Syllabus: Philosophical Psychology, Winter Term 2018

  1. Course: PHIL 325.  Concordia University.  Credits: 3.
  2. Time & Place: Lectures: Mon.  and Wed.  2:45 PM – 4:00 PM, Room H 820, Campus SGW
  3. Instructor: Ulf Hlobil, Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
    Office phone: (514) 848-2424 ext. 2536
    Office hours: Office hours are scheduled times when you can drop by to speak with me in my office (S-M 309, 2145 Mackay) without an appointment, on a first–come first–serve basis. My office hours begin in the second week of classes and end in the last week of classes. They are Mondays from 10:00 to 11:30. If you need to see me outside of those times, please email me to make an appointment.
    E-mail: please use email only for administrative issues and solicited items; other substantive philosophical discussion should happen in person because email doesn't suit it:
  4. Notice: In the event of extraordinary circumstances beyond the instructor’s control, any feature of this course described above or elsewhere is subject to change.

Table of Contents

Course Description and Objectives

Calendar Course Description:    PHIL 325 Philosophical Psychology (3 credits) Prerequisite: PHIL 226, or permission of the Department.
This course philosophically investigates the psychology of mind and cognition. Example questions: Which model of the mind’s architecture is best? Could all of psychology eventually be reduced to physics? How do sensory-motor systems and the environment shape cognition? How does one ascribe beliefs and desires to others? How well does one know one’s own beliefs?
NOTE:    Students who have received credit for PHIZ 201 may not take this course for credit.
Expanded Course Description:    Course on the philosophical understanding of the human mind. We will focus on four themes: (i) emotion, (ii) intentional action, (iii) mental action and rationality, and (iv) reason and judgment. We will begin by asking what emotions are, and how they relate to reason and the body. We then move on to the question: What it means to act intentionally? The second half of the course will be on questions like: In what sense, if any, can we control what we intend and believe? What does it mean to be rational? What is the overall organization or structure of our mind? Along the way, we will read texts on feminism, anthropology, psychoanalysis, neuroscience, and the philosophy of cognitive science. Authors we will read include: Iris Marion Young, Martha Nussbaum, Elizabeth Anscombe, Amelie Rorty, Donald Davidson, Jerry Fodor, Robert Brandom, Avicenna, Ursula Coope, and others.
  1. Part Problems
  2. Unit 1: Emotions
    What are emotions? How are emotions related to reason, thought, and values?
  3. Unit 2: Action
    What is it to act intentionally? How do intentional actions differ from things that merely happen to us, like stumbling? Are the reasons for which we act causes of our actions?
  4. Unit 3: Mental Action and Rationality
    In what sense, if any, can be control our mental lives? E.g., in what sense, if any, can we control what we intend, believe, or value? What are the implications of the correct answers to these questions for our responsibility for our beliefs, intentions, and the like?
  5. Unit 4: Reason, Thought and Judgment
    What does it mean to think and judge? How is the “rational part of our mind” related to other “parts” of our mind? What are traditional views on the overall organization of our minds or souls?

Objectives: What Should You Get Our of This Course

The goal of this course is that you learn to express and argue for your own considered opinion about the nature of mental states, the role philosophy has in discovering the nature of the mind, what it means to be rational, what an intentional action is, and in what sense (if any) are can control which aspects of our mental lives. After taking this course you’ll be able to better identify and analyze problems in philosophical psychology. These abilities require both, skills that are specific to the content of the course and general methodological skills. Thus, the class objectives can also be stated in the following way:
  1. Content-specific goals:
    1. knowledge of the following theories and concepts: different theories of emotions, different theories of intentional action, mental action, control, rationality, and theories of the structure of the human mind.
    2. historical knowledge: who presented which ideas when and in what context, who held which view for which reasons.
  2. General goals:
    1. the ability to understand philosophical texts and arguments,
    2. the ability to evaluate philosophical ideas and to arrive at your own considered view on a topic at hand,
    3. analytical writing skills, i.e., the ability to engage with the ideas of others and to present your own ideas in writing in a compelling, clear and structured way,
    4. discussion skills, i.e., the ability to discuss complicated and controversial topics in a productive and respectful way, the ability to think about difficult issues together.
You will be evaluated by testing whether you have these abilities through online quizzes, your performance during classroom activities, exams and writing assignments.

