Mind, Matter, and Language (Autumn 2019)

This course is an introduction to philosophy of mind and philosophy of language. Its aim is to introduce some of the central problems and concepts in these areas, and to develop students’ skills in critical thinking, understanding and analysing written texts, and clear writing.

The course is suitable for students with little or no prior knowledge in philosophy.

Course organiser and lecturer for the Philosophy of Language part

Dr Wolfgang Schwarz (wolfgang.schwarz@ed.ac.uk)

Office: 6.02, Dugald Stewart Building. Office hours: Thursday 15:00-16:00 and by appointment.

Lecturer for the Philosophy of Mind part

Dr Jade Fletcher (jade.fletcher@ed.ac.uk)

Office hours: TBD

Course administrator

Alison Lazda (philinfo@ed.ac.uk)

Alison is the person to contact for any administrative issues: deadlines, absences, word counts, etc.

Lecture times and location

  • Tuesday 14:10-15:00, Room G.03, 50 George Square
  • Thursday 17:10-18:00, Room G.03, 50 George Square
  • Friday 15:10-16:00, Room G.03, 50 George Square


In addition to three course lectures per week, you will have weekly tutorials. These give you a chance to further discuss topics and issues in the course and its lectures. Attendance at tutorials is compulsory. We will post discussion questions for the tutorials on LEARN. You should try to answer these on your own before you go to your tutorial.


This course has two assessments.

There is a final exam worth 75% of your final mark. This will take place in December. The precise date and time are not yet known.

There is a midterm essay of 1500 words worth 25% of your final mark. Essay questions will be made available soon.

Syllabus with readings

Items in bold are required reading; others are optional.

Week 1: Words and their meanings (Schwarz)

Slides for lecture 1, lecture 2, lecture 3

Week 2: Frege on sense and reference

Slides for lecture 4, lecture 5, lecture 6

  • G. Frege: On Sense and Reference (1892). In M. Beaney (ed.): The Frege Reader (1997): 151-171. Online Here
  • R. Heck and R. May: Frege's contribution to philosophy of language. In Barry C. Smith & Ernest Lepore (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Language. Oxford University Press. pp. 3-39 (2006)

Week 3: Russell on descriptions (Schwarz)

Slides for lecture 7, lecture 8, lecture 9

Week 4: Externalism (Schwarz)

Slides for lecture 10, lecture 11, lecture 12

  • S. Haslanger: What good are our intuitions (2000). Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 80 (1):89-118. PhilPapers Record
  • H. Putnam: The meaning of 'meaning' (1975). Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science 7:131-193
  • S. Kripke: Naming and Necessity (1981), lectures 1 and 2

Week 5: Doing things with words (Schwarz)

Slides for lecture 13, lecture 14

  • L. Wittgenstein: Philosophical Investigations §1-38 (1953). Available Online Through Library
  • M.K. McGowan: Oppressive Speech (2009). Australasian Journal of Philosophy 87 (3):389-407. PhilPapers Record
  • H.P. Grice: Logic and Conversation (1975). In P. Cole and J. Morgan: Syntax and Semantics, vol. 3. Academic Press.

Week 6: The Mind-Body Problem and Dualism (Fletcher)

  • M. Wilson: The Epistemological Argument for Mind-Body Distinctness (1976). Noûs 10 (1):3-15 PhilPapers Record
  • R. Descartes: Second Meditation and Sixth Meditation (1641). In J. Cottingham (ed./trans.), Meditations on First Philosophy. Cambridge University Press.
  • J. Bennett (ed.): Correspondence between Descartes and Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia (2010). Online Here
  • D. Garber: Understanding interaction: what Descartes should have told Elizabeth (2000). In Descartes Embodied, Cambridge University Press.
  • J. Foster: A defense of dualism (1989). In J. Smythies and J. Beloff (eds.), The Case for Dualism. University Press of Virginia.

Week 7: Physicalism and Identity Theory (Fletcher)

  • B. Montero: The Body Problem (1999). Noûs 33 (2):183-200 PhilPapers Record
  • J.J.C. Smart: Sensations and brain processes (1959). Philosophical Review 68:141-56. PhilPapers Record
  • D. Lewis: An argument for the identity theory (1966). Journal of Philosophy, 63: 17-25.
  • U.T. Place.: Is consciousness a brain process? (1956). British Journal of Psychology, 47: 44-50. –
  • H. Putnam: The nature of mental states (1975). In Mind, Language and Reality, Cambridge University Press.
  • H. Feigl: The 'Mental' and the 'Physical' (1958). In H. M. Feigl Scriven, and G. G. Maxwell (eds.). Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science.

Week 8: Functionalism (Fletcher)

  • J.R. Searle: Minds, brains, and programs (1980). Behavioral and Brain Sciences 3 (3):417-57. PhilPapers Record
  • M.A. Boden: Escaping from the Chinese Room (1988). In M.A. Boden: Computer Models of Mind. Cambridge University Press. Available Online Through Library
  • J. Kim: Multiple realization and the metaphysics of reduction (1992). Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 52: 1–26.
  • G. Ryle: Descartes’ myth (1949). In The Concept of Mind, University of Chicago Press.
  • D. Lewis: Psychophysical and theoretical identifications (1972). Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 50, pp. 249-258.
  • N. Block: Troubles with functionalism (1980). In Readings in the Philosophy of Psychology, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, pp. 268–305.
  • Also see the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy entry on Functionalism

Week 9: The Knowledge Argument against Physicalism (Fletcher)

  • D. Lewis: What Experience Teaches (1990). In W.G. Lycan (ed.), Mind and Cognition. Blackwell. pp.29-57. PhilPapers Record
  • F. Jackson: Epiphenomenal qualia (1982). Philosophical Quarterly, 32 (1982), pp. 127-136.
  • R. Van Gulick: Understanding the Phenomenal Mind: Are we all just Armadillos? (1993). in Martin Davies & Glyn W. Humphreys (eds.) Consciousness: Psychological and Philosophical Essays. Blackwell.
  • D. Chalmers: Phenomenal concepts and the knowledge argument (2005). In P. Ludlow et al. (eds.) There is Something about Mary. MIT Press,.
  • D. Dennett: What RoboMary knows, (2007). In T. Alter and S. Walter (eds.). Phenomenal Concepts and Phenomenal Knowledge. Oxford University Press.

Week 10: Conceivability Arguments against Physicalism (Fletcher)

  • J. Levin: Do Conceivability Arguments against Physicalism Beg the Question? (2012). Philosophical Topics 40 (2):71-89. PhilPapers Record
  • D. Chalmers: The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory (1996). New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press. See pages 93–171
  • S. Kripke: Lecture Three (1972). In Naming and Necessity, Oxford: Blackwell.
  • J. Perry: Chapter 4: The Zombie Argument (2001)., in Knowledge, Possibility, and Consciousness, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • J. Levine: Materialism and qualia: the explanatory gap (1983).. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, 64: 354–361.
  • Also see the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy entry on Zombies

Week 11: Review Week (Schwarz & Fletcher)