Teaching Schedule


(Neo-)Aristotelian Approaches to the Metaphysics of Mind Summer School
26 – 30 September 2016

The Harry Wilks Study Center | Via Cuma 320 | 80070 Bacoli | Italy    

Monday, 26 September

3:30pm – 4:00pm   Registration and welcome coffee.

4:00pm – 6:00pm   Lecture I:  Introduction to Aristotle's Hylomorphism: key texts and their interpretations.

Lectures I and II will present two aspects of Aristotle's metaphysics which are crucial to understanding his philosophy of mind, namely his hylomorphism and his power ontology. The first lecture will introduce students to hylomorphism in its original formulation offered by Aristotle. While reference will be made to some key Aristotelian texts, this will be done with a primarily philosophical rather that exegetical interest. Aristotle's hylomorphism has been given different interpretation in the secondary literature. It is, e.g., sometimes argued that we should understand it in mereological terms: matter and form of a substance are taken as parts that compose into one complex thing. Other argue that this mereological approach is neither true to Aristotle's own views nor philosophically tenable (specially in light of the philosophical problems hylomorphism was originally set out to solve). Several alternative interpretations will be introduced and critically discussed in the lecture.  

Tuesday, 27 September

Lecture II: Aristotle’s power ontology and neo-Aristotelian versions.

The second lecture will present some of the main issues and contested topics in the metaphysics of powers. Its first part will address the following key questions: Are powers genuine properties? Are they reducible to non-power properties? How are they grounded? How do powers manifest? How are powers to be individuated? Is there a special dispositional modality, different both from contingency and necessity? How do powers compose? The second part of the lecture will introduce some key features of Aristotle's own power ontology.

10:00am – 11:30am   Part 1

11:30am – 11:45am   Coffee break.

11:45am – 1:15pm  Part 2

1:15pm – 3:00pm   Lunch break.

3:00pm – 5:00pm   Group work session.

5:00pm – 5:15pm   Coffee break

5:15pm - 6:15pm   After group session.

Wednesday, 28 September

10:00am – 11:30am   Lecture III: Aristotle's philosophy of mind.

The third lecture will show how Aristotle's own view of the soul fits into the general metaphysical views that we have examined in the first two lectures. While we will draw on the original texts from Aristotle's De Anima, where Aristotle's hylomorphic view of the soul is especially prominent, again our interest will mainly be philosophical rather than exegetical. We will also discuss how the relation between the vegetative, sensitive and rational soul fits into the overall metaphysical framework, and will discuss the question of the 'separability' of soul and body.

11:30am - 11:45am   Coffee break

11:45am – 1:15pm   Lecture IV: Hylomorphism vs. functionalism: alternative approaches in the philosophy of mind.

The fourth lecture will focus on some alternative approaches in the philosophy of mind in the 20th and 21st century, which share some of the features of the Aristotelian view and have not always been properly distinguished from it. This will help to bring out even more clearly the distinctive features of Aristotle's thought. Our main focus of interest is this respect will be on functionalism in its different versions; we will also address the questions whether Aristotle's own view can be given a functionalist interpretation.

*Free afternoon with sightseeing trip: Piscina Mirabilis*

Thursday, 29 September

Lecture V: Open problems in the philosophy of mind: What work can Aristotelian powers do?

In the fifth lecture we will investigate how an appeal to Aristotelian powers opens the way to a new approach to some of the key questions of contemporary philosophy of mind. Not only philosophers with an historical background, but also Wittgensteinians have found such a move promising, with the latter arguing that a focus on the powers and dispositions might help to counteract the pre-occupation with conscious experience as the supposedly primary locus of the mental which has characterized modern philosophy since Descartes. (The locus classicus for this view being Gilbert Ryle's Concept of Mind.) We will be especially interested in the following questions: What account of mental properties follows from an Aristotelian approach -- and how does this account fare in comparison to other accounts when it comes to questions of reductionism and eliminativism? Which role do skills and abilities play in our mental life and what is their relation to conscious experience? Can fundamental cognitive states such as knowledge be understood in terms of such abilities? Is an Aristotelian account of the mind better placed to provide an analysis of agency than rival accounts? And is it better placed to account for the relationship between humans and non-human conscious and intelligent animals?

10:00am – 11:30am   Part 1

11:30am –11:45am   Coffee break.

11:45am – 1:15pm   Part 2

1:15pm – 3:00pm   Lunch break

3:00pm – 5:00pm   Group work session

5:00pm – 5:15pm   Coffee break

5:15pm - 6:15pm   After group session


Friday, 30 September

Lecture VI: Prospects for a Hylomorphism-cum-powers ontology of the mind.

In the sixth lecture we will enlarge our focus to examine what help can be expected from the hylomorphic part of the Aristotelian theory in addressing currently debated problems in philosophy of mind. In doing this, we will focus on two particular areas where this looks especially promising.

10:00am – 11:30am   Part 1: Hylomorphism-cum-powers ontology and mental causation.

Non-reductionist theories of mental properties are often suspected to make the latter properties causally inert (with Jaegwon Kim's casual exclusion problem being the best-known formulation of this worry). A hylomorphic view may promise a relatively easy solution here, since it conceives of the relationship between mental and physical properties quite differently from the views which provide the basis of the epiphenomenalism worry, and because a view of mental properties as powers seems to guarantee the casual relevance of mental properties. However, as this lecture will illustrate, there will remain important issues to address, even on a neo-Aristotelian approach, in order to meet the epiphenomenalism worry, especially when it comes to working out how the casual interaction between mental and microphysical properties and powers is meant to work.

11:30am - 11:45am   Coffee break

11:45am – 1:15pm   Part 2: Hylomorphism-cum-powers ontology and the problem of perception.

What is it that we perceive? Most of us share the intuition that objects in the world are truly as colourful, as noisy, as tasty etc., as we perceive them to be. This suggests that perceptible qualities are genuine and intrinsic properties of the objects they are normally ascribe to. But if so, what metaphysics can account for inverted spectrum phenomena and the like? The second part of the lecture investigates how the hypothesis that these properties are casual powers support perceptual realism, and develops the special form of realism which can be derived from this view.

– 3:00pm   Lunch break

3:00pm – 5:00pm   Group work session

5:00pm – 5:15pm   Coffee break

5:15pm - 6:15pm   After group session