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Student and tutor module reviews

Thought and experience: themes in the philosophy of mind

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  • Points: 60
  • Code: AA308
  • Level: 3

Student reviews

Pro: An exceptionally rewarding module, despite a marked veer towards naturalism and the scientific outlook - an outlook that sometimes proved restrictively cramping, the academic content was as good as any I've studied with the OU. Provided you give it the time it deserves (not an easy module) there's much reward to be gained from studying AA308.

Con: From my own perspective however I found the administration of the module to be not just bad, but appalling. Never, in 30 odd years, have I come across a more poorly administered course/module. Just plain dreadful from beginning to end. I certainly won't miss that particular aspect of studying AA308.

Gerald Dane

Course starting: September 2012

Review posted: August 2013

Faculty response

The AA308 module team is glad that the student found AA308 rewarding despite the administrative issues that were raised and addressed during the course of his studies.

This was a fantastic course, although it does concentrate more on naturalism rather than the phenomenological. You may take time to consider this if you are expecting Husserl, Heidegger or Sartre. That being said it is an excellent course, but some of the concepts can be difficult to absorb at first. It is Level 3 and the difference between this and say a Level 2 philosophy course is that this is harder, a lot harder.

This may seem strange but even though I got a really dire exam mark, I really enjoyed AA308. The material in the book will benefit you when you encounter other philosophical writers outside the course and later in life. Look at the samples provided before you commit to AA308.

Paul Stuart Fletcher

Course starting: April 2012

Review posted: April 2013

I experienced the module to be very challenging for non native speakers, as writing a good essay requires a profound knowledge of the topic combined with a high level ability to use adequate language to express subtle differences of reasoning or discrepancies/fallacies in a logical argument.

The OU's approach to philosophy is analytical and differs from continental approaches, therefore the selection of theorists considered for the module seems a little bit biased.

The module books do quite significantly differ in readability and ease of understanding based on the different authors and their way of writing. They are organized also in a different way as how the various readings are referred to in the study guide, so that creates some confusion for students.

Course starting: January 2011

Review posted: August 2012

I thoroughly enjoyed AA308. Six months after the end of it I'm still reading and thinking about some of the issues from the course. It deals with the main questions in philosophy of mind, from the history to the present-day debate, with the focus firmly on the latter. This engagement with current philosophers was a big plus point for me, making it feel like we were dealing with a living, breathing subject.

I came to the course with a reasonable philosophy background, and I'd say it was a pretty tough one to take the plunge with if you're not familiar with the subject. It very definitely encourages you to engage with, criticise, weigh-up and tear apart the theories - don't expect to be presented with any 'right answers'!

Inevitably, you'll get on with some sections and theorists better than others. I found the Emotion section particularly fascinating, and some of the more scientific theories less so. I'd have liked a bit more on Language but there is a lot of material covered. There is some room within the TMAs and exam to engage with the aspects of the course that suit you best. A particular highlight is the final TMA which asks you to select from a range of articles and formulate your own question to answer - extremely good practice for independent philosophical thinking.

Tutor support was excellent, encouraging but suitably critical - my marks improved through the course thanks to constructive feedback.

If you're prepared to engage with a challenging workload and to bring an open mind to a range of theories, then I would highly recommend this course.

Course starting: January 2011

Review posted: June 2012

I found this course to be very informative and deeply rewarding, and yet in some ways rather frustrating. If you are considering embarking on this course be aware that the subject matter centres around the philosophy of mind which is a very specific field within philosophy - one which is largely devoted to the project of making the mind and it's contents conceptually compatible with the natural sciences. I suggest you look into this subject before signing up because for some people who are attracted to philosophy it won't meet expectations, due to its strong materialist bias.

Having said that it throws light on many fascinating topics and should be of interest to anyone who wants to penetrate the questions surrounding the mind/body problem, artificial intelligence and consciousness.

