The course is ideally comprised of three - strongly connected - parts.
The nature of mental phenomena. What is the place of the mind in the world order? Are mental phenomena ontologically on a pair with physical phenomena? Is our knowledge of our 'internal' experience similar in kind with our knowledge of the external world? These questions will be tackled by means of an introduction to philosophy of mind, essentially focused on the place of mental phenomena in the natural order, according with the philosophical tradition inaugurated by Descartes. In this connection, theoretical issues such as the nature of the psychophysical relation (dualism(s), materialistic monism(s), functionalism, eliminativism, emergentism), the problems of mental causation, the "hard problem” of consciousness, the possibility of free will will be presented and discussed.
Functionalism and the cognitive sciences. Mental states are conceived by functionalism as the 'software' of the brain. In this sense, functionalism can be considered as the 'official' ideology of the so called 'classical' cognitive science, and the starting point for a mechanical view of thought. In this part the present state and prospects of functionalism will be discussed, also in connection with philosophical issues raised by contemporary development of artificial intelligence.
Embodiment and 4E cognitive science The view of the mind proposed by functionalism and classical cognitive science has been criticized in the last decades as being "individualistic” and not taking into account the embodied, embedded, extended and enactive nature of cognition. The situated cognition perspective, which broadly vindicates the role of the physical, cultural and social environment in cognition, will be introduced and the several versions and theses included in it will be discussed and analysed. This will also bring the discussion toward some topic of philosophy of technology, such as the notion of cognitive artefact and the role and impact of technology in our ordinary cognitive life.