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on December 16, 2009 at 10:23:25 am

Colorado State University: PHILOSOPHY 415


The Dynamics of Self: A Philosophical Introduction to Cognitive Science


Sorry, but I'm stealing the header for about a week just so that we can organize the traditional 415 end of semester shindig. I believe that the current plan is such:     610b S. Whitcomb St. (About 1 block North of Allison Hall) at 2 p.m. on Friday the 18th of December.


I hope you can all join us. I think the best way to figure out exactly what is happening (aka a sort of open vote/suggestion type deal on the festivites) should be an open header forum starting...now:


Open party header forum:


Has anyone heard about our sessions with Darko about the papers?  (sorry, not a party comment)


nothing here

Eric F


I haven't heard anything.  Are we to e-mail our papers to Darko by midnight on Friday?





Course Info

Where: Wagar 232

When: MWF 1 p.m.

Web: phil415.pbwiki.com


Instructor: Darko Sarenac

Office: Eddy 235

Phone: (970) 491-5441

Hours: Mon 12:00-1:00 p.m./Wed 2:00-3:00 p.m. and by appointment

Email: Darko.Sarenac at colostate.edu




1. Mindware, Andy Clark. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-19-513857

2. Personal Identity, John Perry, editor. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1975. ISBN: 0-520-02960-7

3. The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, Philip K. Dick. New York: Vintage Books, 1965. ISBN 0-679-73666-2

4. An online course reader. The reader will consist of a series of papers on our (three) main topics of exploration: cognitive science and the dynamics of pain and self.



NOTA BENE: We encourage you to get second hand copies.(Save some money and some trees!) Some good places the we know of for cheap second hand books: half.com, amazon.com, {this is by no means an ad. please contribute further suggestions?}, etc.


Movies and Multimedia

Ghost in the Shell, Matrix; Bladerunner; Nice Guys Finish First; a short film on Alan Turing; a number of talks from TED.com; internet sources, namely, SecondLife; and (optionally) a number of video games such as Black and White and others emphasizing virtual or alternate identities.


Paper Due Dates

Final: December 1?, 2008, 11 p.m.



Sign up to present Here you can choose a text and a date for and find our more about your presentation.


Course Description

We will explore the boundary between humans and their physical and cultural environment. In particular, we will look at a computer--a type of machine--and try to understand our relationship to it. Our purpose will be to examine the philosophical and scientific understandings of pain and personhood, and their respective relationship, in a rigorous analytical manner. Through our main texts and supplements, but also through a series of movies and pop-culture artifacts, we will tackle some of the following questions:  What does it take to be a person/individual/self? (Or, if you really want to put it strongly: What is it to be human?) Are we simply computational machines? Are there capacities that we possess which escape a computational description? What role does pain play in the neurological “construction” of personhood? Does nociception set the boundaries of self in more than just the physical sense? Are we simply pain/pleasure based computational devices? How intimate can we be with a non-biological entity? What are the ethical consequences for us and machines?


The didactic goal of the class

This is not only a new course that we will be developing together, where simply the content of the course is new, but an entirely new and experimental approach to teaching cognitive science and philosophy of mind. The background idea for the course is based on various experiences that I had teaching in both logic/philosophy and the humanities. The course develops a high-tech multimedia based curriculum for teaching cognitive science. The goal is to explore the potential of the new technologies, ways of communicating, and approaches to learning suitable for the 21st century. Cognitive science seems particularly suitable for this approach as the relevant materials abound. The ultimate goal is to produce a universally accessible on-line version for the future.



Teaching methods

Instead of basing the course solely on textual information and classical teacher-student interaction, the idea is to try to explore visual, auditory, and interactive potential of the Worldwide Web for learning. The backbone of the course will be a wiki website, a style of web based interaction where every member of the class can freely edit the content. The website would track the evolution of topics in the class as well as the process of individual student intellectual development. Facebook (facebook.com), the social utility website, would be a supplement to the wiki, and in addition to allowing novel ways of interacting with the teacher, it would also allow us to explore new ways of defining one’s identity as well as a new multi modal way of communicating. Perhaps the most interesting component, however, is going to be the virtual world SecondLife (secondlife.com). This utility allows one to create an identity and partake in interactions with other avatars. I have previously held classes in SecondLife and the results were pedagogically mind boggling: quiet male students turned into outgoing female avatars, the set-up allowed for more than just textual communication, and then again there are all the consequences for the notion of the self. Finally, we are also hoping to involve the rich cognitive science community at CSU (computer science, cognitive psychology, molecular biology) as well including the wider international cognitive science community via lectures in SecondLife, and interaction with the research community through some of the other social utilities. Assignments are to include on-line interactions with well-known cognitive scientists around the globe, doing research in the new environment of immediately available multifaceted information. The course will draw on my experiences participating in Co-creating Cultural Heritage group at Stanford University. This group devised classes that experimented with new technologies in teaching in the humanities (http://humanitieslab.stanford.edu/heritage/11).  


The technological extravaganza of this course is made possible with the generous support of The Institute for Learning and Teaching at Colorado State University.



 Two upper level philosophy courses. This course is intended to be upper level undergraduate/graduate course. The requirements for the two groups will be slightly different with expectations higher for the graduate students. This course does not require any particular formal (logical or mathematical) background.



Course Requirements

Weekly reading summary + question (150 words max) (30%), final presentation + final paper (2500-3000 words) (50%), and participation in discussions and web forum (20%).


Student responsibility

It is your responsibility to:

  • properly enroll in the class
  • be clear on any announcements I make in class regarding–but not limited to–such things as exact exam dates, changes in the class outline, scheduling changes, etc.
  • get all notes and handouts if you miss a class
  • makeup any missed exams; unless made up, a missed exam scores a zero.






Schedule of Lectures




Links and Web Resources


Class Forum


Lead discussion, present


Weekly Submissions


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