Academic year
Josefa Toribio and Daniel Quesada
Department of Philosophy
Universitat de Barcelona
Master courses
Module 4. Language and Mind
2019-02-14 - 2019-05-02
Thursdays: 10:00-13:00
UB, Philosophy Faculty, room 411


In this course, we will examine central problems in the philosophy of mind and critically assess influential responses to them.

What are perceptual experiences? Is the content of perceptual experiences the same kind of content as the content of e.g. beliefs? What kind of properties do we represent in visual experiences? Can visual experiences be influenced by other non-perceptive cognitive states? What is the nature of that influence, if there is one? Is the content of other types of mental states, such as implicit attitudes, also the same kind of content as the content of belief? These are all questions to be addressed in the first part of the course.

In the second part of the course, special emphasis will be given to the analysis of perceptual consciousness. Perceptual experiences are said to be both intentional mental states and conscious states. This part of the course will especially focus on the relationship between those two features of perceptual experiences, on the one hand, and the role of introspection in their study, on the other.

The course will be taught in English. All material subject to assessment must be written in English. Classes begin on February 14th. Classes end on May 2nd.

Course Aims and Objectives: The course aims to provide an understanding of some central problems in the study of perception—especially as these problems are framed by the cognitive sciences. 

In its second part, the course aims to provide an understanding of some central problems in the study of consciousness in perception and provide a critical appraisal of the different current views mainly on three interrelated issues: the analytical question (how is the “phenomenal character” of perceptual experiences to be characterized?), the ontological question (how do conscious perceptual experiences relate to brain/bodily states?), the epistemological/explanatory issue (is there an “explanatory gap” when it comes to explaining what is distinctive of perceptual experiences?). We will also try to locate the role of cognitive science in the study of perceptual consciousness.


Content of the Course

Week 1:    Overview and introduction to the first part of the course. Assignment of presentations (first part)

Week 2:    The content of perception. The conceptualism vs. nonconceptualism debate

Week 3:    The content of perception. The liberalism vs. conservatism debate

Week 4:    The content of perception: Cognitive penetration

Week 5:    Implicit attitudes

Week 6:   Overview and introduction of the second part. Assignment of presentations (second part)

Week 7:   The transparency of experience.

Week 8:   Disjunctivism, hallucinations and transparency.

Week 9:   Introspection and higher-order perception theories.

Week 10: The problem of the explanatory gap.

Week 11:  Essay Clinic


Readings: Primary class readings are the required readings to be completed before the class they are assigned for. All primary readings will be electronically accessible and are listed below. Sometimes, secondary readings will be provided during the course. The instructors will not assume familiarity with these other readings.

Main Discussants: All students taking the course for credit will be required to act as main discussant at least twice during the course (whether it is compulsory to occupy this role more times will depend on the number of students).

Main discussants are expected to ask one question regarding a particular aspect of one of the required readings for the day. Discussants should aim at the standards operative in the discussion of communications at professional philosophy conferences, or research seminars: their evaluation will depend on how well the target thesis is summarised, how clearly the objection is presented, and how relevant it is. The question should not take more than 2 or 3 minutes to formulate, follow-ups on the question will be allowed (from main discussants or other attendees) at the discretion of the instructor. No supporting materials (handouts, slides) will be allowed. See ( for more advice on question asking at academic conferences.

Participation: Apart from the main discussant, all other students are expected to ask questions about the papers and the discussion in class, and meet the same standards as the main discussant. Participation (that meets the standards) will have a very real impact on the final grade.

Everyone should come to the seminar ready to participate. Take notes while you are reading. Write down any aspect of the reading that you find interesting. This would help force you to engage the reading in a serious way so that you’ll be primed to participate actively in the discussion.


Essay. All students taking the course for credit will have to write a 3.000 word essay on any of the topics of the course, broadly construed: a detailed reply to one of the papers, a paper that connects an item in the syllabus to new empirical work, one that applies tools studied in the course to different philosophical problems, are all valid approaches. See below for a bunch of useful link on how to write a philosophy paper.

At least one long abstract (500-1000 words) must be submitted for approval and feedback by May 9th. Students are encouraged (but not required) to submit a full draft of the final essay before the deadline. See deadlines below.

Assessment: 20% for in-class activity, 30% for the discussant question(s), 50% for the final essay, which will be due on June 6th by 12 (noon).

(Guidelines on evaluation and marking, including a note on originality and plagiarism, are available at evaluation-and-marking).


  • May 9th: Long abstract of essay to be agreed with the instructor(s).
  • May 23th (optional): Last draft, in order to receive feedback by the instructor(s).
  • June 6th: Final version of the essay. 

Deadlines are final. In particular, no late submissions of the final version of the essay will be accepted.

Please also note that essays more than 5% over the maximum recommended essay length (3000 words, not including footnotes and references) will be penalized.

Re-evaluation. Students who fail to pass this course, but obtain more than a 3, will be offered the opportunity to turn another final essay in (dates TBA). Even if this second essay exhibits great academic quality, the student will only be granted a 5 as a final mark. 


Intended Learning Outcomes:

CB6 – Students should be able to critically understand central texts in the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of cognitive science in a way that puts them in a position to develop and apply original ideas.

