Professor:       William Bechtel  Winter 2003
Office:            HSS 8076 TuTh, 12:30-1:50 pm
Telephone:      822-4461  
Office Hours:  TuTh 2:30-3:30   

Email:           phil149 AT (course)


Phil 149

Philosophy of Psychology

1. Course Description

How can mental activities such as thinking, imagining, and remembering, be explained? Are the explanations of these phenomena in psychology similar to or different from those found in the natural sciences? How do psychological explanations relate to those of other disciplines, especially those included in cognitive science? The course will focus on major research traditions in psychology, with a special focus on contemporary cognitive psychology. Research on memory, including work on memory deficits, false memory, and the relation of memory to personal identity, will provide a focus for the latter portion of the course.

Given the nature of the class, substantial material will be presented in lectures that goes beyond what is included in the readings. Also, philosophy is an activity, and learning activities requires active engagement. Accordingly, class attendance and discussion is critical. Although we will have discussions on other occasions as well, several classes are designated as discussion classes.

2. Course Requirements

Class attendance is mandatory. Missing classes more than very occasionally will result in a reduction in your grade. To get the most out of the class, it is absolutely essential that every one comes to class prepared to discuss the readings. To ensure that this happens and to foster subsequent discussions in class, you will be required to turn in a very short (one paragraph) comment or question on reading assigned during each week of the quarter. You can write about anything you found interesting, puzzling, strange, clearly wrong, obviously right, etc. These will be graded as acceptable or unacceptable. To ensure that your submission is acceptable, your question must demonstrates that you have done the reading in question and contains fewer than four grammar or spelling errors. These must be submitted as email to by 11 AM on Thursdays except for the week of the mid-term examination, and you must turn in seven acceptable weekly assignments to receive a passing grade for the course.

Your grade in the course will be based on two examinations and one 3-5 page paper. The mid-term and final examination will each count for 30% of your grade and the paper will count for 40% of the grade. The paper, due by the beginning of class on March 6, must be on one of the topics that will be assigned in class. If possible, the paper should be submitted in Word or WordPerfect by email attachment (please be sure to check for viruses before submitting your file!). Participation in class discussions can result in a raising or lowering of your final grade from what is determined by the above percentages.

3. Texts

Flanagan, Owen (1991). The Science of the Mind. Second Edition. Cambridge, MIT Press.

Schacter, Daniel L. (1996). Searching for Memory: The Brain, the Mind, and the Past. New York: Basic Books.

4. Schedule of Classes and Readings

Note: This schedule of reading assignments is tentative and subject to revision. Dates with asterisks are dates on which comments/question paragraphs on the reading are due. These comments/questions must be sent to by 11 AM on the dates indicated.

January 7: Introductory Class: Psychology as a Science

*January 9: Descartes’s Dualism (Flanagan, Ch. 1)

January 14: William James’ Naturalism (Flanagan, Ch. 2)

*January 16: Discussion Class

January 21: Freud’s Introduction of the Unconscious (Flanagan, Ch. 3)

*January 23: Making Psychology a Behavioral Science (Flanagan, Ch. 4)

January 28: Discussion

January 30: First Exam

February 4: Piaget and a Cognitive Developmental Psychology (Flanagan, Ch. 5)

*February 6: The Cognitive Turn in Psychology (Flanagan, Ch. 6)

February 11: Interdisciplinary Cognitive Science (Flanagan, Ch. 6)

*February 13: Discussion

February 18: Sociobiology and Evolutionary Psychology (Flanagan, Ch. 7)

*February 20:Recent Directions in Cognitive Science, Including Cognitive Neuroscience

February 25:The Phenomena of Memory (Schacter, Ch. 1, 2)

*February 27:Memory of One’s Life (Schacter, Chapters 3, 7)

March 4: Discussion

*March 6:Using Amnesia to Understand Normal Memory (Schacter, Chapters 5, 8)

March 11 The Constructive Character of Memory: Evidence from Memory Errors (Schacter, Chapters 4, 9)

*March 13: Discussion

Wednesday, March 19, 11:30—Final Examination