E-mail: chalmers at nyu dot edu
Course website: http://consc.net/classes/mm2019.html
Class meetings: Tuesday/Thursday 3:30-4:45pm, Silver 405
Office hours: Wednesday 2:30-4pm (5 Washington Place, 506)
Teaching Assistants: Rob Long (rgblong at gmail dot com), Josh Myers (joshualmyers at gmail.com)
This course will be an introduction to some central issues in philosophy through the lens of modern technology. We will consider issues such as "How do we know about the external world?", "What is the relationship between mind and body?", "What do we really value?", and "Can machines be conscious?" in part by thinking hard about technologies such as virtual reality, smartphones, the Internet, and artificial intelligence. The course will especially focus on virtual reality and computer simulations as a tool for thinking about philosophical questions.
The course will be divided into three broad parts:
1. Reality: Virtual reality and the external world
2. Minds: Consciousness and the mind-body problem
3. Machines: Artificial intelligence
The textbook is a partial draft of my book-in-progress Reality 2.0: Virtual Worlds and the Great Problems of Philosophy. This text will be made available over NYU Classes. All other readings are available on the web. If you have trouble finding any reading, or to find related readings, try searching PhilPapers.
Some books that you might find useful as supplementary reading:
There will be three papers of 4-6 pages each (one for each of the three parts of the course, due October 4, November 8, and December 13) and a final exam (Thursday December 19, 4-5:50pm), weighted just under 25% each. Some small weight around the margins will also be given to class participation and attendance, with occasional quizzes playing a role.
Over the course of the semester, each student may request up to two one-day extensions or one two-day extension (in total) for the papers. As long as such a request is made by the deadline (email your TA), it will be automatically granted. Any other extensions will be approved only under special circumstances. Late papers will be penalized one grade step [e.g. A to A-] for 1-3 days late, two steps for 4-7 days late, one full grade [e.g. A to B] for 1-2 weeks late, no papers accepted after that.
No incompletes will be given, except for very good medical reasons. If you have special needs, let me know soon.
Attendance at discussion section is required; if you miss more than two meetings, your grade will suffer. Plagiarism will lead to automatic failure and report.
Please arrive on time and don't pack up before the end (I'll try to end on time!). It's OK to use laptops in the classroom for class purposes, but don't use smartphones except in emergencies. I encourage everyone to take part in class discussion, in a balanced way in which no individual dominates. Please pay attention to these guidelines for respectful discussion in philosophy.
Tips on doing philosophy
Here are some very useful resources on how to write philosophy papers. Read these carefully!
Here is a very approximate week-by-week plan for the course, with associated readings. Note that this is very likely to be revised as things develop, and further readings will be added. Starred readings are the main/key readings.
Week 1 (Sep 3, 5): Introduction
*R2.0, Chapters 1 and 2
PART 1: REALITY
Week 2 (Sep 10, 12): Knowledge and Skepticism
*R2.0, Chapters 2 and 3
*Rene Descartes, First and Second Meditations
John Pollock, Brain in a Vat
Andrew Skegg, Are you a brain in a vat? (video)
Jennifer Nagel, The problem of skepticism [video linked on NYU classes page]
Further background reading:
Christia Mercer, Descartes' debt to Teresa of Avila, or why we should work on women in the history of philosophy
Andrew Chapman, External-world skepticism
Ned Markosian, Do you know you are not a brain in a vat?
Eric Schwitzgebel, 1% skepticism
Matrix Card Experiment
Week 4 (Sep 17, 19): Responses to Skepticism and the Simulation Argument
*R2.0, Chapter 4 and 5
*Berkeley, Principles of Human Knowledge (paragraphs 1-23 required).
*G.E. Moore, Proof of an External World
*Nick Bostrom, The Simulation Argument: Why the Probability that You are Living in a Matrix is quite high (also here.
Nick Bostrom, Are you living in a computer simulation?
Dennis Overbye, Big brain theory: Have cosmologists' lost theirs?
Videos on the simulation hypothesis: Is reality real?, Asimov Memorial Debate, StarTalk, Fox5
Video: Are you a Boltzmann brain?
Week 4 (Sep 24, 26): God and Metaphysics
*R2.0, Chapters 7 and 8
Sep 25: God and Simulation theology
Stacy Transacos, What if we lived in a simulated universe and worshipped a teenager?
Eric Steinhardt, Theological implications of the simulation argument
George Dvorsky, The Seven Most Intriguing Philosophical Arguments for the Existence of God
Stanislaw Lem, Non Serviam
Sep 27: Metaphysics and It-From-Bit
John Conway's Game of Life
Rachel Thomas, It from bit?
