Philosophy 447 / Psychology 447 / Phil 673

Seminar in Cognitive Science: Mind and Society

Fall, 2010

Professor: Paul Thagard

Office hours (HH368): TTh 11:30-12:30 and by appointment.

Email: Phone: extension 33594.

Web page:

Time: TTh, 10:00-11:20, HH334. To improve learning, please turn off all electronic devices such as phones, computers, and transcranial magnetic stimulators. See blog for reasons.

Readings: Available electronically through a Web page announced in class.

Assignments: Marks will be based on:

Description: This course is an interdisciplinary seminar, combining ideas from philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, and computer science. Its focus this year will be on the relevance of cognition and emotion to social explanations in economics, political science, sociology, anthropology, history, and literature. The aim is to develop an integrated cognitive social science that not only contributes descriptively to explaining social phenomena but also suggests normatively how the world might be improved.

Readings (tentative - more readings and electronic links to come):

 Week  Dates Topic  Reading


 1 Sept. 14-16 Introduction Thagard SEP Thagard 2005
 2 Sept. 21-23 The self Thagard & Wood Read et al. 2010
 3 Sept. 28-30

Rational choice



Postmodernism SEP

Satz & Ferejohn
 4 Oct. 7 Economics Loewenstein 2008 Thagard: Crises
 5 Oct. 12-14 Politics

Westen 2006

Goldgeier & Tetlock

Findlay & Thagard


 6 Oct. 19-21 Anthropology

Bender et al. 2010

Henrick et al. 2010

Thagard: Mapping minds

 7 Oct. 26-28 Sociology DiMaggio 1997 Zerubavel
 8 Nov. 2-4 History Bevir 2001 Philosophy of history
 9 Nov. 9-11 Literature Mar & Oatley Thagard: Allegory
 10 Nov. 16-18 Social Change

Jost et al. 2003

Thagard & Findlay

11 Nov. 23-25 Student reports    
12 Nov. 30-Dec. 2 Student reports    

Note: no class Oct. 5.

Instructions for writing commentaries:

For each class in weeks 2-10, hand in at the BEGINNING of the class a short commentary, maximum 100 words, on the claim, hypothesis, or issue that you found most interesting in the reading. Optional readings will be available later. Your commentary should identify the claim that interests you and the strongest evidence for and against it. The purpose of these commentaries is to ensure that everyone comes to class prepared for discussion. If there are two readings, do one for each day. If there is only one, cover half of it.

Cognitive Science resources.

From the Faculty of Arts:

All students registered in the courses of the Faculty of Arts are expected to know what constitutes an academic offense, to avoid committing academic offenses, and to take responsibility for their academic actions.  When the commission of an offense is established, disciplinary penalties will be imposed in accord with Policy #71 (Student Academic Discipline).  For information on categories of offenses and types of penalties, students are directed to consult the summary of Policy #71 (Student Academic Discipline) which is supplied in the Undergraduate Calendar (p.1:11).  If you need help in learning how to avoid offenses such as plagiarism, cheating, and double submission, or if you need clarification of aspects of the discipline policy, ask your course instructor for guidance.  Other resources regarding the discipline policy are your academic advisor and the Undergraduate Associate Dean.

Faculty of Arts information on plagiarism and other offences.

This class is a core course for the Cognitive Science Option.

Lecture notes and discussion questions

Week 1: Introduction

Week 2: The Self

Weeks 3-4: Rational choice, postmodernism, neuroeconomics

Week 5: Politics

Week 6: Anthropology

Week 7: Sociology

Week 8: History

Week 9: Literature

Week 10: Social change (see the private course Web page for student presentation schedule)



Paul Thagard

Computational Epistemology Laboratory.

This page updated Nov. 15, 2010