardin, Gary Hatfield, David R. Hilbert, Donald Hoffman, Anya Hurlbert, Kimberly Jameson, Jan Koenderink, Mohan Matthen, Rainer Mausfeld, Kevin O’Regan, Kim Sterelny, Davida Teller, and Mark Wilson.

While plans for the specific format of instruction are still up in the air due to the COVID-19 pandemic, my expectation is that the course will be run in a hybrid format. Ideally, we will meet in-person roughly once per week, with the rest of our interaction taking place at the Discussion Forum of the course’s Beachboard page. My goal is for our meetings to be mostly discussion-focused, although I will certainly do some lecturing at points. Students will be expected to keep up with the assigned readings, to come to class meetings prepared for discussion, and to make (semi-)regular contributions at the course’s Discussion Forum.