Lecture Schedule and Assignments

All required readings are available on Moodle. Notice that in order to access some of them you may have to follow a link or to use the link to the library reserve for the course that is on the Moodle page.
I recommend two general resources for when you have difficulties understanding the readings: Simon Blackburn, Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005, 2 nd ed.) and the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (online at: If you are looking around for additional background readings, is a good place to start.

3.1 Introduction

  1. Readings: Course Syllabus (and you should get a start on next class’s reading, listed immediately below)
  1. Readings: Young, Iris Marion (1980). Throwing like a girl: A phenomenology of feminine body comportment motility and spatiality. Human Studies 3(1): 137–156.
  1. Readings: Tomasello, M. & Vaish, A. (2013). Origins of human cooperation and morality. Annual review of psychology 64, 231–255.
  1. Readings: Lear, Jonathan (2014). Wisdom won from illness: The psychoanalytic grasp of human being. The International Journal of Psychoanalysis 95: 677–693.

3.2 Unit 1: Emotions

  1. Readings: Pastorino, Ellen & Doyle-Portillo, Susann (2006). Theory and Expression of Emotion. In: What is psychology? (pp. 373–380). Wadsworth.
  1. Readings: Panksepp, J. (2004). Affective consciousness and the origins of human mind: A critical role of brain research on animal emotions. Impulse, 3: 47–60.
  1. Readings: Chaps. 1 and 3 of Kenny, A. (1963). Action, Emotion, and Will. Wiley-Blackwell.
  1. Readings: Pitcher, George (1965). Emotion. Mind 74:326-346.
  1. Readings: Nussbaum, Martha C. (2004). Emotions as judgments of value and importance. In Robert C. Solomon (ed.), Thinking About Feeling: Contemporary Philosophers on Emotions. Oxford University Press.
  1. Readings: Rorty, Amelie Oksenberg (2004). Enough already with “theories of the emotions”. In Robert C. Solomon (ed.), Thinking About Feeling: Contemporary Philosophers on Emotions. Oxford University Press.

3.3 Unit 2: Action

  1. Readings: Anscombe, G. E. M. (1957). Intention. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 57(1): 321-332.
  1. Discussion: No new readings.
  1. Readings: Davidson, Donald (1963). Actions, Reasons, and Causes. Journal of Philosophy 60(23): 685-700.
  1. Readings: Frankfurt, Harry (1978). The Problem of Action. American Philosophical Quarterly 15: 157–62

3.4 Unit 3: Mental Action and Rationality

  1. Readings: Kavka, Gregory S. (1983). The Toxin Puzzle. Analysis 43 (1): 33-36.
    Hieronymi, Pamela (2009). Two kinds of agency. In Lucy O'Brien & Matthew Soteriou (eds.), Mental Action (pp. 138–162). Oxford University Press.
  1. Discussion: No new readings.
  1. Readings: Boyle, Matthew (2016). Additive Theories of Rationality: A Critique. European Journal of Philosophy 24 (3): 527-555.
  1. Discussion: No new readings.

3.5 Unit 4: Reason, Thought and Judgment

  1. Readings: Fodor, Jerry A. (2006). How the mind works: what we still don't know. Daedalus, 135(3), 86–94.
  1. Readings: Fodor, Jerry A. (2004). Having concepts: A brief refutation of the twentieth century. Mind & Language, 19(1), 29–47.
  1. Readings: Brandom, R. B. (2009). How Analytic Philosophy Has Failed Cognitive Science. In his Reason in Philosophy: Animating Ideas (pp. 197–224). Harvard University Press.
  1. Readings: Aristotle. De Anima (excerpts, mostly from Book III).
  1. Readings: Excerpts from Avicenna. Kitab al-Najat (The Book of Deliverance), bk. II, Chap. VI. In F. Rahman (1952). Avicenna's Psychology (pp. 24–56, 64–70). Hyperion Press.
  1. Discussion: No new readings.
  1. Readings: Coope, Ursula (2013). Aquinas on judgment and the active power of reason. Philosophers' Imprint 13 (20).
  1. Discussion: No new readings.

