AP/PHIL4080 3.0 M: Seminar in the Philosophy of Mind

Offered by: PHIL


Winter 2020






Calendar Description / Prerequisite / Co-Requisite

An intensive examination of one or more of the following topics: mind and body, thinking, intention, emotions, desires, motives, reasons, dispositions, memory, the unconscious and the concept of a person. Prerequisites: At least nine credits in philosophy, including AP/PHIL 3260 3.00 or AP/PHIL 3265 3.00.

Course Website

Many courses utilize Moodle, York University's course website system. If your course is using Moodle, refer to the image below to access it.

    Additional Course Instructor/Contact Details

Professor Kristin Andrews
Office Location:  S420 Ross Building
Phone Number:  (416) 736-2100 Ext. 77590
Office Hours:  Tuesdays 10:00 - 11:00 am and by appointment

    Expanded Course Description

Humans are the paradigmatic conscious being, at least for us, since we are human and conscious. Furthermore, we are only directly aware of our own consciousness. For these reasons, it makes psychological sense to think of humans as THE conscious being.  But, once we set aside what is natural to think, we can start wondering whether other beings are conscious too. After all, if we are going to scientifically study consciousness, as we are, we need subjects to study. If we only study human minds, then our investigation will be biased and at best will provide a species-specific account of consciousness.  But, if we don’t yet have an accepted theory of consciousness, how do we identify subjects to study?


This course will focus on the puzzle of how to determine what sorts of beings may be conscious in order to generate a diverse subject pool for the scientific and philosophical study of the nature of consciousness. Taking an epistemic approach to consciousness, we will examine the common-sense markers for consciousness in humans and other animals, scientific markers for consciousness including learning and neurophysiological processes or structures, and we will examine evolutionary accounts of the function of consciousness.


Among the most obvious non-human conscious beings are animals. People who live with mammal pets may have no problem with a conscious dog or cat. When it comes to the octopus or bees and crabs, consciousness intuitions are probably not as strong. Animals are not the only other beings where we might find consciousness. We will examine biological organisms outside Animalia, such as plants and slime moulds, and well as nonbiological systems including software and dynamically interacting groups of people.

    Required Course Text / Readings

Artificial You: AI and the Future of Your Mind
Susan Schneider

Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness
Peter Godfrey-Smith

Tense Bees and Shell-Shocked Crabs: Are Animals Conscious?
Michael Tye

Articles on Moodle

Bronfman Zohar, Ginsburg Simona, and Jablonka Eva (2016). The evolutionary origins of consciousness: suggesting a transition marker. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 23, No. 9–10, 2016, pp. 7–34.


Bronfman Zohar, Ginsburg Simona, and Jablonka Eva (2016). The transition to minimal consciousness through the evolution of associative learning. Front. Psychol. 7:1954. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01954


Schwitzgebel, If materialism is true, the United States is probably conscious

Schwitzgebel, Is there something it’s like to be a garden snail

Schwizgebel, Consciousness defined


Recommended reading:

Allen and Trestman, “Animal Consciousness,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

    Weighting of Course

6 Micro papers 30%

The 6 micro papers are formal writing assignments consisting of three to five sentences. You will defend a claim about a topic from the reading for that day. Micropapers are due by 11:59 pm Monday evening. You are expected to come to class prepared to present and discuss your micropaper. You will be graded on your understanding of the material, your thoughtfulness demonstrated by the issue you raise, and your writing style. Ungrammatical micro papers will be

sent back without credit. You will submit these papers on Moodle.



Paper proposal 10%

Due Feb 25

3 pages


Paper proposal presentation 10%

Scheduled per student starting Feb 25

Each student will present their paper proposal to the class, in order to get feedback on their project.

Final paper 40%

Due April 7

~5000 words

Participation 10%

    Organization of the Course


    Course Learning Objectives


    Additional Information / Notes



January 7-        Introduction to consciousness Schwizgebel: Defining consciousness

January 14       Tye  Ch 1-4

January 21       Tye Ch 5-7

January 28       Tye Ch 8-11

Feb 4               Schwitzgebel, If materialism is true, the United States is probably conscious.

Schwitzgebel, Is there something it’s like to be a garden snail

Feb 11             Bronfman, Ginsburg and Jablonka, The evolutionary origins of consciousness

Bronfman, Ginsburg and Jablonka, The transition to minimal consciousness


Feb 18             -------Reading Week---------

Feb 25             PGS Ch 1-3

March 3           PGS Ch 4-5

March 10         PGS Ch 6-8

March 17         Schneider Ch 1-4

March 24         Schneider Ch 5-8

March 31         TBD

    Relevant Links / Resources