24.08J | Spring 2009 | Undergraduate

Philosophical Issues in Brain Science


The class is divided into three broad reading topics of roughly equal length. The topics are the following: Nativism, Perception, and Consciousness. Readings covered under each topic are listed below.

General Readings

De Bres, Helena. “The Pink Guide to Taking Philosophy Classes.” (PDF) (Courtesy of Prof. Helena De Bres. Used with permission.)

Chomsky, Noam. “A Review of B. F. Skinner’s Verbal Behavior.” In Readings in the Psychology of Language. Edited by Leon A. Jakobovits and Murray S. Miron. Prentice Hall, 1967, pp. 142–3.


Chomsky, Noam. “A Review of B. F. Skinner’s Verbal Behavior.” In Readings in the Psychology of Language. Edited by Leon A. Jakobovits and Murray S. Miron. Prentice Hall, 1967, pp. 142–3.

———. “On the Nature of Language.” In Origins and Evolution of Language and Speech. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. Edited by S. R. Harnad, H. D. Steklis, and J. Lancaster. New York Academy of Sciences, 1976, pp. 46–57. ISBN: 9780890720264.

———. Reflections on Language. 1st ed. Surrey, Ashgate, 1976. ISBN: 9780851171050.

Fodor, J. A., M. F. Garrett, et al. “Against Definitions.” Cognition 8 (1980): 263–367.

Kamp, Hans and Barbara Partee. “Prototype Theory and Compositionality.” Cognition 57, no 2 (1995): 129–91.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: The Historical Controversies Surrounding Innateness, Innateness and Language.

Soames, Scott. “Linguistics and Psychology.” Linguistics and Philosophy 7, no. 2 (1984): 155–79.

Samuels, Richard. “Nativism in Cognitive Science.” Mind and Language 17, no. 3 (2002): 233–65.

Laurence, Stephen. “Is Linguistics a Branch of Psychology?” In Epistemology of Language. Edited by Alex Barber. Oxford University Press, 2003, pp. 69–106. ISBN: 9780199250585.

Locke, John. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Edited by Peter H. Nidditch. Oxford University Press, 1979. ISBN: 9780198245957.

Keil, Frank C. “The Emergence of Theoretical Beliefs as Constraints on Concepts.” In The Epigenesis of Mind: Essays on Biology and Cognition. Edited by S. Carey and R. Gelman. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1991. ISBN: 9780805804386. [Preview with Google Books]

Buy at MIT Press Laurence, Stephen, and Eric Margolis, eds. “Concepts and Cognitive Science.” In Concepts: Core Readings. The MIT Press, 1999, pp. 3–81. ISBN: 9780262133531.

Johnson, Mark H. “Developing a Social Brain.” Acta Paediatrica 96 (2007): 3–5.

Morton, John and Mark H. Johnson. “CONSPEC and CONLERN: A Two-Process Theory of Infant Face Recognition.” Psychological Review 98, no. 2 (1991): 164–81.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: The Historical Controversies Surrounding Innateness.

Sharples, R. W. Plato: Meno. Aris & Phillips, 1985. ISBN: 9780856682490.
[Download a version of this work from Project Gutenberg.]

Samuels, Richard. “Innateness in Cognitive Science.” TRENDS in Cognitive Sciences 8, no. 3 (2004): 136–41.

Putnam, Hilary. “The ‘Innateness Hypothesis’ and Explanatory Models in Linguistics.” Synthese 17 (1967): 12–22.

Gettier, Edmund L. “Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?Analysis 23, no. 6 (1963): 121–3.

Leibniz, G. W. New Essays on Human Understanding. 2nd ed. Edited by Peter Remnant and Jonathan Bennett. Cambridge University Press, 1996. ISBN: 9780521576604.

Welsh, Talia. “Do Neonates Display Innate Self-Awareness? Why Neonatal Imitation Fails to Provide Sufficient Grounds for Innate Self- and Other-Awareness.” Philosophical Psychology 19, no. 2 (2006): 221–38.

Cowie, Fiona. “Mad Dog Nativism.” The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 49, no. 2 (1998): 227–52.

Buy at MIT Press Fodor, J. A. “The Present Status of the Innateness Controversy.” In RePresentations. The MIT Press, 1981. ISBN: 9780262060790.

