• Offered by School of Philosophy
  • ANU College ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Course subject Philosophy
  • Areas of interest Philosophy, Psychology, Evolution and Ecology, Biology
  • Academic career UGRD
  • Course convener
    • AsPr Rachael Brown
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Offered in Second Semester 2025
    See Future Offerings

This advanced undergraduate course introduces students to philosophical research in philosophy of the life sciences, including philosophy of biology, philosophy of psychology, and philosophy of neuroscience. It is suitable for students who have a strong background in philosophy. What is taught will change from year to year.

The topic for 2024 will be Philosophy of Cognitive Science.

What is intelligence? Surely, animals can think. But what is thinking, if not the spooky action of an immaterial soul? How can we scientifically study the mind? Cognitive Science is a multidisciplinary field that answers these questions, and for most of its history did so with resounding consensus: the mind is furnished by internal representations, and intelligence involves computing over those representations. That consensus has frayed in recent years, with new approaches emerging.


The course will be split into three sections. The first half covers the fundamentals of cognitive science, how it evolved as a distinct scientific discipline, and the consensus view. With the ‘Computational Theory of Mind’ as our foundation, we will learn how to model the brain using Turing-machines and neural network models. The second module engages with contemporary research programmes that, to various extents, argue against the consensus view. They argue the mind is inextricably linked with the body and the world, and so the dynamic interplay between them is the key to cognition. The final module situates intelligence in a broader evolutionary context. We will see minds and brains on a natural continuum: intelligence is diverse and subject to natural forces, just like any other biological phenomenon. Ultimately, we will learn

  1. multiple ways of understanding the relationship between minds and brains, and
  2. how to place intelligence in the natural world.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. analyse philosophical positions relating to philosophy of the life sciences; 
  2. synthesise novel arguments to extend philosophical positions to new empirical domains in the life sciences; 
  3. conduct philosophical research and effectively integrate and organize concepts and arguments to defend a position; and
  4. dispute and evaluate philosophical ideas verbally and to engage in interactive dialogue.

Indicative Assessment

  1. Two x 2,500 word written assessments (40% each) (80) [LO 1,2,3]
  2. Class participation (10) [LO 1,2,4]
  3. Class presentation (10 minutes) (10) [LO 1,2,4]

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


130 hours of total student learning time made up from:
a) 36 hours of contact over 12 weeks: 24 hours of lectures, and 12 hours of tutorials; and
b) 94 hours of independent student research, reading and writing.

Requisite and Incompatibility

To enrol in this course you must have previously completed 12 Units of 2000 or 3000 level Philosophy (PHIL) Courses, or with permission of the convenor.

Prescribed Texts

Prescribed readings will be made available via Wattle.


Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

Commonwealth Support (CSP) Students
If you have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). More information about your student contribution amount for each course at Fees

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are a domestic graduate coursework student with a Domestic Tuition Fee (DTF) place or international student you will be required to pay course tuition fees (see below). Course tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

ANU utilises MyTimetable to enable students to view the timetable for their enrolled courses, browse, then self-allocate to small teaching activities / tutorials so they can better plan their time. Find out more on the Timetable webpage.

The list of offerings for future years is indicative only.
Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.

Second Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
8013 21 Jul 2025 28 Jul 2025 31 Aug 2025 24 Oct 2025 In Person N/A

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