Questions on Philosophy of Mind

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1. Explain what is meant by Folk Psychology and why one might think this is relevant to philosophy (of mind). [10]

2. If you were forced to choose between Cartesian Dualism, Radical Behaviorism, and (Type-) Identity Theory, which would you choose and why? Do the best job you can to argue for the position that you think is the best out of the three. Note: you are being asked to defend a position here. There are lots of ways to go about this. An obvious strategy is to discuss arguments in favor of your preferred approach, but it might also be worth criticizing the alternatives or defending against obvious objections.  [20]


1. Explain the main claims made by the Cartesian or Substance Dualist. What does the Substance Dualist take to be the essential properties of the mind and the body?  [10]

2. What is Leibniz’ Law?  [5]

3. Explain Descartes’ main argument (from doubt) for Substance Dualism.  [10]

4. Explain what you take to be the most powerful reason to reject Substance Dualism.  [10]


1. Explain the basic idea behind Behaviorism: how does the Behaviorist attempt to explain or analyze mental states? Make sure to explain why it is important for the Behaviorist to appeal to dispositions instead of just actual behavior. It is a good idea to give an illustrative example of (the start of) a behavioral analysis of a type of mental state.  [10]

2. On its face, Behaviorism might seem like an implausible and unmotivated view. Do your best to help explain how the view could have looked attractive by discussing several motivations for the view. Note: pick motivations that you can explain well but also that help to explain the popularity of the view.  [10]

3. Explain the difference between different kinds of Behaviorist claims: metaphysical, conceptual, and methodological/epistemological theses. Also explain the relationship between these theses, for example whether someone who holds one of the theses is likely to hold another.  [15]
4. Explain what you take to be the most devastating objection to Behaviorism. Note: don’t just pick the easiest objection to explain; you need to be able to make a convincing case for the objection being successful.  [10]

5. Explain why the claim that mental states are intensional is a problem for the Behaviorist.  [5]

6. Explain what Ryle means by a category mistake. Note: this is not a simple question to answer. Ryle himself resorts to examples rather than giving a very helpful independent characterization of a category mistake. It is a good idea to use one or two examples, and preferably novel ones, but you should also aim to explain what a category mistake is. Among other things, it should be clear how a category mistake differs from other kinds of mistakes.  [10]

7. Why does Ryle invoke the notion of a category mistake? What is the relationship between this and (Cartesian) Dualism? Note: there is a very short answer to this question, but there is also more to explain.  [10]


1. Explain how the Identity-Theorist can deal with the problem you described for the Behaviorist in your answer to a previous question (4).  [5]

2. Explain what you take to be the most compelling motivation for Identity-Theory?  [5]

3. What is Occam’s Razor? What role does this play in J. J. C. Smart’s defense of the IdentityTheory? Note: again, it is possible to write a very short answer to this question, but you should aim to get into some of the details of Smart’s argument.  [10]

4. Explain the type-token distinction and the relevance of the distinction to the Identity Theory. Use examples to illustrate.  [10]

5. Explain the so-called Chauvinism Objection to Identity-Theory. Do your best to explain the objection in a clear and compelling way.  [10]

6.  For the purposes of discussion, assume that a simple version of Identity-Theory about pain is correct and that “pain is c-fibre-firing” is true. Does J. J. C. Smart think this statement is a necessary truth or a contingent truth? Explain. Is Smart right to think what he does? Explain why or why not.  [10]

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