Onishi, Kristine H. and Renee Baillargeon. “Do 15-Month-Old Infants Understand False Beliefs?Science 308, no. 5719 (2005): 255–8.

Talbot, Margaret. “The Baby Lab.” The New Yorker, September 4, 2006, 29.

Spelke, Elizabeth. “Initial Knowledge: Six Suggestions.” Cognition 50, no. 1–3 (1994): 431–45.

Pinker, Steven. “Fifty Thousand Innate Concepts (And Other Radical Theories of Language and Thought).” In The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature. Viking, 2008. ISBN: 9780143114246. [Preview with Google Books]

Papert, Seymour. “Papert on Piaget.” Time (March 29, 1999): 105.

Botvinick, Matthew and Jonathan Cohen. “Rubber Hands “Feel” Touch that Eyes See.” Nature 391, (1998): 756.

Held, Richard. “Plasticity in Sensory-Motor Systems.” Scientific American 213, no. 5 (1965): 84–94.

———. “Visual-Haptic Mapping and the Origin of Cross-Modal Identity.” Optometry and Vision Science 86, no. 6 (2009): 595–8.

Pulum, Geoffrey K. and Barbara C. Scholz. “Empirical Assessment of Stimulus Poverty Arguments.” The Linguistic Review 18, no. 1–2 (2002): 9–50.

Chomsky, Noam. “Recent Contributions to the Theory of Innate Ideas.” Synthese 17, no. 1 (1967): 2–11.

Cowie, Fiona. “The Logical Problem of Language Acquisition.” In What’s Within?: Nativism Reconsidered. Oxford University Press, 1998, pp. 205–37. ISBN: 9780195123845.

Laurence, Stephen and Eric Margolis. “The Poverty of the Stimulus Argument.” Brit J Phil Sci 52, no. 2 (2001): 217–76.

Pinker, Stephen. “How Language Works.” In The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language. Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2000, pp. 74–118. ISBN: 9780060958336.

Evans, Nicholas and Stephen Levinson. “The Myth of Language Universals: Language Diversity and its Importance for Cognitive Science.” Behavioral and Brain Sciences 32, no. 5 (2009): 429–48.


Byrne, Alex. “Intentionality.” In The Philosophy of Science: An Encyclopedia. Edited by S. Sarkar and J. Pfeifer. Routledge, 2005, pp. 53–82. ISBN: 9780415939270.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: The Contents of Perception.

Byrne, Alex and David R. Hilbert. “Color Realism and Color Science.” Behavioral and Brain Sciences 26, no. 1 (2003): 3–21.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Mental Imagery, The Problem of Perception.

Pylyshyn, Zenon W. “Mental Imagery: In search of a Theory.” Behavioral and Brain Sciences 25 (2002): 157–238.

Gallagher, Shaun. “Neurons and Neonates: Reflections on the Molyneux Problem.” In How The Body Shapes The Mind. Oxford University Press, 2006. ISBN: 9780199204168.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Molyneux’s Problem.

Searle, John R. “Perception.” In Mind: A Brief Introduction (Fundamentals of Philosophy). Oxford University Press, 2005, pp. 259–78. ISBN: 9780195157345.

Valberg, J. J. The Puzzle of Experience. Oxford University Press, 1992, pp. 19–47. ISBN: 9780198242918.

Petkova, Valerie I. and Henrik H. Ehrsson. “If I Were You: Perceptual Illusion of Body Swapping.” PLos ONE 3, no. 12 (2008): 1–9.

Block, Ned. “Mental Pictures and Cognitive Science.” The Philosophical Review 92, no. 4 (1983): 499–541. (PDF)

Tye, Michael. “The Picture Theory of Mental Images.” The Philosophical Review 97, no. 4 (1988): 497–520.

Kosslyn, Stephen M., Giorgio Ganis, et al. “Mental Imagery: Against the Nihilistic Hypothesis.” TRENDS in Cognitive Sciences 7, no. 3 (2003): 109–11.

Pylyshyn, Zenon. “Return of the Mental Image: Are There Really Pictures in the Brain?TRENDS in Cognitive Sciences 7, no. 3 (2003): 113–8.

Afraz, Sayed-Reza, Roozbeh Kiani, et al. “Microstimulation of Inferotemporal Cortex Influences Face Categorization.” Nature 442, no. 10 (2006): 692–5.

