Fall 2009

Mysteries of Mind

Listed in: Philosophy, as PHIL-21


Jonathan A. Westphal (Section 01)


An elementary introduction to some very mysterious topics in the philosophy of mind, each one associated with a striking experiment.  Topics will be chosen from among the following: so-called brain-bisection and the resulting "split-brain syndrome" (two independent consciousnesses seem to inhabit the two separated brain hemispheres); "blindsight" (subjects seem to be able to see without visual sensations); "phantom limb phenomena" (genuine pains are felt where an amputated limb used to be, and there is even a sensation of the presence of the limb as a whole); after-image color (there exist "non-physical" visual sensations with as strong a color as physical images); "OOBEs" (out-of-body experiences have been induced in recent experiments); the ambiguous figures, such as the so-called "duck-rabbit" (without a change in the stimulus, what is seen will assume a new and different aspect); "mental rotation" (experiments seem to show subjects rotating mental images as though they were as substantial as physical images); and Libet's experiment on free will (the physiological activity leading to an action precedes the conscious decision to act by about a third of a second, so that we cannot have free will).  The leading idea of the course as a whole is to uncover and study the premises in our conception of mind that make each experimental result so baffling.  No background in philosophy or psychology is required. 

Limited to 35 students.  Fall semester.  Visiting Lecturer Westphal.


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2009