|About this course:|
|Course work includes:|
|6 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)|
|No residential school|
On this course, you will explore a number of central philosophical questions concerning the nature and activities of the human mind, and its place in the natural and social worlds. You will encounter the opinions of great thinkers from history as well as of contemporary philosophers, and examine related issues in aesthetics, the theory of knowledge, metaphysics and the philosophy of language. You will examine the development of conceptions of the mind and explore four topics in detail: emotion; thought and language; imagination and creativity; and consciousness.
Modules at Level 3 assume that you are suitably prepared for study at this level. If you want to take a single module to satisfy your career development needs or pursue particular interests, you don’t need to start at Level 1 but you do need to have adequately prepared yourself for OU study in some other way. Check with our Student Registration & Enquiry Service to make sure that you are sufficiently prepared.
The course is divided into five books, the first providing a general introduction and the remaining four exploring specific themes in detail.
Aspects of the Mind – This first book is an introduction to some of the issues in the philosophy of mind as it is currently pursued in the western analytical tradition. The activities of the mind seem to include both thinking and reasoning on the one hand, and sensing and experiencing on the other. How do mind and mentality so conceived fit into the natural world? Can only living things have minds? Could thinking, sensing and experiencing be purely physical processes? A radical shift in thinking about the nature of both mind and life was ushered in by Descartes and the rise of modern science in the seventeenth century. The implications of this shift for the answers to these questions are explored, along with further key developments in twentieth-century thought, such as the relevance of the computer for understanding the mind.
Emotion – The purpose of this book is to explore some key questions about the nature and function of the emotions. What is an emotion? Does it make sense to characterise an emotion as justified or well-grounded? Should we regard emotions as conflicting with reason, or are emotions essential to our capacity to think and to act in a rational way? Emotion is currently a hot topic in philosophical research; but many of the issues raised in the book are familiar from literature and popular culture, and they bear on perennial concerns about the relation between emotion and reason.
Language and Thought – Language, which is public and accessible, can be used to convey thoughts, which seem private and hidden from view. How is this possible? Presumably we rely on sentences having a meaning that both speaker and hearer exploit. But what is meaning? This and several other key questions about language and thought are taken up in the third book. Meaning cannot be scientifically measured in the same way as, say, humidity. And, setting aside the issue of how we manage to communicate them, what are thoughts? Some claim that thoughts themselves are sentence-like symbols in a kind of brain-language, ‘Mentalese’, and so susceptible to scientific investigation. But if so, where does this language get its meaning from? And is there space within a descriptive science of mind for a normative notion like error, as when someone thinks, wrongly, that Buckingham Palace is in Buckingham?
Imagination and Creativity – This book investigates certain philosophical issues concerning imagination, creativity, and the relationship between them. Is there a single mental act that we call ‘imagining’? How does imagining differ from perceiving and believing? What role do images play in imagination? Is our perception of the world itself informed by imagination? What contribution does the imagination make to our thought processes? What is creativity? Can creativity be explained? What role does the imagination play in creative processes? After initial consideration of the varieties of imaginative experience, the first part of the book explores the relationships between imagination, perception and thought, discussing the views of Descartes, Hume and Kant. The second part focuses on creativity, examining some of the definitions and explanations that have been offered, and looking at some examples of creative activities.
Consciousness - This final book deals with the nature of consciousness. Many philosophers and psychologists today believe that the mind is a physical phenomenon, whose processes can be explained in scientific terms. Consciousness presents the biggest challenge to this view (the so-called ‘hard problem’ for a science of the mind). Can the physical sciences really explain the nature of conscious experience – the way it feels to have a throbbing headache or see a sunset or smell freshly-ground coffee? Or is there more to these experiences than a physical account can ever capture? If consciousness is non-physical, then it is hard to see how it can have effects within the physical world. But if it is physical, then why does it seem so different from other physical phenomena? And what physical processes does it involve? Is the feel of a conscious experience just a matter of what it represents? Does consciousness involve a form of inner awareness? Finally, could it be that our view of consciousness is mistaken? Do we need to rethink some of our fundamental assumptions about it? These questions go to the heart of our conception of ourselves and our place in the universe, and they are the subject of vigorous debate among contemporary philosophers.
