Philosophy 474/673

Life, Mind, and Disease, Fall, 2004

Professor: Paul Thagard

Office hours (HH368): Monday 1-2; Friday, 1:30-2:30; and by appointment.

Email: Phone: 888-4567, extension 3594.

Web page:

Time: T 1:30-3:30, HH 357

Textbook: None. Most readings are available via links on the web site.

Assignments: Marks will be based on:

Description: This course will discuss a selection of important philosophical issues that arise in biology, psychology, and medicine, especialy concerning the nature of explanation. These issues include metaphysical ones such as: What is life? What is mind? What is disease? They also include epistemological ones concerning how we can gain knowledge of life, mind, and disease. Finally, there are related ethical questions that are generated by problems about the nature of life, mind and disease. We will attempt to integrate the philosophy of biology, psychology, and medicine, while making connections among metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics.

Readings (tentative, still missing some links):

 Week  Dates  Topic  Readings
 1  Sept. 14  Introduction Resources
 2  Sept. 21  Life - Vitalism  McLaughlin
 3  Sept. 28  Life -Mechanism  Bechtel
 4  Oct. 5  Life - Ethics


Lane, Dunstan

 5  Oct. 12 Mind - Dualism  Chalmers
 6  Oct. 19 Mind - Mechanism  Wright
 7  Oct. 26  Mind - Ethics  Nichols
 8  Nov. 2  Disease - Concepts



 9  Nov. 9  Disease - Mechanism  Thagard
 10  Nov. 16  Disease - Ethics Schafer
 11  Nov. 23  Student presentations  
 12  Nov. 30  Student presentations  

Essay instructions


Lecture notes - to be added weekly

Week 1: Introduction to Philosophy of Science

Week 2: Philosophy of Biology

Week 3: Mechanisms

Week 4: Life, death, and ethics

Week 5: Consciousness

Week 6: Mechanisms of Consciousness

Week 7: Ethics and Cognitive Science

Week 8: Mental Illness

Week 9: Medical Explanation and Treatment

Week 10: Conflicts of Interest in Medical Research


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.

Computational Epistemology Laboratory.

Paul Thagard

This page updated Nov. 15, 2004