Week 5 (Oct 1, 3): Reality
*R2.0, Chapters 6 and 9
Philip K. Dick, How to build a universe that doesn't fall apart two days later
O.K. Bouwsma, Descartes' evil genius
David Chalmers, The Matrix as Metaphysics (bonus: "The structuralist response to skepticism has a more technical treatment)
Jennifer Nagel, New responses to skepticism
Week 6 (Oct 8): Virtual Reality
*David Chalmers, The virtual and the real (pp. 1-21)
R2.0, Chapter 10
David Velleman, Virtual Selves
Weeks 6&7 (Oct 10, 17): Ethics and Value
*R2.0, Chapters 14 and 15
*Robert Nozick, The Experience Machine
*David Chalmers, The virtual and the real (pp. 24-30)
Jim Pryor, What's so bad about living in the matrix?
Judith Jarvis Thomson, The trolley problem
Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Act and rule utilitarianism
Videos: Would you opt for a life with no pain?, Hedonism and the experience machine.
The trolley dilemma: Would you kill one person to save five?
Michael Madary and Thomas Metzinger, Real Virtuality: A Code of Ethical Conduct. Recommendations for Good Scientific Practice and the Consumers of VR Technology
Part 2: MINDS
Week 8 (Oct 22, 24): The Mind/Body Problem, Dualism
*R2.0, Chapter 11
*Princess Elisabeth and Rene Descartes, Correspondence
Raymond Smullyan, An Unfortunate Dualist
Brie Gertler, In defense of mind-body dualism
Week 9 (Oct 29, 31): Materialism, Consciousness
*J.J.C. Smart, Sensations and Brain Processes
Hilary Putnam, The Nature of Mental States
Janet Levin, Functionalism
Ned Block, Troubles with Functionalism (esp. pp. 279-81)
*R2.0, Chapter 12
David Chalmers, How do you explain consciousness? (TED talk)
David Chalmers, The Puzzle of Conscious Experience (also more in-depth version)
Week 10 (Nov 5, 7): Consciousness, Illusionism, Panpsychism
*Frank Jackson, Epiphenomenal qualia
Videos: What Mary didn't know (Dorian Electra), Mary the Super Scientist (Galen Strawson)
Daniel Dennett, Facing backward on the problem of consciousness
Patricia Churchland, The hornswoggle problem
Keith Frankish, Illusionism as a theory of consciousness
David Chalmers, The meta-problem of consciousness
*Hedda Hassel Morch, Is matter conscious?
Galen Strawson, Why physicalism entails panpsychism
David Chalmers, Panpsychism and panprotopsychism (also The combination problem for panpsychism)
Christof Koch, Tononi's "complex" theory of consciousness
Scott Aaronson, Why I am not an Integrated Information Theorist
Week 11 (Nov 12, 14): The Extended Mind
*R2.0, Chapter 13
*Andy Clark and David Chalmers, The Extended Mind
David Chalmers, Is Your Phone Part of your Mind? (TED talk)
Nicholas Carr, Is Google Making Us Stupid?
Michael Coulter, Is technology eating our brains?
Michael Lynch, How the Internet promotes a new way of knowing (plus video)
Part 3: MACHINES
Week 12 (Nov 19, 21): The Turing Test and The Chinese Room
Bisson, They're made of meat!
*Alan Turing, Computing Machinery and Intelligence
The Turing Test (encyclopedia article)
The Loebner Prize
*John Searle, Minds, brains, and programs
Terrel Miedaner, The Soul of Martha, a Beast, and The Soul of the Mark III Beast
Week 13 (Nov 26): Review/TBD
Week 14 (Dec 3, 5): The Singularity
*David Chalmers, The Singularity: A Philosophical Analysis
Susan Schneider, Future minds: Transhumanism, cognitive enhancement, and the future of persons
Nick Bostrom and Eliezer Yudkowsky, The ethics of artificial intelligence
Week 15 (Dec 10, 12): Mind Uploading
Daniel Dennett, Where am I? (video version)
*Daniel Dennett, Where am I? (written version)
Greg Egan, Learning to be Me
*David Chalmers, Mind Uploading: A Philosophical Analysis
Susan Schneider and Joe Corabi, The Metaphysics of Uploading
Bonus materials: Movies, etc.
[On each topic, listed roughly in order of philosophical engagement and relevance.]
Reality: *The Matrix, *Waking Life, Existenz, The Truman Show, Inception, Source Code, Rick and Morty (The Ricks Must Be Crazy), Lawnmower Man, The Thirteenth Floor, Event Horizon, Total Recall, Tron, Vanilla Sky, Avatar.
Minds: *Being John Malkovich, *Memento, Dark City, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Prestige, The Hard Problem (play), Ghost in the Shell, A Scanner Darkly, Orphan Black, The Island, Self/less, The Man with Two Brains, Minority Report, Freaky Friday.
Machines: *Ex Machina, *Her, Star Trek (The Measure of a Man), *Westworld, Blade Runner, Black Mirror, Humans, Terminator, Transcendence, 2001, I, Robot, Robot and Frank, Chappie, Avengers: Age of Ultron.