Class Requirements, Policies, and Grading

4.1 General Rules & Advice

Office hours: If you have any questions or difficulties with the material, I encourage you to see me in my office during office hours. During office hours I can discuss questions in more depth and I can give you detailed feedback on assignments.
Readings: In order to meet the class objectives it is essential that you read the assigned texts completely and carefully before each meeting and actively participate in classroom discussions. I will introduce material that is not in the readings during class, so attendance at each and every class is essential if you want to do well in the course.
Special Circumstances: If a special condition or circumstance in your life may or will affect your performance, please let me know about it as soon as possible. It will be treated with the strictest confidence. Please do not wait until the condition or circumstance is impending or has already happened before telling me about its impact on you. If something unanticipated occurs, bring it to my attention and we will work out a way of dealing with it.
Assignments: Start your writing assignments early. Writing a philosophy paper takes time. Please consult my “Reading and Writing Philosophy” before you start working on a paper. An excellent set of tips on how to write good philosophy texts is also provided by Prof. Jim Pryor on this webpage: You must keep a copy of all your work—your original submissions as well as graded copies I return to you. According to the calendar (, “students are responsible for the preservation of any material, in its entire and original form, which has been returned to them.” It hence is a good idea to regularly back up your data.
Laptops, phones, tablets, etc.: If you want to use an electronic device in class you have to make sure that there is no student behind or beside you who can see your screen but doesn't use an electronic device herself. New research shows that students who use laptops or phones or iPods and the like in class perform markedly more poorly than others and unfairly diminish the performance of others (see here and here).
Religious or Cultural Holidays: If you celebrate holidays that the university calendar does not accommodate and this creates any kind of conflict with this course, please see me about this at least one month prior to the holiday; I will consider such matters on a case-by-case basis.
Gender Neutral Language & Human Diversity: In addition to all the other reasons for using gender neutral language and language that attends to human diversity, there are philosophical reason for this too. Using gender neutral language in your writing and speaking reminds us that human beings are diverse in gender, that not all of them are “he.” There are different ways of approaching the task of keeping gender and other differences in mind, e.g., substituting “she” where “he” might have traditionally been expected, alternating systematically between the two, using “she/he,” and so on. No formal procedure is entirely adequate to the task, for the task is improving your thinking and that of our culture and future generations, and the form of thinking adequate to this cannot be set in advance. The American Philosophical Association has provided helpful “Guidelines for the Nonsexist Use of Language.” (online at
For other rights and responsibilities, see the Concordia Code of Rights and Responsibilities at:

4.2 Teams

Philosophy is all about arguments. Arguments are best explored in a setting with two opposing parties. To this end, you will work in teams. These teams will stay the same over the entire term.

