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Philosophy of Psychology: Strange Tools. Art and Human Nature


Admission requirements

Admission to this mandatory specialist course is restricted to students enrolled in the MA Philosophy 120 EC, specialisation Philosophy of Psychology.


This seminar will discuss recent work in the philosophy of mind, focusing on embodied and enacted cognition. Focus reading is Strange Tools (2015) by philosopher and cognitive scientist Alva Noë. Noë argues that art is not so much a phenomenon in need of an explanation (‘What is art?’ Why is it important?’), but a “strange tool”, a method of research for investigating what makes us human. Art is not just something to be contemplated, enjoyed or admired, but an instrument aimed at transformation. The seminar will be using selected readings on enacted cognition for putting Noë’s argument in perspective.

Course objectives

This course aims to engage students in advanced discussion of recent work in the philosophy of mind, focusing on embodied and enacted cognition.

Students who successfully complete the course will have a good understanding of:

  • recent work in the philosophy of embodied and enacted cognition;

  • novel views of the relationship between art, cognition and human nature.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • find and digest relevant literature;

  • give an oral and written presentation of philosophical arguments;

  • write a clear argumentative essay about a topic of interest related to the chosen readings from the class.


The timetable is available on the MA Philosophy 120 EC website

Mode of instruction

  • Seminars

Class attendance is required.

Course Load

Total course load 10 EC x 28 hours = 280 hours

  • Attending seminars: 42 hours

  • Study of compulsory literature: 160 hours

  • Presentation: 18 hours

  • Midterm paper: 20 hours

  • Final paper: 40 hours

Assessment method


  • Oral presentations (25%)

  • Class discussions (15%)

  • Midterm paper (20%)

  • Term paper (40%)


The final mark for the course is established by determination of the weighted average of several subtests (presentation, papers etc.). A subtest can be graded as unsatisfactory. Class preparation and attendance are required and are conditions for submission of the papers.


One resit will be offered, consisting of one substantial paper. The mark will replace all previously earned marks. No separate resits will be offered for subtests. Class preparation and attendance are required and a condition for submission of the paper for the resit. Students who have obtained a satisfactory grade for the first examination cannot take the resit.

Exam review

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • sharing reading materials

  • assignments

  • discussion

  • feedback

Reading list

  • Alva Noë, Stange Tools. Art and Human Nature (New York, 2015: Hill and Wang).

  • Additional readings will be made available on Blackboard.


Enrolment for courses and exams through uSis is mandatory.

Students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetables for courses and exams.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


To be announced.