The five course books include readings taken from a variety of sources, including classic philosophical texts and recent research papers. You will be guided through these readings by the discussion in the course books, and by activities designed to help you to understand key points and to encourage you to think about them for yourself. Each course book is accompanied by a CD, featuring interviews with contemporary philosophers about the issues discussed in the books. There is also a sixth CD in which the course authors discuss themes that appear in more than one book. These CDs will round out your understanding of the issues raised in the course text. There is also a set of optional exercises, accessed online, which have been designed to help you to understand some of the more difficult concepts and arguments that you will encounter in the course books, and to help you to revise. The study calendar provides guidance on how much time to spend on each part of the study material: we expect students to spend four weeks on the first book, and either five or six weeks on each of the others. For all the books, except for the first, the calendar allows for further time to be spent on revision and writing an assignment.
The course also has a website. This gives you access to course resources, course news, and links to the Library and other OU websites, as well as the chance to communicate with other students using online forums. It is not compulsory to use the website, but we think you will find it helpful. There is also a MyOpenLibrary page for AA308 which brings together in one place various library resources such as the Philosopher’s Index and the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy that you will find useful during the course.
This is a Level 3 course. Level 3 courses build on study skills and subject knowledge acquired from previous studies at Levels 1 and 2. They are intended only for students who have recent experience of higher education in a related subject, preferably at the OU.
Although the course does not assume that you have studied philosophy before, it is fairly demanding. We strongly recommended our Level 2 course, Exploring philosophy (A222) or A211 (now discontinued), as preparation if you have not studied this subject before.
If you would like more information about this course you can visit the AA308 website. This site includes further details about the course content, short extracts from some of the course books, and frequently asked questions.
If you have any doubt about the suitability of the course, please contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service.
There are four books that you might like to read or browse in by way of preparation:
Simon Blackburn, Think, Oxford University Press, 1999
Ian Ravenscroft, Philosophy of Mind: A Beginner's Guide, Oxford University Press, 2005
Robert Wilkinson, Minds and Bodies, Open University, 1999; Routledge, 2000
A.P. Martinich, Philosophical Writing, 3rd edn., Blackwell, Oxford, 2005
As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.
This course should present no particular difficulty, although pictorial and musical examples are discussed from time to time. The course requires you to study a large amount of print. Printed study material is available in comb binding and in the DAISY Digital Talking Book format. The study materials are available in Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF). Components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader and mathematical, scientific, and foreign language materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way. Written transcripts are available for the audio-visual material. You will need to spend some time using a personal computer. Our Services for disabled students website has the latest information about availability.
If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Visit our Services for disabled students website for more information, including:
Course books, other printed materials, CDs, website, online forum.
You will need access to the internet to find specified electronic journal articles for one of the six tutor-marked assignments (TMAs). Access via your workplace or library will be sufficient. Helpsheets are available to assist you in finding the articles.
You will need a computer with internet access to study this course as it includes online activities, which you can access using a web browser.
You can also visit the Technical requirements section for further computing information including the details of the support we provide.
You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. We may also be able to offer group tutorials or day-schools that you are encouraged, but not obliged, to attend. Where tutorials are held depends on the distribution of students taking each course. Contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.
The assessment details for this course can be found in the facts box above.
You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper.
Assessment is an essential part of the teaching, so you are expected to complete it all. One of the assignments will incorporate an element of independent study.
The details given here are for the course that starts in October 2013 when it will be available for the last time.
Students who studied this course also studied at some time:
To register a place on this course return to the top of the page and use the Click to register button.
“This was a fantastic course, although it does concentrate more on naturalism rather than the phenomenological. You may take time ...”
“I experienced the module to be very challenging for non native speakers, as writing a good essay requires a profound ...”
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For more information read Distance learning explained.
|About this course:|
|Course work includes:|
|6 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)|
|No residential school|
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