PHIL40960 The Cultural Mind

Academic Year 2021/2022

This course will look at recent research on the interdependence between culture and mind. Two aspects of culture that the course will particularly focus on are language and moral norms. One of the broad themes that we will explore is relativity. So called ‘linguistic relativity’ is the view that (a) languages affect our thinking as well as our experiences of the world and (b) vastly different languages will give rise to very different, possibly incommensurable, ways of thinking about the world. We will look at recent empirical evidence for this view, and its philosophical implications. We will also look at empirical evidence for and philosophical discussion of variance in moral norms across different cultures. An opposing thought is that language or moral norms are to some extent universal. We’ll examine empirical evidence that bears on and philosophical discussion of this hypothesis.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

At the end of this course students will have an informed view of the impact of cultural variables on core mental activities. In addition, they will acquire the skills of writing academic papers suitable for presentation at graduate conferences.

Indicative Module Content:


General Description

This course will look at recent research on the interdependence between culture and mind. Two aspects of culture that the course will particularly focus on are language and moral norms. One of the broad themes that we will explore is relativity. So called ‘linguistic relativity’ is the view that (a) languages affect our thinking as well as our experiences of the world and (b) vastly different languages will give rise to very different, possibly incommensurable, ways of thinking about the world. We will look at recent empirical evidence for this view, and its philosophical implications. We will also look at empirical evidence for and philosophical discussion of variance in moral norms across different cultures. An opposing thought is that language or moral norms are to some extent universal. We’ll examine empirical evidence that bears on and philosophical discussion of this hypothesis

Seminar 1 (week 20)
- Pullum, Geofrey. 1989. The great Eskimo vocabulary hoax. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 7: 275–281.
Seminar 2 (Week 21)
- Pinker, S. (1994). The language instinct. London: Penguin. Chapter 3.
- Fodor, J. A. (1989). Why There Still Has to be a Language of Thought. In P. Slezak & W. R. Albury (Eds.), Computers, Brains and Minds: Essays in Cognitive Science (pp. 23-46). Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands.

Seminar 3 (Week 22)
- Bloom, P., & Keil, F. C. (2001). Thinking through language. Mind & Language, 16(4), 351-367.
- Regier, Terry & Paul Kay. 2009. Language, thought, and color: Whorf was half right. Trends in Cognitive Science 13: 439–446.

Seminar 4 (Week 23)
- Margolis, E. & Laurence, S. 2011. Learning Matters: The Role of Learning in Concept Acquisition, Mind & Language.
- de Villiers, Jill & Peter de Villiers. 2003. Language for thought: coming to understand false beliefs. In Language in mind: advances in the study of language and thought, D. Gentner & S. Goldin-Meadow (eds), 335–384. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Seminar 5 (Week 24)
- Reines, Maria Francisca, and Jesse Prinz. 2009. Reviving Whorf: The Return of Linguistic Relativity. Philosophy Compass 4: 1022–1032.
- Li, Peggy, Linda Abarbanell, Lila Gleitman, and Anna Papafragou. 2011. Spatial reasoning in Tenejapan Mayans. Cognition 120: 33–53.
Seminar 6 (Week 25)
- Quine, W.v.O. (1960) Word and Object, Cambridge, Mass.: M.I.T. Press. Chapter 2.
- Imai, M. and Mazuko, R. (2003). Re-evaluation of linguistic relativity: Language-specific categories and the role of universal ontological knowledge in the construal of individuals. in: Language in Mind: Advances in the issues of language and thought., Publisher: MIT Press, pp.430-464
Seminar 7 (Week 26)
- Rachels, J. (2003). The Elements of Moral Philosophy, 4th Edition. New York: McGraw Hill: Chapter 2.
- Prinz, J. (2011). Morality is a culturally conditioned response. Philosophy Now, 82, 6-9.

Seminar 8 (Week 29)
- Flanagan, O., Williams R.A. (2010), - What Does the Modularity of Morals Have to Do With Ethics? Four Moral Sprouts Plus or Minus a Few. Topics in Cognitive Science.
Seminar 9 (Week 30)
- Wong, D.B. 2011,“Relativist Explanation of Interpersonal and Group Disagreement,” in S.D. Hales (ed.), A Companion to Relativism, Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 411–29.
Seminar 10 (Week 31)
- (optional): Gendron et al., (2014) Perceptions of Emotions from Facial Expressions are not Culturally Universal. Evidence from a Remote Culture. Emotion vol. 14, no.2. 251-262.
Seminar 11 (Week 32)
- (optional) de Cruz, H. (2009) Is linguistic Determinism an empirically testable hypothesis? Logique et Analyse. Vol 52, no 20. pp. 327-341.
Seminar 12 (Week 33)
- (optional) Shapiro, L.A., (2011) Embodied Cognition: lessons from linguistic determinism. Philosophical Topics, vol 39, no. 1. Pp. 121-140

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Seminar (or Webinar)

24

Autonomous Student Learning

202

Online Learning

24

Total

250

Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
There will be one two-hour seminars each week. These will take place on Tuesday’s from 9.00-11.) in the seminar room in the philosophy department.
In each seminar, we will discuss a piece of writing which students are required to read beforehand.
Assessment
Your mark is based on your coursework essay, presentation and seminar attendance. The essay mark counts for 50% of the total mark.
 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.


Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
 
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Presentation: < Description > Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded Yes

25

Seminar: A conference presentation based on the course essay. End of trimester MCQ n/a Graded No

25

Essay: < Description > Coursework (End of Trimester) n/a Graded Yes

50


Carry forward of passed components
Yes
 
Remediation Type Remediation Timing
In-Module Resit Prior to relevant Programme Exam Board
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Not yet recorded.

Timetabling information is displayed only for guidance purposes, relates to the current Academic Year only and is subject to change.
 
Spring
     
Seminar Offering 1 Week(s) - 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32 Thurs 11:00 - 12:50