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What is a Mind?

University of Cape Town via FutureLearn


This free online course will bring together learners and practitioners interested in how the mind works. It aims to build bridges between traditionally antagonistic approaches to understanding the mind.

What is a mind?

This question has perplexed philosophers, scientists, historians and ordinary people across time and cultures.

While advances in the medical understanding of how the brain functions can shed light on neurological functions and disorders, the essential question of what the mind is speaks to a different problem.

This problem cannot be answered by a purely scientific understanding of the brain, nor by a purely philosophical or psychological approach. Many disciplines have attempted to address the question, resulting in multiple and sometimes antithetical answers.

New understandings of the mind

On this course, Professor Mark Solms, Chair of Neuropsychology at the University of Cape Town, will adopt a multidisciplinary approach.

He will bring in perspectives from a range of disciplines, to explore four specific aspects of the mind- subjectivity, intentionality, consciousness and agency. Together, these will help us think about the fundamental questions: what it is to be a mind, why we have a mind and what it feels like to have a mind.

You can find out more in Professor Mark Solms’s posts for the FutureLearn blog: “What is a mind? One of the great mysteries of our time” and “Thinking and feeling: what’s the difference?”

This course is aimed at anyone with an interest in psychology and the mind. The course will also appeal to practitioners, students and researchers from a range of disciplines, whose work directly or indirectly looks at the mind and the brain. This includes, but is not limited to neuroscience, psychology, psychoanalysis, philosophy, psychiatry and neurology.

Taught by

Mark Solms

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4.9 rating, based on 274 reviews

Start your review of What is a Mind?

  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    All my life I have wanted to do something that would really interest and excite me. I am now 82 and I found the course did both. Some people of my age and younger say that they do not mind dying now, they have enjoyed their lives and lived long enough....
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    The good: - The courses talks about a few interesting concepts, one does feel more knowledgeable after finishing it - Every end of the week, there is section where Mark answers questions from the audience - the material for each video can be downloaded -...
  • Anonymous
    An extremely fascinating course incorporating neuropsychoanalysis, philosophy and many disciplines encouraging analytical thinking, engaging the self, and great interaction with other students. Brilliantly executed by Mark Solms, very stimulating course!
  • Anonymous
    I am on the the last chapter of Mark Solms book. Some of it goes well out of my comfort zone - that area where I am refusing to develop currently - such as the background needed in physic and the science of computational algorithms but the general principles...
  • Anonymous
    I have done many online courses, most by FutureLearn. I consider this the best course I have done so far. Of course it helps if you have a genuine interest in he subject; I have long found the human mind fascinating. Some of the concepts in the course are a little difficult to grasp at first but there are plenty supplementary links to videos which clarify matters. There is a lovely combination of seriousness and humour throughout. I don't think the course answered the title question completely, nor should we expect it to. This is such a huge subject and I can honestly say I am even more interested in the Mind now.
  • Liz Court completed this course.

    This was an absolutely brilliant course from start to finish . It was extremely well put together and Mark Solms is one of the most engaging , interesting and accessible educators of all the FL courses I have taken part in. The course material , while complex , was utterly fascinating and even a complete lay person , such as myself ,was able to understand and engage with it fully. I cannot recommend this course highly enough . What a wonderful journey of discovery this has been , and I am so sorry it is now over. However there is so much recommended reading I shall be very engrossed for a long time. Brilliant.
  • Karla Cabrera completed this course, spending 3 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

    OK, I actually think this course was great! The professor engaged enormously to give interest in the student. He explained deeply the subject and also provided an opportunity to ask questions so he can respond to the 4 more rated. What I liked about this course is that he provided evidence of what he explained and also some additional sources like articles and/or websites (although in my opinion I'd prefer MORE sources so we can investigate more about the subject in question). Another point I would like to add is that the course gives scientific explanation of things I've never think before. Definitely, my favorite online class of all the ones I took before.
  • Ingrid Schrijnemaekers
    Would like to share my experience, not content, with What is Mind? I started the course last year in the beginning of the pandemic but could not finish. Never forgot how nice and deep the course was, had to go back to finish it. Appreciated each bit...
  • Anonymous
    This is the first MOOC that I have undertaken and i found the subject matter extremely interesting, well presented and captivating. Initially it was rather daunting and I spent a lot of time looking up words - jargon to me but not to someone who works...
  • Anonymous
    This is a brilliant course for anyone who is interested in the mind. It is pitched perfectly for beginners and those with knowledge. The reading lists and links to videos are very useful, so that you can investigate any topic in more depth. Professor Solms is a charismatic lecturer. His enthusiasm is infectious and he brings a complicated subject within the range of many people who might have given up on other occasions.
  • Anonymous
    I have taken many FutureLearn classes, and this was definitely the most challenging and quite interesting. The professor, Mark Solms, is the best I have experienced in all of my online courses. He is knowledgeable and communicates his thoughts quite well. I would love to take an in-person class with him sometime. If you are interested in this subject, this class is well worth your time.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Overall; outstanding. Well structured with good balance of video lecture, articles, quizes etc. Transcripts available to allow reading and listening simultaneously. Well presented in a lucid and entertaining manner. Nicely linked to further info. The best MOOC I have done by a very large margin and one I shall use as a benchmark for the subsequent ones. Thoroughly recommended.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    I really enjoyed this course. It was new to me but linked to thoughts like "what makes this body/mind me?" Having finished, it is possible to download much of the material so it can be reviewed in the future after mulling over some of the ideas and insights. Thank you to all the team who made this possible.
  • Anonymous
    Brilliant course delightfully presented by Prof Mark Solms and mentored by Angela Harwood. I’ve enjoyed it just as much the second time around, there’s been such an information explosion in this field since I briefly studied psychology 50 years ago, and so much new and interesting knowledge to absorb.
  • Margaret O' Doherty completed this course.

    This is an extensive subject and many people have devoted their lives to it without coming up with the answer. You won't have all the answers after doing this course but at least you will understand the question.
    Presentation is clear and structured in a way that is easy to follow. There are many links to further study for those at a more advanced level and Prof Solm's is an outstanding communicator.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    My background is not Psychology nor have I done any course on it although I'm interested in the topic. So when I saw this course on Future Learn I was really intrigued, it was free & thought I'd 'give it a go' to avoid my grey cells turning to mush during...
  • Apoorva Vinod Bhosle
    well explaind insparation words and attractive subject . and tks for the university to entered me ,iam really very apriciate tks

  • Shivanna.bani

    Shivanna.bani completed this course, spending 2 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be easy.

    Hai This Shivanna here.Online course is good. Under standing also Nice Questions so easy to thanks and Regards Shivanna bani
  • Anonymous
    I've done many courses and this is probably the best. Mark Solms and the team behind this course have done an excellent job. I believe that the pace of the course is ideal whether you're a layperson or someone with knowledge of the subject or expecting to take the subject further. The materials and use of Youtube videos is excellent because it's largely self-paced, although I found myself wanting to know what comes next. There are a lot of optional links and they're all worth looking at. This course has given me a much better understanding of some of the terminology, latest thinking, and a desire to pursue the subject further. Finally, Mark comes across as nice, patient, humorous and most importantly, a good scientist.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    This was an exceptionally illuminating course. I have learned so much from this that i would highly recommend this course to everyone having an interest in mind. My understanding and opinions on various aspects of mind and brain have now revolutionized...

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