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Galen Strawson

ProfessorDPhil, Oxford 1983

Galen Strawson



philosophy of mind, metaphysics, moral psychology, Locke, Hume, Kant, Nietzsche


Professor Strawson taught at the University of Oxford from 1979-2000, where he was a Fellow of Jesus College, and at the City University of New York Graduate Center from 2004-07, where he was Distinguished Professor of Philosophy. Since 2001 he has been professor of philosophy at the University of Reading, UK. He has held visiting research positions at the Research School of Social Sciences, Australian National University, Canberra (1993, 2012); the University of Copenhagen (2003, 2011); Princeton University, where he was a Council of the Humanities Old Dominion Fellow (2011); and the Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales in Paris (2012). He has taught as a Visiting Professor at NYU (1997), Rutgers University (2000), MIT (2010) and Princeton (2011). He is the author of Freedom and Belief (Oxford 1986, 2nd  edition 2010), The Secret Connexion: Realism, Causation and David Hume (Oxford 1989),Mental Reality (MIT Press 1994, 2nd  edition 2009), Selves: An Essay in Revisionary Metaphysics (Oxford, 2009), The Evident Connexion: Mind, Self and David Hume (Oxford, 2011), Locke on personal identity (Princeton 2011). He is principal author of Consciousness and its Place in Nature, ed. A. Freeman  (Imprint Academic, 2006). A selection of his philosophical papers, Real Materialism and Other Essays, was published in 2008 (Oxford). 


PHL 384F • First-Year Seminar

42570 • Fall 2016
Meets M 12:00PM-3:00PM WAG 310


Michelle Montague and Galen Strawson


This seminar is restricted to first year gradraduate students.

Course Description

In this course we’ll consider some topics that are of central concern in analytic philosophy today, focusing on philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, and metaphysics.

Grading Policy

2 presentations, 10% each

18-20 page paper, 80%.

Readings will be drawn from the following list (provisional):

René Descartes Works and commentators (e.g. Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia, Marleen Rozemond)

John Locke Essay and commentators (e.g. Catharine Cockburn, Galen Strawson)

Franz BrentanoPsychology from an Empirical Standpoint

William James The Principles of Psychology

Henri Poincaré Science and Hypothesis

Gottlob Frege ‘On Sense and Reference’

Bertrand Russell ‘On Denoting’

P. F. Strawson ‘On Referring’

K. Donnellan ‘Reference and Definite Descriptions’

Saul Kripke Naming and Necessity

A. E. Eddington The Nature of the The Physical World

Bertrand Russell The Analysis of Mind, The Analysis of Matter

Iris Murdoch The Sovereignty of Good

Gareth Evans The Varieties of Reference

David Lewis ‘New work for a theory of universals’

Fred Dretske Explaining Behaviour

Thomas Nagel The View From Nowhere


PHL 323M • Philosophy Of Mind

41655 • Spring 2016
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM GDC 2.502

This course is an introduction to some of the central issues in the philosophy of mind. The fundamental question is simple: What is mind? Among the more specific questions that will be considered are the following: What is consciousness? Is mind-body dualism defensible? Is physicalism (everything is physical) defensible? Is panpsychism (everything is mental) defensible? Are ‘behaviorist’ or ‘functionalist’ theories of mind defensible? What is the relation between consciousness and matter (mind and body)? What is it to be a subject of experience? Is there such a thing as ‘the self’? What is a person (what makes a person the same person at different times)? What sort of knowledge do we have of other minds? (Is seeing the color red the same for all of us, and can we know this?) What sort of knowledge do we have of our own minds? To what extent are we subject to cognitive biases and illusions? What is the will? Do we have free will? How can mental states be about things? What are memory, perception, imagination, intentional action, ‘intentionality’?

PHL 382 • Metaphysics And Mind

41740 • Fall 2015
Meets W 6:30PM-9:30PM WAG 312


Graduate standing and consent of Graduate Advisor or instructor required.


Course Description 

This course will consider address questions and topics on the following list: —what is the mental?  —what is the physical? —what is naturalism? —the prospects for monism, dualism, pluralism, when it comes to giving a general account of the nature of concrete reality. —the prospects for thing monism (view that there is only one entity) and stuff monism (view that there is only one fundamental kind of stuff). —is neutral monism (stuff-monist position) a possible position when it comes to giving an adequate account of the relation between the mental and the non-mental (the experiential and the non-experiential)? —is property dualism a possible position (is it a coherent position)? —what is a subject of experience? —the nature of subjectivity. —the nature of consciousness, conscious experience. —does all conscious awareness essentially involve awareness of that very awareness? —what are the fundamental types (the highest-level determinables) of conscious experience (is there only sensory-emotional phenomenology? is there also cognitive phenomenology? is there also irreducible evaluative phenomenology?) —the prospects for panpsychism (view that all that exist are subjects of experience and experience) —the prospects for panexperientialism (view that all that exists is experience, experientiality) — what follows for naturalistic philosophy of mind from the fact that physics only tells us about structural (logico-mathematically characterizable) features of reality, not about non-structural qualitative/intrinsic features? —what is the distinction between structure and quality? —the metaphysics of intentionality —mental causation