The course aims to make the issues as contemporary and relevant as possible and consequently much of the material is concerned with latter day philosophical discourse between philosophers you've probably never heard of. Not that this is a bad thing but a lot of the interesting history of ideas has been left out.

You will, however, encounter Kant, Hume, Wittgenstein, Aristotle and Descartes so there's some juicy stuff in there too for people who want to learn about these thinkers ideas and writings. What this course is really good at is encouraging you to actively philosophize and to engage with the material philosophically. This is tremendously important if you are going to think of yourself as a philosopher and if you know how to do this you should do well, regardless of your philosophical preferences.

Despite my aversion to the underlying metaphysical assumptions underpinning the majority of the material I have to say that I loved the course and I'm a better, more informed thinker for having studied it. But be warned it aint no picnic.

John Holmes

Course starting: January 2011

Review posted: December 2011

Like most of the other commentators, I am happy to endorse the feeling of satisfaction in having completed what is probably the most challenging Level three course in Philosophy of recent years.

If I have any criticism of the course, it is the sheer quantity of highly abstract material which has to be studied and absorbed over the course of an academic year in order to do justice to the TMAs and to the exam. Perhaps OU could revisit the question of workload for future courses of this kind.

Certainly, those with a sound background in Philosophy of Mind will probably find the course quite manageable. But for those coming fresh to the subject are in for a long and hard (if ultimately satisfying) slog.

Finally, we were fortunate in having an absolutely outstanding tutor to guide us through the philosophical minefield which AA308 represents.

Stephen John Coote

Course starting: January 2010

Review posted: June 2011

If you want my opinion, do not take this course.

I enjoyed zero percent of AA308, and don't think I can truthfully say learnt anything. My best description is incomprehensible nonsense and mind-numbingly pointless. I found the course books unusually impenetrable. I found the course hard because I could scarcely be bothered.

The only good thing I can say is that fortunately I had a great tutor.

I wish I hadn't taken this course and would NOT recommend it to anyone.

This review is not sour grapes, grade 2 pass. Please, please, take my advice - avoid AA308.

Course starting: January 2010

Review posted: January 2011

Faculty response

Many hundreds of students have completed AA308. Feedback from the most recent course satisfaction survey suggests that most (80% upwards) have enjoyed it and would recommend it to others. Like other modules at third level, AA308 is a challenging one: we recommend that you study 60 credits of Philosophy at second level first. We also recommend that you learn as much as you can about the module, including which topics are covered, before registering. For example, you might look at the study materials on OpenLearn, which you can access from this site.

Having loved A211 which I did in 2002 I decided to see what else the OU had to offer. It was a while before I got back to Philosophy. I found AA308 a different beast. AA308 is a lot harder and I struggled. I managed to keep on top of it and obtained a clear pass but I never achieved the satisfaction that I had had with A211. Perhaps I should have gone straight onto AA308 instead of cherry picking subjects.

I write this not to discourage anyone from doing this course just to warn you that it takes some effort. I am glad that I did it and learned a lot but it was not as rewarding, for me, as A211.

Course starting: January 2008

Review posted: August 2009

This was my eleventh OU course, and definately the best to date.

The Philosophy courses are generally better than much else on offer at OU, in that they are well written and have more open marking schemes (to allow for valid but obscure points- lateral thinking can be a severe handicap on other courses- especially if you dont always know you are doing it). The courses are well written, reflecting the great course team. The philosophy tutors seem to have a love of the subject, which helps.

Everything about the course was excellent; the textbooks, the forums were excellent really good atmosphere and great discuissions (the course team are on the forums too, so thats an added help), and my tutor was very helpful and encouraging (not something that can be relied on by any means).

I would recommend the course to anyone; but it is time consuming, and you may need to do further reading at times, just to get some obscure philosophical point that is not defined in detail(especially true of some of the thought experiments- where background really helps).

BEWARE ADDICTION: you may get so engrossed in the topic that you continue further reading even after the course ends. This is very frustrating when you have no one to debate with.

