PHIL 207
The Unconscious Spring 2010
Division II Writing Skills
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Modern philosophy of mind–fromDescartes through Hume to Kant–relies on the natural assumption that all mental states are at least potentially conscious. Beliefs, desires, and intentions must belong to someone, to some subject–and from this it seems to follow that some subject must be aware of them as his or her own. Sigmund Freud offers a radical challenge to this Cartesian picture when he introduces the idea that consciousness arises from an unconscious–the existence of which undermines certainty about our reasons for belief. In this course we explore theories of the unconscious in contemporary analytic and continental philosophy. We begin with close readings of Freud’s seminal texts (including his case-studies) in order to elucidate his concept of unconscious mental states and his view that human action cannot be understood without postulating unconscious beliefs and desires. We discuss the nature, evidence and reliability of Freud’s theory with reference to the writings of his many critics and defenders, including later Freudians. Finally we turn to radical transformations and applications of the idea of the unconscious in post-Freudian philosophy of mind, moral philosophy, political theory and feminism. In addition to Freud, readings may include writings by Adler, Winnicott, Sartre, Davidson, Rorty, Lear, Gardiner, M. Cavell, Dennett, Moran, Wilkes, Marx, Marcuse, Foucault, and Butler.
The Class: Format: four weeks of lecture/discussion, six weeks of tutorials, and two weeks of seminar
Limit: 20
Expected: 20
Class#: 3019
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: class participation, four 5- to 6-page papers, and a final paper
Prerequisites: Philosophy 101 and 102, or instructor consent
Enrollment Preferences: Philosophy majors
Distributions: Division II Writing Skills

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