24.09 Minds and Machines

As taught in: Spring 2007

A profile of an x-ray of a head, with an overlaid image of cogs.

Is the mind a machine? This course explores this question and more. (Figure courtesy of MIT OpenCourseWare.)

Level:

Undergraduate

Instructors:

Prof. Alex Byrne

Course Features

Course Description

This course is an introduction to many of the central issues in a branch of philosophy called philosophy of mind. Some of the questions we will discuss include the following. Can computers think? Is the mind an immaterial thing? Or is the mind the brain? Or does the mind stand to the brain as a computer program stands to the hardware? How can creatures like ourselves think thoughts that are "about" things? (For example, we can all think that Aristotle is a philosopher, and in that sense think "about" Aristotle, but what is the explanation of this quite remarkable ability?) Can I know whether your experiences and my experiences when we look at raspberries, fire trucks and stop lights are the same? Can consciousness be given a scientific explanation?