Helen Booth

Course starting: January 2008

Review posted: June 2009

A logical next step after A211 and one which I found very rewarding. The course is definately a challenge and is in no way easy but then again most worthwhile things in life require some effort. The material is well written and I particularly enjoyed the audio material which includes some lively debate from the worlds finest contemporary philosophers. The opportunities for independant study seem daunting at first but were actually my favourite part of the course - you get to focus entirely on an argument that interests you and to really engage with the material. I loved this course so much that I even enjoyed the exam! My only criticism is that the Philosophy department is not big enough to offer a specialist degree which is a real shame because once you've done this course all you want to do is study more philosophy- but you can't!

Annabel Robin

Course starting: January 2006

Review posted: November 2007

This was my first OU course and was thoroughly enjoyable, in particular studying Emotions, Imagination & Creativity and Consciousness. On the whole, I found the books clearly written and very accessible for a virgin of philosophical study.

Following the exam, I felt a real sense of sadness and loss at not having to study the course anymore - I obviously had a very strong desire to continue studying this subject which was a surprise to me, but shows what a positive impact the course had had on me!

Choose this course if you have an interest in philosophy. At times during the course you may need to draw on your deepest motivations for studying the subjects but any struggles are all worth it once clarity of thought is achieved . . . and what a feeling that can be in itself! Good luck!

Daren Mulley

Course starting: January 2006

Review posted: December 2006

This course is both fascinating and challenging in the extreme. I loved the majority of the course material but found one text in particular a real grind to get through. The exam was a nightmare and my previous study did nothing to prepare me for the horror of the day.

The good news is you can look forward to learning all about the nature of the imagination, consciousness and emotions, but be prepared to work hard and never see things in quite the same light again.

Mandy Eleanor Davies

Course starting: January 2005

Review posted: January 2006

This is a challenging but generally very enjoyable course - challenging because of its subject matter - some of the most elemental philosophical problems you could think of, perplexing some of today's leading thinkers - and enjoyable because of the quality of much of the writing. The diverse strands hang together very well. If you've enjoyed A211, this is well worth a crack.

Review posted: January 2006

If you are facinated by how your conscious experience appears like a cinema somewhere in your head, then sign up for this course. You may not find a definitive answer but it will certainly provide some interesting options! Learn about Zombies and their possibilities along with the emotions and passions we experience as humans and just how does language actually work. And, just where does creativity come from and how can it be defined and how does our imagination impact and influence it. Well worth the effort.

Alan Edward Pedder

Course starting: January 2005

Review posted: December 2005

Please note

Each of the views expressed above is an individual's very particular response, largely unedited, and should be viewed with that in mind. Since modules are subject to regular updating, some of the issues identified may have already been addressed. In some instances the faculty may have provided a response to a comment. If you have a query about a particular module, please contact your Regional Centre.

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Module satisfaction survey

The figures below are taken from a survey of students who sat the exam/completed the end-of-module assessment for the February 2011 presentation of AA308. The survey was carried out in 2011. 46.1% of our students responded to the survey covering what they thought of 10 aspects of the module. See this page for the full text of questions and more information about the survey.

Overall, I am satisfied with the quality of this module 81.4 %
Overall, I am satisfied with my study experience 74.3 %
The module provided good value for money 76.8 %
I was satisfied with the support provided by my tutor/study adviser on this module 71.4 %
Overall, I was satisfied with the teaching materials provided on this module 85.7 %
The module met its stated learning outcomes 80 %
I would recommend this module to other students 67.1 %
The module met my expectations 71.4 %
I enjoyed studying this module 74.3 %
Overall, I was able to keep up with the workload on this module 78.6 %
Faculty comment: "We are pleased that the majority of students on this module were satisfied with its quality and their study experience. We have noted that many students find this a challenging module, especially if they have not studied philosophy before. Early in the life of the module, we optionalised some material to give students more time to focus on the key issues and we made the independent study element simpler and clearer. We have reviewed the advice concerning previous study to make it clear that we strongly recommend that students study philosophy at second level before they take AA308."
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