During the weekend of 26/27 November Oxford University’s Department for Continuing Education held a weekend school on Philosophy of Mind. All the lectures were given by me. Exhausting!
I looked first at the context that generated the way we now think about the mind. So I considered Cartesian Dualism, and why, for so many years, it was accepted by so many (it always amazes me how few people have really thought about the nature of the mind and why the idea it is physical is not at all an obvious one). I then considered Identity Theory and Kripke’s famous rebuttal of it. That was fun! Nothing like a bit of logic to get people going.
We then looked at two non-reductive physicalisms, Functionalism and Anomalous Monism, and the reasons for and against adhereing to them. After dinner, I managed even with a couple of glasses of red wine inside me, to convince people (I think) that neither Eliminativism or Epiphenomenalism are obviously false. Then on the Sunday we looked at whether in asking whether mental states are brain states we are asking the wrong question. Could it be that mental states are the sort of states we get into rather than the sort of states that get into us?
The final session was, as usual, a question and answer session. It was, again as always, extremely lively. Lots of people wanted to put me on the spot and show why something I had said must be false, or couldn’t be true or…. It was great fun.
If it sounds like fun to you keep an eye open for the podcast of the weekend which will be available in six weeks or so.
Every year I do at least one Weekend School that is aimed at complete beginners. In doing so I hope to attract new people to philosophy and to Oxford University’s ‘open access’ philosophy programme. To come to these weekends all you have to do is book it (and, I’m afraid pay…costs from £65). Put ‘OUDCE’ into Google.
Apart from the weekend I do for beginners, there are another 6 weekend schools. Speakers (some of them very well known) are all told that some of the people they are talking to will know NO philosophy at all. Of course some speakers are better at this than others. But some are very good indeed and nearly everyone enjoys the weekends they come to even if they do have to stretch their minds quite seriously (isn’t this what life is about?).
This year we have schools on Hegel, Utilitarianism, the Pre-Socratics, Wittgenstein’s Philosophy of Science, and Philosophy of Mathematics. If it sounds like your sort of thing then do come and join us. There’s plenty of chance to socialise with like-minded people, and to discuss philosophy with speakers and other participants (and me!).
We also have ten online short courses. All of them take ten weeks to complete and run three times a year. There are two different sorts of introduction to philosophy: The Philosophy Gym (based on Stephen Law’s book), and Introduction to Philosophy. Then we also have three courses written by me (Introductions to Ethics, to the Philosophy of Mind and to Bioethics), and also courses on Metaphysics, Epistemology, and the philosophy of Religion, of Politics and of Science. The online courses are all based on activities, guided by a tutor. The online courses make a nonsense of the idea that an online ’classroom’ is somehow ‘pale’ in comparison to an ordinary classroom. Some of the discussions on the online courses are the best I have ever experienced.
Even if you are not in Oxford, then you can still enjoy Oxford philosophy through OUDCE. Do come and get involved!