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Darwin, Darwinism, and the Philosophy of Mind


Admission requirements

The course is open to third-year bachelor students from other departments with introductory level knowledge of philosophy of science. Students in biology or psychology who want to participate but have no background in philosophy of science are advised to contact the instructor.


The pragmatist philosopher John Dewey once wrote that “The Origin of Species introduced a mode of thinking that in the end was bound to transform the logic of knowledge” (Dewey, 1910). In this course we will explore whether, in what sense, and to what extent Dewey got it right. We will do so, on the one hand, by examining Darwinism as a case study in the history and philosophy of science, and, on the other hand, by assessing the impact of (neo-)Darwinism on contemporary philosophy of mind and cognition. We will start off by posing such questions as ‘What does natural selection explain?’, ‘Was there a true Darwinian Revolution?’ and ‘Does evolutionary theory have laws?’. These question will gradually lead us into the territory of conceptual issues that arise from evolutionary biology itself. A closer understanding of these conceptual issues will in turn provide us with the requisite toolkit for examining the explanatory and evidential status of philosophical and scientific claims about the origin and evolution of the human mind.

Course objectives

Course objectives will be posted on Blackboard by the start of the course.


See Collegeroosters Wijsbegeerte 2013-2014 , BA Wijsbegeerte (BA Plus-traject of Standaardtraject), 3e jaar.
See Timetables Philosophy 2013-2014 , Timetable Undergraduate Courses in English.

Mode of instruction

Lectures and seminars

Course load

To be announced.

Assessment method

The final grade for this course will be determined on the basis of:

  • participation in class and completion of weekly assignments (20%);

  • an oral presentation in class (20%);

  • a mid-term paper [~3.000 words] (30%);

  • a final paper [~3.000 words for BA students, ~5.000 words for MA students] (30%).

NB: Each component needs to be passed with a grade higher than 5.5 in order to obtain a pass for the course as a whole.


To be announced.

Reading list

  • Sterelny and Griffiths (1999). Sex and Death. Chicago, IL: Chicago University Press.

  • Downes and Machery (eds.) (2013). Arguing About Human Nature: Contemporary Debates. London: Routledge.


Please register for this course on uSis.
See Inschrijven voor cursussen en tentamens

Exchange students and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply. See also Registration for courses and examinations

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Contractonderwijs via secretariaat Wijsbegeerte
See also: Inschrijven voor cursussen en tentamens

Contact details

Dr. J. Witteveen