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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 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: Monsoon 2022

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.

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Department: Philosophy | Semester: Monsoon 2022

What is a good life? This depends on what kind of being you are. A good life for a cat may not be a good life for a human. Even when we limit ourselves to humans, is there such a thing as the good life for a human? And what kind of thing is a human anyway? A body? A soul? A mind? A brain? Are we blank slates or are we naturally predisposed to act morally or immorally? We will begin this course by taking a look at some important philosophical works that try to answer these questions. We will then move on to explore the various things that people do. We will first navigate some questions about how we ought to relate to ourselves and our surroundings: other humans, non-human animals, the environment, and so on. Finally, we will turn to examine two other aspects of human behavior: scientific inquiry and art.

Faculty Name: Tammo Lossau 

Department: Philosophy | Semester: Monsoon 2022 & Spring 2023

Is there something special about human minds or can our conscious experience be explained by physics just like the rest of the universe? And if so, what is the nature of our beliefs, emotions, and other mental states? What about morality – is it a feature of the world as well, or maybe just a useful fiction we have created? We will explore these questions through (mostly) contemporary philosophical writings. We will also develop essential skills such as reading complex academic texts and reconstructing their core arguments, constructively discussing these issues and giving feedback on another student’s ideas, and expressing philosophical ideas in structured, concise, and linear pieces of writing.

Faculty Name: Ben Winokur

Department: Philosophy | Semester: Monsoon 2022 and Spring 2023

Each of us has a mind full of thoughts and experiences, or so it seems. But what exactly is the mind?

Is it a non-physical substance, such as a spirit, or is it just a complex physical activity within the brain? How does the mind relate to what we call the self? What are the boundaries of the mind and the self? Are they confined to our individual bodies, or do they reach beyond our bodies into the world—both physical and digital—around us? As beings that occupy complex worlds full of information and other living, conscious creatures, how should we conduct ourselves? Are we free to do whatever we want, or must we constrain our behaviour according to moral principles? Do the demands of morality give meaning to our lives, or must we somehow create meaning for ourselves?

These questions are central to the studies of philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, and other academic disciplines as well. We will explore them over the course of the semester, all while gaining experience writing in a reflective, careful, and systematic way about some of life’s most important, fundamental, and interesting problems.

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Study at Ashoka

Study at Ashoka

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