1 term paper (90 per cent); 1 class presentation (10 per cent) 


Consciousness in the Physlcal World: Perspectives on Russellioan monism, ed. T. Alter and Y. Nagasawa (Oxford)



PHL 610QA • Probs Of Knowledge & Valuation

42810-42820 • Fall 2014
Meets TTH 3:30PM-5:00PM PAR 201

Description (one to three paragraph description of course content):

 This course examines epistemological issues as they arise intertwined with metaphysical issues in the philosophy of mind: including, centrally, the (so-called) mind-body problem. It moves on to questions about persons and personal identity. These lead in turn to issues of agency and responsibility, and from there to central questions in ethics about (for example) the relative importance of consequences and goals, duties, virtues; even, perhaps, about the meaning of life


List of Proposed Texts /Readings:

[from the following] Aristotle (Nicomachean Ethics), Descartes (Meditations 2 and 6), Elizabeth of Bohemia (letters), Locke (Essay 2.27, 4.3.6), Hume (Treatise 1.4.6 and Appendix, Enquiry §8), Kant (Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals), Emerson (Essays), Nietzsche (passim), William James (from Principles of Psychology vol 1); A. Camus, P. & P. Churchland, D. Davidson, D. Dennett, J. Doris, H. Frankfurt, F. Jackson, D. Kahneman, C. McGinn, I. Murdoch, T. Nagel, D. Parfit, G. Ryle, M. Schechtman, J. Smart, G. Strawson, J. Searle, R. Taylor, M. Tye, G. Watson, B. Williams, L. Wittgenstein, S. Wolf, V. Woolf


Proposed Grading Policy:

One 6-7 page paper: 40%

Mid-term Exam: 30%

In-class Final Exam: 30%

PHL 387 • The Situated Self

43520 • Spring 2014
Meets TH 3:30PM-6:30PM WAG 312

Title:      The Situated Self

Graduate standing and consent of graduate adviser or instructor required.

Course Description

The question to be addressed is Socrates’ question: how should we live? More particular questions are likely to include the following:   (1) Should we expect a (non-trivial) single answer to Socrates’ question? (2) What is the proper place and scope of the notion of character in ethics? (3) What is the place and scope of the notion of the self in metaphysics and ethics? (4) What is the place of the notion of narrative in ethics—in moral psychology and psychology in general? (5) How should we react to the situationist data in social psychology? (6) What is the scope of intentional action in human mental activity (ethical or not)? (7) Correlatively, to what extent is human mental activity best understood as passive, fundamentally a matter of reactivity? (8) How do answers to questions (5), (6) and (7) bear on the question of moral responsibility?


Term paper (up to 20 pages) relating to one of the topics covered 80%, due around 12 December; two in-class presentations 10% each


[illustrative selection] Aristotle, B. Dainton, D. Dennett, J. Doris, H. Frankfurt, Alasdair MacIntyre, R. Moran, F. Nietzsche, D. Parfit, M. Schechtman, S. Shoemaker, G. Strawson, C. Taylor, D. Velleman, G. Watson


This course satisfies the Ethics requirement.


PHL 610QB • Probs Of Knowledge & Valuation

42595-42605 • Spring 2013
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM WAG 302

The aim of this semester is to introduce topics in epistemology and metaphysics, initially through the works of two major philosophers, Ren Descartes (f. 1640) and David Hume (f. 1745). They will serve to introduce two main themes: the nature of knowledge and skepticism; and the nature of the human mind and action.

Descartes is known for two highly influential ideas. His skepticism arises from his reflection that we might be deceived by an “evil demon” who makes it seem as if our ordinary world exists whereas in reality there is nothing. Although Descartes hoped to defuse skepticism, it has lived on, inspiring not only generations of philosophers, but also leaving its mark in such movies as Matrix and Solaris.

Descartes’ dualism is his view that mind and body are entirely distinct. This view has been supported by religious thinkers, by many philosophers impressed by the distinctive character of consciousness, and by some defenders of free will.
Hume’s Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding is famous for supposedly arguing for a form of skepticism that Descartes did not explicitly consider: skepticism about whether the future will resemble the past. His discussion of this issue is closely intertwined with a remarkable theory of causation, a theory which led him to hold that an action can be free, and so can merit praise or blame, even though it is causally determined. We will also discuss some aspects of Hume’s philosophy of religion, notably his section on miracles, and his presentation of the problem of evil. 

PHL 301L • Early Modern Philosophy

42190-42200 • Fall 2012
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM GAR 1.126

An introduction to the philosophical achievements of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, concentrating on such figures as Descartes, Hume, and Kant. 

PHL 384F • First-Year Seminar

42730 • Fall 2012
Meets TH 6:30PM-9:30PM WAG 312


Graduate Standing and Consent of Graduate Advisor or instructor required.


Course Description

Topics in metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of mind



Various articles or book excerpts including Frankfurt, G. E. Moore, Nagel, Parfit.



Term paper relating to one of the topics covered 80%, due around 12 December, two in-class presentations 10% each

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