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Philosophy of Mind Test Questions

On exam day you will be faced with three questions (chosen by me from the list below). You will have to answer two of the three questions. Grades will be based on three criteria: (1) Philosophical content, (2) Clarity of explanation, and (3) The usual conventions of expository English prose. Your response should be clear enough that an intelligent person, without a background in philosophy, would be able to understand it. Your task is to convince your audience that you fully understand the philosophical issues involved: don’t leave any claims unsubstantiated. All technical terms should be explained the first time they are used. Examples can be useful but they should not replace actual arguments.

 (1). Explain what Fodor takes each of the following to show about propositional attitudes and why: (a) Samuel Langhorne Clemens was also known as Mark Twain, Rik is not aware of this, and thinks that Mark Twain was a writer but that Samuel Langhorne Clemens was not. (b) If Rik is thirsty for some Malt Liquor and believes that there’s some in the fridge, we’d expect him to go to the fridge. (c) It’s no accident that if Rik believes that London is in England, then what Rik believes is true just in case “London is in England” is true. 

(2). (a) What does Churchland call “folk psychology”? (b) What’s a theory, as he understands it? (c) Why does Churchland consider folk psychology to be a theory? (d) What does it mean to say that psychology must be normative? (e) If psychology were normative, would this undermine Churchland’s Eliminativist position? (f) How so? 

(3). (a) Explain in your own words what Dennett calls the “Intentional Stance.” (b) How does this differ from the “Physical Stance”? (c) Is Dennett a Realist about propositional attitudes? Explain (d) What does Dennett mean when he claims that, in some circumstances, the “Intentional Strategy” will provide us with true generalizations that we would miss if the “Physical Stance” were used instead (an example might make your answer clearer)?

 (4). Heil denies that there are two kinds of properties. Instead, he claims that every property endows its possessor with a particular disposition, and a particular quality. (a) Explain, in turn, what each aspect of these properties amount to (an example, for each, might help). (b) Explain the problem that arises as a consequence of claiming that a property might only be dispositional. (c) Explain the problem that arises as a consequence of claiming that a property might only be qualitative.

 (5). (a). Explain why the “common philosophical supposition that causation is a relation among events,” proves problematic for the causal relevance of mental properties? (b). The success of causal explanation in the ‘special sciences’ is taken, by some, to be strong evidence that ‘higher-level’ properties are causally relevant. Explain Heil’s alternative to invoking the existence of ‘higher-level’ properties.

 (6). (a) Explain what Heil takes the difference between predicates and properties to amount to. (b) Heil claims that he is a realist about pains, and yet he denies that there is an actual property ‘being in pain. Explain how Heil supports his realism about pains.

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