Psychology and Brain Sciences | Evolutionary Bases of Learning
P717 | 15782 | Timberlake, W.

This course will explore how different kinds of knowledge systems are
assembled to produce the modules of mind that characterize human and
nonhuman animals.  We will take a hierarchical “Kinds of Minds”
approach (after Dennett) in exploring the functions that allow the
levels of mind to do their work.  The aim is to identify mechanisms
and concepts that connect and integrate ideas about mind, from
philosophical and evolutionary foundations, through neurological
mechanisms, to experiential phenomena.  Readings will be drawn from
an integrative book that Lucas is writing, “How Mind Emerges,” plus
relevant papers in each topic area.

Topics to be explored:
1. Intentionality, Representation, and Meaning:
From Mayr’s teleonomy to Harnad’s symbol grounding.
2. Evolution and Knower Systems:
From reflex to sign-guided knowledge.
3. Intelligence:
Satisfying, optimizing, and solving the frame problem.
4. Mechanisms of Thought:
Experience, metaphor, blending, analogy, rules, and logic.
5. Consciousness in Humans:
Levels of consciousness, the hard problem, grounding feelings.
6. Consciousness in Animals:
Strategies for evaluating consciousness

The present approach focuses on connecting ideas of from several
modern theorists by placing them in an adaptive, evolutionary
context.  The scope of the material should appeal to students of
mind, from philosophy and cognitive science through biology,
anthropology, and psychology, to AI and robotics.  A willingness to
explore the adjacent possible and participate in class discussions
will be essential

Students will be expected to attend class, do weekly readings,
provide short comments on them, and participate in discussions.  In
addition each student will help present and lead a discussion on
material in one or two topic areas, and will write a final 20-25 page
paper on one of the topics.