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University of Edinburgh

Philosophy and the Sciences: Introduction to the Philosophy of Cognitive Sciences

University of Edinburgh via Coursera


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Course Description What is our role in the universe as human agents capable of knowledge? What makes us intelligent cognitive agents seemingly endowed with consciousness? This is the second part of the course 'Philosophy and the Sciences', dedicated to Philosophy of the Cognitive Sciences. Scientific research across the cognitive sciences has raised pressing questions for philosophers. The goal of this course is to introduce you to some of the main areas and topics at the key juncture between philosophy and the cognitive sciences. Each week we will introduce you to some of these important questions at the forefront of scientific research. We will explain the science behind each topic in a simple, non-technical way, while also addressing the philosophical and conceptual questions arising from it. Areas you’ll learn about will include: Philosophy of psychology, among whose issues we will cover the evolution of the human mind and the nature of consciousness. Philosophy of neurosciences, where we’ll consider the nature of human cognition and the relation between mind, machines, and the environment. Learning objectives Gain a fairly well-rounded view on selected areas and topics at the intersection of philosophy and the sciences Understand some key questions, and conceptual problems arising in the cognitive sciences. Develop critical skills to evaluate and assess these problems. Suggested Readings To accompany 'Philosophy and the Sciences', we are pleased to announce a tie-in book from Routledge entitled 'Philosophy and the Sciences for Everyone'. This course companion to the 'Philosophy and the Sciences' course was written by the Edinburgh Philosophy and the Sciences team expressly with the needs of MOOC students in mind. 'Philosophy and the Sciences for Everyone' contains clear and user-friendly chapters, chapter summaries, glossary, study questions, suggestions for further reading and guides to online resources. Please note, this companion book is optional - all the resources needed to complete the course are available freely and listed on the course site.


  • Philosophy and the Sciences Part 1
    • This course is the second part of the joint course 'Philosophy and the Sciences'. If you want to go to the first part of the course, 'Philosophy and the Physical Sciences' follow the link below
  • Stone-age minds in modern skulls: evolutionary theory and the philosophy of mind (Suilin Lavelle and Kenny Smith)
    • Scientists agree that our brains are a product of natural selection. How did human brains and human cognitive structures evolve ?
  • What is consciousness? (Mark Sprevak and David Carmel)
    • Why do creatures with brains like ours have consciousness? What makes certain bits of our mental life conscious and others not?
  • Intelligent machines and the human brain (Mark Sprevak and Peggy Series)
    • How does one make a clever adaptive machine that can recognise speech, control an aircraft, and detect credit card fraud?
  • Embodied cognition (Andy Clark and Barbara Webb)
    • Embodied cognition is all about the huge difference that having an active body and being situated in a structured environment make to the kind of tasks that the brain has to perform in order to support adaptive success.

Taught by

Andy Clark, Dr. Alasdair Richmond, Dr. Suilin Lavelle, Kenny Smith, John Peacock, Professor Michela Massimi, Peggy Series, David Carmel, Mark Sprevak, Professor Duncan Pritchard and Barbara Webb


4.7 rating, based on 3 Class Central reviews

4.6 rating at Coursera based on 1368 ratings

Start your review of Philosophy and the Sciences: Introduction to the Philosophy of Cognitive Sciences

  • Like its twin course dealing with the physical sciences, this offering is amazing and insightful in providing an overview of our collective and growing understanding of what constitutes a "mind" and the implications for potential applications. However, I would admit that this course is more enjoyable for me, since it is less overwhelming than the physical sciences course and some of the concepts were, at the very least, touched in other University of Edinburgh philosophy MOOCs. The examples presented here are exciting and one can only imagine the progress cognitive sciences can make in the next few years.
  • This course consists of two parts - philosophy of cosmology and philosophy of mind. You can take it as one track (either of these) or both (if you aim for distinction). Course includes peer-reviewed essays, and if you have prior background in philos…
  • Daniel Finol

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