Introduction

Introduction

What is "the mind" and what is its place in the natural and cultural order of things? Do animals have "minds"? What about machines? Is "mind" just a kind of brain activity - or is it more than just the electro-chemical exchange of neurons? Can a "mind" ever comprehend itself in its act of "mind"-ing ? Or is "mind" just an archaic folk-term for a biologically evolved Operating System - a particular kind of activity-managing software program that nature has evolved to run on the hardware of brains, but one that may someday just as effectively be run on silicon ... or even on other people's brain tissue?

As minded creatures with brains ourselves, the ways in which we delimit the mind/brain relation has enormous consequences for the ongoing construction of our legal, social, medical and ethical lives. In this module, we will study how different notions of "the mind" have arisen within philosophy, neurobiology and the social sciences - and we will attempt to discover what it is about each of these disciplines that might lead them to make the claims they do regarding the "essential nature" of "mind". In each of our three units, we will learn how to consider the strengths and weaknesses of the variety of competing claims about this issue on which equally reasonable thinkers fundamentally disagree.

Course Objectives

Producing good, clear academic writing requires the development of a holistic ensemble of reading, thinking, researching and writing skills that will allow you to actively engage in the ongoing dialogue that is academic discourse. To engage is such dialogue effectively, however, you must first attain a practical mastery of its community language forms, rhetorical structures, and discourse conventions. As a student in this module, you will first learn to recognize and to identify the major elements, forms, and conventions of academic essay writing through your engagement with exemplar texts from a wide variety of academic disciplines. As in second language learning, your goal here will not be the ability to simply "parrot" such texts – but to learn how to effectively use these language practices as resources for your own thought and its expression.

Because the objective of this class is not just to learn something about brains and minds, but also to learn how serious thinkers engage with one another’s arguments in the effort to establish effective arguments of their own, together we will explore the mechanics of producing effective argumentative essays and will collaboratively develop useful models for how to best approach the writing process. You will then practice your developing skills in analyzing, comparing and creating original academic arguments. By writing multiple drafts of your essays over the course of many weeks, participating in class discussions of the topic, peer review meetings and teacher-student conferences, you will be given ongoing feedback on your increasing competence as an academic writer. Such experience will reveal to you what is at the core of all good creative writing and all good critical thinking everywhere: the generative cyclicity of process and product.