CB9 - Students should be able to communicate their knowledge and their arguments to specialized audiences in a clear and articulate way.

CG2. Students should be able to design, create, develop and undertake new and innovative projects in their area of ​​expertise.

CG3. Students should be able to engage both in general and specific discussions in the domain of the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of cognitive science. They should be able to conduct a philosophical discussion (orally and in written form), by putting forward, for example, general arguments or specific examples, in support of one’s position.

CG4. Students should be able to work both independently and in a team, in an international environment.

CG5. Students should be able to identify methodological errors, rhetorical, conventional and uncritical assumptions, vagueness and superficiality.

CE1. Students should be able to critically engage with the concepts and methods of contemporary philosophy of mind and philosophy of cognitive science.

CE2. Students shoulld be able to identify the core arguments and theories of contemporary philosophy of mind and philosophy of cognitive science.

CE4. Students should be able to assess the writings of leading contemporary philosophers in the field of philosophy of mind and philosophy of cognitive science.

CE5. Students should be able to identify and critically engage with the current state of a particular philosophical debate, and form a reasoned view, even if provisional, about it.

CE7. Students should be able to critically use specialized terminology in the field of philosophy of mind and philosophy of cognitive science.



Weeks 1 and 6 will be dedicated to an overview of the relevant part of the course and organisational matters. Main discussant slots will be allocated. Please do not miss these meetings.




Week 1:     Course overview (first part). Assignment of main discussant slots

Week 2:     The content of perception: The conceptualism vs. nonconceptualism debate.

·         J. McDowell (2009). “Avoiding the Myth of the Given”. In John McDowell: Experience, Norm, and Nature (ed. J. Lindgaard), Blackwell Publishing Ltd., Oxford, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781444306736. Chapter 1.

·         C. Peacocke, (2001) “Does perception have a nonconceptual content?” Journal of Philosophy 98: 239-64.

Background reading:

·         J. Toribio (2007). ‘Nonconceptual Content’. Philosophy Compass 2/3: 445–460.


Week 3:     The content of perception: The liberalism vs. conservatism debate.

·         Susanna Siegel, “Which properties are represented in perception?” In [Gendler]

·         B. Nanay, (2011) “Do we see apples as edible?” Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 92: 305–322.


Week 4:     Cognitive Penetration.

·       Pylyshyn, Z. (1999). Is vision continuous with cognition? The case for cognitive impenetrability of visual perception. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 22: 341–365.

·       F. Macpherson (2012) “Cognitive Penetration of Colour Experience: Rethinking the Issue in Light of an Indirect Mechanism”. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 84(1): 24-62.


Week 5:     Implicit Attitudes.

·         Mandelbaum, E. (2016). Attitude, association, and inference: On the propositional structure of implicit bias. Noûs 50(3): 629–658.
·         Toribio, J. (2018). “Accessibilism, implicit bias, and epistemic justification”. Synthese. DOI: 10.1007/s11229-018-1795-7.




Week 6:     Overview and introduction to the second part of the course. Assignment of main discussant slots

·      T. Nagel (1979). “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?” The Philosophical Review, 83 (4): 435-450.

·      F. Jackson (1982). “Epiphenomenal Qualia.” The Philosophical Quarterly, 32 (127): 127-136.


Week 7:     The transparency of experience.

·         M.G.F. Martin (2002). “The Transparency of Experience”. Mind & Language, 17 (4): 376–425. Introduction and §§1-2 (pp. 376-402).


Week 8:     Disjunctivism, hallucinations and transparency

·      M. Soteriou (2013). The Mind's Construction. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Chapter 8, §8.2-§8.4.

·      M. Nida-Rümelin (2007). “Transparency of Experience and the Perceptual Model of Phenomenal Awareness”. Philosophical Perspectives, 21: 429-455.


Week 9:     Introspection and higher-order perception theories.

·         C. Siewert (2012). “On the Phenomenology of Introspection”. In D. Smithies and D. Stoljar (eds.), Introspection and Consciousness. Oxford:Oxford University Press, pp. 229-267.


Week 10:   The problem of the explanatory gap.

·       J. Levine (1983). “Materialism and Qualia: The Explanatory Gap”. Pacific Philosophical Quaterley, 64: 354-361.

·       J. Levin (2002). “Is Conceptual Analysis Needed for the Reduction of Qualitative States?”, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 64 (3): 571-591.


Week 11.   Essay Clinic

Other considerations

General Web Resources

The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy:


Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:


Field Guide to the Philosophy of Mind


Philosophy and Cognitive Science. Selected bibliography:


PhilPapers: Philosophy of Mind:


Useful websites on how to write philosophy papers:


Writing a Philosophy Paper (Peter Horban):


Guide to the Study of Philosophy (Garth Kemerling):


Tips on Writing a Philosophy Paper (Douglas Portmore):


Guidelines on Writing a Philosophy Paper (James Pryor):


Avoiding and Detecting Plagiarism (CUNY Guidelines)


Useful readings collections:

Tim Crane (ed.). The Contents of Experience. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993. [Crane]

A. Noë & E. T. Thompson (eds.). Vision and Mind. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2002. [Noë]

T. S. Gendler & J. Hawthorne (eds.): Perceptual Experience. Oxford: Oxford University Press. [Gendler]