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ZOOM: Thinking About Thinking: Recent Philosophy on the Power and Limit of Human Reason   

**This class will be taught on Zoom**

A central irony of our historical moment is that, just as we are making real advances in understanding core aspects of what makes human beings the kind of creatures we are, we are also transforming fundamental aspects of our nature in potentially profound ways. The first part of this course starts by surveying recent efforts to extend classical approaches to thinking about human nature and then moves into profound recent advances in the human sciences (psychology, psychiatry, evolutionary theory, philosophy, and cognitive and brain sciences), including new ideas about the typical limitations of human cognition as such, the relation of language to thought and the brain, the relationship between body and mind/brain especially in the cases of the emotions and trauma, and the roots in the brain, cognition and culture of more complex psychological dispositions like empathy, morality, the appreciation of beauty and wellbeing. The second part of the course turns to a consideration of whether we stand on the cusp of an era in which we will increasingly reengineer human nature with profoundly unpredictable consequences. Until recently the stuff of science fiction, the possibility of a “posthuman future” grows ever more realistic in light of our advancing understanding of the brain, our growing capacity to integrate machines and technology into our bodies and minds, the rapidly evolving possibilities for reengineering genetics and, with it, evolution, and ever accelerating technological developments. 

Course Outline with Sources and Suggested Readings:


Week 1: Introduction to the Course and the History of Thinking about Thinking

-Jonathan St B. T. Evans, Thinking and Reasoning: A Very Short Introduction


Week 2: The Dual Process Account of the Human Mind and An Evolutionary View of Human Reason

-Daniel Kahneman, Thinking Fast and Slow

-Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber, The Enigma of Reason


Week 3: The Emotions as an Integral Dimension of the Human Mind and Reason

-Antonio Damasio, Feeling and Knowing: Making Minds Conscious

-Martha Nussbaum, Upheavals of Thought: The Intelligence of Emotions

-Lisa Feldman Barrett, How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of Brains


Week 4: What We Can Learn from Trauma, Drugs and Aging

-Bessel van der Kolk, The Body Keeps Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma

-Michael Pollan, How to Change Your Mind

-Daniel J. Levitin, Successful Aging


Week 5: From the Extended Mind Thesis to Your Mind on Tech and Politics: What Happens When Understandings of the Mind are Used to Manipulate Behavior?

-Andy Clark, Supersizing the Mind

-Robert Lustig, The Hacking of the American Mind: The Science Behind the Corporate Takeover of Our Bodies and Brains

-Keith Stanovich, The Bias That Divides Us


Week 6: Doing Nothing and Something: Why Mindfulness is Essential and Insufficient

-Joseph Heath, Enlightenment 2.0: Restoring Sanity to Our Politics, Our Economy, and Our Lives

-Jenny Odell, How to do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy 

-Dale Jamieson, Reason in a Dark Time: Why the Struggle Against Climate Change Failed—and What it Means for Our Future

-Anthony Laden, Reasoning: A Social Picture


This class is not available at this time.  

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