Minds and Machines

I was asked to develop a course “Philosophy and Cognitive Science” to be taught for the first time in Spring 1995 in the Philosophy Department at the University of Alberta. Since my cognitive science-related interests are focussed more towards philosophy mixed with artificial intelligence (A I) and linguistics than towards (say) neuroscience or anthropology, I decided to slant the course in t hat direction. The departmental intent was that this should be an upper-level course, but with no spe cific prerequisite courses. This meant that while there was a “three previous courses in philosophy ” prerequisite, the students could not be expected to have taken any particular course, as (say) a phil osophy of mind course or a logic course. Further, I had in mind that the course would be part of an initiative to create an undergraduate program in Cognitive Science at the University of Alberta, and s o I encouraged students from linguistics, computer science, and psychology who had taken courses in their department like “Language and Mind”, “Introduction to AI”, and “Introduction to Cognit ive Science” to take this course even without the philosophy background. This resulted in the class consisting of about a quarter each philosophy, psychology and computer science majors, with the re st being drawn from linguistics, education, and anthropology. And although this distribution of stud ents arguably lessened the philosophical sophistication of both the lectures and the class discussion, I (and the students, I believe) found the perspectives brought to the topic by these other students to be fascinating and quite provocative.
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