4.3 Grading and Requirements

The weights of the grade components is as follows:
  1. 10% Moodle  quizzes: Each week after Week 2, there will be a brief Moodle quiz that you must fill out before the class on Monday. The quizzes will go online each Friday. The grades on the quizzes will be available on Moodle.
  2. 10% Classroom activities: this will include, e.g., preparing and presenting arguments in class, presenting questions and comments you have regarding the readings to the class when asked to do so (see the section on teams above), etc.
  3. 25% First paper
  4. 30% Second paper
  5. 25% Final exam
Points can be converted into letter grades according to the following table:
Philosophy Department Grading Policies: In 200 & 300 level courses with over 30 students, it is normally expected that: the grade average will be in the C+ to B- range; there will be no more than 25% As.
Grading Criteria: I lay out my expectations regarding philosophy papers in the document “Reading and Writing Philosophy” that is available on the Moodle page of the course. In a nutshell, paper must be clearly written, well-structured, give illuminating and charitable interpretations and present compelling arguments for a main thesis. With respect to tests and exams, there is usually just one correct answer to questions on test and exams. You get the points for a question just in case you get the answer right.
My feedback policies: I strive to grade submission within 2 weeks of submission. If you have not received your grade or feedback after 2 weeks and I haven't addressed this issue, please contact me.
Moodle: Routinely check the Moodle page for posted material and updates. You may also receive grades and feedback via Moodle.
Submission Rules: Assignments must be submitted via Moodle as files in pdf, doc, or dox formate. You can submit papers in English or French. However, it might take longer to grade papers in French, and I (or we) will comment on your paper in English. Concordia's Writing Assistance Program can help you improve your general writing as well as your English language skills.
Policies on late work and policies on early work: For paper assignments or other writing submissions: You lose 10% of the points available for the assignment each day the assignment is late; it is one day late (and will lose 10%) between one minute and 24 hours after the due date; it is two days late (and will lose 20%) between 24 and 48 hours after the deadline, and so on. When paper assignments do not ask for submission of rough drafts, students sometimes ask me to read rough drafts of their paper anyway, before they submit the paper for grading. I am happy to look at these drafts, and typically will provide feedback on them verbally in a personal meeting in my office. However please keep in mind that I cannot provide thorough or comprehensive feedback on these drafts prior to official grading, because of the sense in which paper assignments are like tests.
Missing Tests and Exams: You will not have the chance to earn the points available on a test or exam if you miss the test or exam, unless you have exceptionally good reasons for missing the test (for example, you have a serious illness for which you consult a doctor), and have informed me of these in advance of the test if possible. If I judge that your reasons are exceptionally good, then the value of the missed test will be rolled into the value of the largest test or exam remaining in the course, where you can “make up the points”, so to speak, by having that test or exam weighted more heavily for you. (So under no circumstances can you write tests that you miss.) If there is a final exam in this class and you miss it, you will be subject to the associated policies in the school’s Academic Calendar.
General remark: I strive to be very clear in my expectations, because I think fairness requires this. Fairness to all people in class also requires that in ordinary circumstances (extraordinary cases are another matter) no one person can have a special extended deadline or write a test at an unusual time. If you foresee difficulty meeting a deadline or scheduled evaluation, please discuss this with me well in advance of the deadline or evaluation. I’m happy to make exceptions to grading policies, but only for what I judge to be exceptionally good reasons.

4.4 Academic Integrity and Plagiarism

The most common offense under the Academic Code of Conduct is plagiarism which the code defines as ”the presentation of the work of another person [an author of a book, a journal, a fellow student, etc.] as one’s own or without proper acknowledgment.”
This could be material copied word by word from books, journals, internet sites, professor's course notes, etc. It could be material that is paraphrased but closely resembles the original source. It could be the work of a fellow student, for example, an answer on a quiz, data for a lab report, a paper or assignment completed by another student. It might be a paper purchased through one of the many available sources. Plagiarism does not refer to words alone—it can also refer to copying images, graphs, tables, and ideas. “Presentation” is not limited to written work. It also includes oral presentations, computer assignments and artistic works. Finally, if you translate the work of another person and do not cite the source, this is also plagiarism. In simple words: Do not copy, paraphrase or translate anything for anywhere without saying from where you obtained it!
The Academic Code of Conduct can be found here: policies /Academic-Code-Conduct-2015.pdf
Please make sure that you comply with it. Help regarding how to cite your sources correctly can be found here:
Plagiarism and academic dishonesty are highly disruptive of the learning that we should be doing here. Should I detect any form of academic dishonesty, including plagiarizing from the internet, from books, journals, other students, etc., I will report it directly to the Vice-Dean of Academic Affairs. The penalties for plagiarism tend to be rather severe, and in any case undermine your learning process. So avoid it. In case of doubt as to what counts at plagiarism, ask me. Cite your sources and inspirations; this enriches your ideas by showing their roots in the thoughts of other people, and does not detract from your exposition, articulation, and development of ideas.

4.5 Special Needs

The Access Center for Students with Disabilities coordinates academic accommodations and services for all eligible students with disabilities. If you have a disability for which you wish to request accommodations and have not contacted the Access Center for Students with Disabilities, please do so as soon as possible. Information about their services can be found at Please contact me privately in regard to your needs in this course.

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