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Mind and Behaviour

Philosophical debates about the idea of human nature and the influential models of human nature in Indic and Western traditions form the core component of this course. Fundamental questions the course looks at include what is mind and how it is distinct from the brain, and can we identify a single human essence. These are some of the foundational issues explored in Mind and Behaviour from the perspective of both philosophy, psychology and science.

Department: Philosophy | Semester: Monsoon 2021

Is the essential nature of our minds their capacity to reason, to behave in certain ways, to grasp certain features of the world? And what does understanding the mind allow us to know about ourselves, about the best kind of life for human beings, and about our relations with others? This course explores the nature of the human mind and what it can tell us about ourselves and our place in the world. We will consider whether the operations of human minds are fundamentally different from the functions of animals or robots, whether our minds enable us to make choices that are truly our own or instead only to channel the influential forces in our environment, and what the nature of our minds implies about how we should live and treat each other.

Department: Philosophy | Semester: Monsoon 2021

What is required to be a person? Is rationality required? How about possessing a mind? Or the ability to speak or make decisions? Maybe some combination of all of these? Is artificial intelligence possible, and if so, how would such an intelligence differ, if it does, from our own? Can there be non-human persons? Can non-human beings experience consciousness? These are the sorts of questions we will be grappling with in this course. We will look at and critically evaluate various philosophical answers to these questions, along with some relevant empirical data, concerning e.g. how humans predict the behavior of others and the capacity for non-human animals to speak. By the end of the course, students should not only have a firm grasp on certain central overlapping issues within philosophy of mind, psychology, and cognitive science, but also possess an improved capacity for thinking and writing clearly and persuasively about a variety of topics.

Department: Philosophy | Semester: Monsoon 2021 and Spring 2022

What kind of creature are you? A human being, no doubt. But what kind of creature is that? How should such a creature live? We will critically explore influential models of human nature in the Indic and Western philosophical traditions and their profound implications both for how we ought to live and our place in the social world. Readings include selections from the Upanishads, Vasisṭḥa’s Yoga, Plato, Aristotle, Hume, Freud, Mill, Railton, Śāntideva, Korsgaard, Foot, O’Neill, Frye, Haidt, Milgram, Hobbes, Rawls, Bilgrami and others.

Department: Psychology | Semester: Spring 2021

This course will introduce you to questions of mind and behaviour and their relationship to the brain and body, and will encourage you to think critically and scientifically through your own ideas around these relationships. In this course we will try to understand ourselves, the people and animals around us, and all the ways in which our interactions produce learning. Every conversation, every memory, even your reading of this course outline, structurally and functionally changes your brain, but not everything that the brain processes seems to make it to the realm of conscious perception. We will think about various seemingly intangible aspects of the mind and try to imagine how to make sense of them.

Study at Ashoka

Study at Ashoka