PHIL 129
Language and the Mind Spring 2024 (also offered Fall 2023)
Division II
Cross-listed COGS 129
This is not the current course catalog

Class Details

Many animals communicate, but only humans can use language. What is language? Is the ability to learn it specialized, or just a matter of having enough cognitive processing power? Do successes of large language models and AI chat bots confirm or challenge traditional linguistic theory? Does language in any way determine, shape, or enable thought? How sophisticated could a mind without language be? Does knowledge of language require consciousness? In this course we will investigate (a) what makes language stand out from other kinds of communication system and (b) what makes human minds uniquely capable of acquiring language. Drawing on debates about the evolution of language, Chomskyian universal grammar, the computational theory of mind, and more, we will explore the philosophical consequences of our existance as linguistic creatures.
The Class: Format: lecture
Limit: 20
Expected: 15
Class#: 3634
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Short reading responses (approx. 2 pages) every other week, two exams
Prerequisites: None
Enrollment Preferences: Priority given to first and second years
Distributions: Division II
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
PHIL 129 Division II COGS 129 Division II
Attributes: Linguistics

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