AP/PHIL4082 3.0 M: Philosophy of Cognitive Science

Offered by: PHIL


Winter 2022




ONLN (Fully Online)


Calendar Description / Prerequisite / Co-Requisite

An examination of philosophical issues at the foundations of cognitive science, such as: mental representation, perception, concepts, rationality, memory, intelligence, modularity, evolutionary psychology, extended and embodied cognition, and consciousness. Prerequisite: At least nine credits in AP/PHIL courses, including at least three credits from the following: AP/PHIL 3260 3.00 or AP/PHIL 3265 3.00.

Course Start Up

Course Websites hosted on York's "eClass" are accessible to students during the first week of the term. It takes two business days from the time of your enrolment to access your course website. Course materials begin to be released on the course website during the first week. To log in to your eClass course visit the York U eClass Portal and login with your Student Passport York Account. If you are creating and participating in Zoom meetings you may also go directly to the York U Zoom Portal.

For further course Start Up details, review the Next Steps webpage.

For IT support, students may contact University Information Technology Client Services via askit@yorku.ca or (416) 736-5800. Please also visit Students Getting Started UIT or the Getting Help - UIT webpages.

    Additional Course Instructor/Contact Details

Professor David Jopling
Office Location:  S435 Ross
Phone Number:  (416) 736-2100 Ext. 77588

Virtual office hours by email exchanges Monday to Friday, or by zoom audio meeting (not video) one hour per week; or by phone. Time and day TBA.

    Expanded Course Description

Most species of animals are well adapted to their environments without also being highly intelligent. Humans are both. How did it get this way? What cognitive changes happened over the course of the last 2 million years, when the new genus Homo first appeared; and what cognitive changes happened over the last 200,000 years, when humans started to become anatomically and behaviourally modern? In this course we will examine several recent accounts of the origin and evolution of human cognition, as developed by a number of prominent evolutionary anthropologists, cognitive scientists, philosophers, and paleo-anthropologists.

    Additional Requirements

Technical requirements for taking the course:


You will need a computer (or tablet) and an internet connection. There is no video conferencing in this course. Office hours will be held once weekly via zoom, using zoom audio only; or by email exchange; or by phone.



Here are some useful links for student computing information, resources and help:

Student Guide to Moodle

Zoom@YorkU Best Practices 

Zoom@YorkU User Reference Guide

Computing for Students Website

Student Guide to eLearning at York University


To determine Internet connection and speed, there are online tests, such as Speedtest, that can be run.]


Times and locations:


The entire course, including the submission of assignments and posts to the discussion forum, will take place on the course’s e-class site. Lectures will be pre-recorded and posted to the e-class site at the start of each week. This course has no live virtual meetings, except for office hours. Like an online course, you can learn the course material at your own pace, following the schedule of readings and activities, and synchronizing them to the quiz and essay dates, which are fixed. There will be no in-person interactions or activities on campus.

    Required Course Text / Readings

There is no course textbook. All readings are available online, and links to them are posted on the moodle site for the course. Readings by Darwin, Mayr, Tomasello, Boesch, Sterelny, Richerson and Boyd, Gould, Tattersall, Pinker, Cosmides and Tooby, Henrich, Mithen, Dunbar, Wrangham, Hrdy, and Whiten.

    Weighting of Course

Two essays (40% each), one midway through the course and one at the end; and two quizzes (10% each), one midway through the course and one at the end. Dates TBA.

    Organization of the Course

The course is asynchronous. You can complete the readings at your own pace, and post comments on the e-class discussion forum for each of the topics at any time. Lectures that cover the readings will be posted to the website each week. Midway through the course, and then at the end of the course, there will be an online quiz, the times and dates for which are fixed.

    Course Learning Objectives

After completing this course, students will be able to:

  1. a) describe, explain, and critically evaluate a number of contemporary scientific approaches to the origin and evolution of human cognition;
  2. b) critically evaluate the philosophical implications and problems associated with these approaches;
  3. c) understand and explain the relevance and importance of the origin and evolution of human cognition to contemporary cognitive science and philosophy.
    Additional Information / Notes

Course policies


  1. All audio recordings should be used for educational purposes only and as a means

for enhancing accessibility.

  1. Students do not have permission to duplicate, copy and/or distribute the recordings outside of the class (these acts can violate not only copyright laws but also FIPPA.
  2. All recordings will be destroyed after the end of the course.
  3. Please hand in all assignments on time. Extensions are allowed in the event of illness, bereavement, disabilities, or special needs. Work that is submitted late and that falls outside these conditions will incur a late penalty of 2% per day. Students with disabilities automatically receive extensions.
  4. Please refer to Senate Policy on Academic Honesty: http://www.yorku.ca/secretariat/legislation/senate/acadhone.htm.
  5. Please refer to The Academic Integrity Tutorial at: http://www.yorku.ca/tutorial/academic_integrity/
    Relevant Links / Resources