Kosslyn, Stephen M., Thomas M. Ball, et al. “Visual Images Preserve Metric Spatial Information: Evidence from Studies of Image Scanning.” JExpPsych 4, no. 1 (1978): 47–60.

Shepard, Roger N. and Jacqueline Metzler. “Mental Rotation of Three-Dimensional Objects.” Science 171, no. 3972 (1971): 701–3.

Dr. Wilder Penfield. “I Can Smell Burnt Toast.” November 16, 2007. YouTube. Accessed June 23, 2012. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kNdM9JhTPJw


Block, Ned. “The Mind as the Software of the Brain.”

———. “Consciousness, Accessibility, and the Mesh Between Psychology and Neuroscience.” Behavioral and Brain Sciences 30 (2007): 481–548.

Byrne, Alex. “Behaviorism.” In A Companion to the Philosophy of Mind. Edited by S. Guttenplan. Blackwell Publishers, 1996, pp. 132–40. ISBN: 9780631199960.

Pinker, Steven. “The Mystery of Consciousness.” Time, January 19, 2007.
(An article about consciousness.)

Green, Christopher D. “Classics in the History of Psychology.”

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Dualism, Descartes’ Life and Works.

Buy at MIT Press Chalmers, David J. “How can we Construct a Science of Consciousness?” In Cognitive Neurosciences III. Edited by Michael S. Gazzaniga. The MIT Press, 2004. ISBN: 9780262072540.

Nagel, Thomas. “What is it Like to be a Bat?” In Mortal Questions. Cambridge University Press, 1991. ISBN: 9780521406765. [Preview with Google Books]

Block, Ned. “On a Confusion About a Function of Consciousness.” Behavioral and Brain Sciences 18, no. 2 (1995): 227–87.

Koch, Christof and Giulio Tononi. “Can Machines Be Conscious?IEEE Spectrum (2008): 55–9.

Koch, Christof and Tsuchiya, Naotsugu. “Attention and Consciousness: Two Distinct Brain Processes.” TRENDS in Cognitive Sciences 11, no. 1 (2007): 16–22.

Farah, Martha J. and Nancey Murphy. “Neuroscience and the Soul.” Science 323, no. 5918 (2009): 1168.

Block, Ned. “Comparing the Major Theories of Consciousness.” The Cognitive Neurosciences IV (2009): 1–22. (PDF)

Block, Ned and MacDonald. “Phenomenal and Access Consciousness.” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society cviii, part 3 (2008): 1467–9264.

Gelder, Beatrice de, Marco Tamietto, et al. “Intact Navigation Skills after Bilateral Loss of Striate Cortex.” Current Biology 18, no. 24 (2008): R1128–9.

Descartes, Rene. “Meditations on First Philosophy.” In Meditations on First Philosophy. Edited by John Cottingham and Bernard Williams. Cambridge University Press, 1996. ISBN: 9780521558181.

———. “The Passions of the Soul.” In Meditations on First Philosophy. Edited by John Cottingham and Bernard Williams. Cambridge University Press, 1996. ISBN: 9780521558181.

Baars, Bernard J. “The Conscious Access Hypothesis: Origins and Recent Evidence.” TRENDS in Cognitive Sciences 6, no. 1 (2002): 47–51.

Chalmers, David J. “Consciousness and Its Place in Nature.” In The Blackwell Guide to the Philosophy of Mind. Edited by Stephen P. Stich and Ted A. Warfield. Wiley-Blackwell, 2003. ISBN: 9780631217749.

Buy at MIT Press ———. “What is a Neural Correlate of Consciousness?” In Neural Correlates of Consciousness: Empirical and Conceptual Questions. Edited by Thomas Metzinger. The MIT Press, 2000. ISBN: 9780262133708.

Dennett Daniel. “Are We Explaining Consciousness Yet?Cognition 79, (2001): 221–37.

Jackson, Frank. “Epiphenomenal Qualia.” The Philosophical Quarterly 32, no. 127 (1982): 127–36.

Lewis, David. “What Experience Teaches.” In Mind and Cognition: An Anthology. Edited by W. G. Lycan. Hoboken, Wiley-Blackwell, 1999. ISBN: 9780631205456.

Stoljar, Daniel. “Two Conceptions of the Physical.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research LXII, no. 2 (2001): 253–81.

Course Info

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