PHL240: Persons, Minds, and Bodies

Note: This page has been archived. If you want access to any of the documents previously posted here, you can send me an email. Tutorial summaries and responses to feedback, which were previously on separate pages, have been appendixed to the end of this page. I have been fortunate to have spent the term with all of you, and I wish you the best in all your pursuits.

This page is for students in Charles’s tutorials for Dr. Amber Ross’s PHL240H1F (2015): Persons, Minds, and Bodies. Here, I will post content and resources relevant to our tutorials, curated based on your recommendations and needs. I will host files here in a .pdf format; please let me know if you experience any difficulties accessing the documents (in the broadest interpretation of ‘access’). You are in one of Charles’s tutorials if you’re enrolled in one of the following:

T0103: Fridays, 1-2pm, UC D301
T0203: Fridays, 2-3pm, UC D301
T0303: Fridays, 3-4pm, UC D301

NOTE: REFER TO PORTAL/BLACKBOARD FOR ALL OFFICIAL COURSE DOCUMENTS. The content on this page is subject to change as the course progresses and we learn from each other, but none of it will supersede the official course documents and policies.

Reminder: All emails should be sent to my designated gmail account, as listed in the syllabus, and in the tutorial information and guidelines document, and must include your tutorial number in the subject line. If you do not include your tutorial number, your email may be missed.

Documents and Resources

For tutorials
Tutorial information and guidelines — [archived]
Rough participation grading framework — [archived]
Suggested non-canonical readings — [archived]
Weekly tutorial summaries — [archived]
Ongoing responses to feedback — [archived]

Tutorial Recaps

Week Twelve: Dec 4th.

  • Professor Ross will run this tutorial, since Charles lectured this week.
  • This is the last tutorial for this course.
  • It was wonderful being able to spend time with you all each week, and I hope to see you around in the future. Best of luck with all your exams, assignments, goals, and dreams.

Week Eleven: Nov 27th.

  • After a recap, and a few words about the final exam, we spent the whole tutorial, in every tutorial, talking about Mary the Colour scientist, whether people thought it was plausible, and Daniel Dennett’s “blue banana” response. I gave a few other examples to think about along the way, which were included in my lecture on Monday Nov 30th.
  • I made a point of trying to address issues brought up in tutorial in my lecture the following Monday, and many of you were precocious enough to raise the very objections raised on Monday as well.

Week Ten: Nov 20th.

  • I spent most of the tutorial providing a primer on argumentation to better prepare you for your next papers. Primarily, we discussed validity and soundness, and how and when they obtain, and how and when they help make convincing arguments. I answered other questions about essays in general.
  • After that, with what little time was left, I explained what was happening in Daniel Dennett’s reading for the week, and how to reading related to our course structure. In some tutorials, we managed to have a brief discussion on the Dennett reading, but most of the time was dedicated to getting a handle on how to put together better arguments for papers.

Week Nine: Nov 13th.

  • No tutorials this week.

Week Eight: Nov 6th.

  • We spent most of the time reviewing the Chinese Room thought experiment, and then some objections to the Chinese Room and possible responses, including Searle’s “Chinese Gym” thought experiment.

Week Seven: Oct 30th.

  • First, I forgot to share the video of the penguin being tickled, last week! Check out the last 30sec of the video here: [link]. P-Fibers in action!
  • We discussed functionalism in all three tutorials, using the same ticket as a launching-off point. We compared the notion of functionalism against other things (such as computers, mousetraps) that we tend to talk about in terms of function, to see where our intuitions lay. We had one of our more lively conversations yet, in all three tutorials. Thanks for coming prepared! It makes a huge difference in what we can do.
  • In the last two tutorials, I used the example of “This Old House”‘s what is it segments, and how we tend to think of defining tools and other unfamiliar things (especially “artifacts”) in terms of their functions. Here is some more detail on the tool, the “Hollow Auger” for those who are curious: [link]!
  • Here is a link describing functionalism with regard to thermostats, which I mentioned in one or two of the tutorials: [link]

Week Six: Oct 23rd.

  • We variously discussed behaviourism and identity theory, with an emphasis on the latter. In particular, we talked a fair bit about the objections raised at the end of Wednesday’s lecture. Discussion was guided by tickets, in which I asked what makes us think that the brain is especially privileged for being the mind, if we are being reductive (why not Otto’s notebook? The tetris program? Charles’s smartphone?).

Week Five: Oct 16th.

  • We had a lot of time to play around this week. First, we explored the interaction problem through a series of inconsistent premises (which I borrow from Dr. James [Jim] John of our own philosophy department). Then, I raised a few reasons why we should maybe be sceptical about psychological results. I introduced a motivation for behaviorism from Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations (§293). We’ll cover behaviorism more next week with Ryle and Putnam.
  • Here’s that stroke commercial I keep referring to. [link]
  • Here’s one of many beetle-in-a-box videos [link] and here’s a beatle in a box. [link]
  • Finally, how not to pronounce “Wittgenstein” [link].

Week Four: Oct. 9th.

  • All three tutorials did the same thing, to one degree or another. First, we addressed any remaining questions about the papers. Then, we confronted questions about Parfit, and made some move to explaining connectedness and continuity. Finally, we spent some time looking at Parfit’s teletransporter case, a version of which appears in a paper prompt. Where there was time, after discussion, I tried to complicate our intuitions on this a little bit, and then made some brief remarks on personal identity and social identity.

Week Three: Oct. 2nd.

  • We did roughly the same thing in all tutorials. First, I talked admin stuff, and gave a few pointers / answered a few questions on your papers. We’ll talk more about papers next week. Then, I tried to help give you a framework for reading Williams using Arthur, Buster, and Muffy from the show Arthur, and explained the first half of Williams through that lens. Finally, we split off to try a little groupwork, talking roughly about the stuff that Williams covers on pages 172 to about 174 (though it goes on more broadly).
  • Here’s one of my favourite episodes of Arthur, for those who haven’t seen the show, where the students confront a fear of squirrels (such a problematic, but interesting episode, philosophically, regarding “persons” vs “animals”): [link]. Here’s the spelling bee episode: [link]. And here’s some episodes showing what I meant about Muffy not being a great person: [link1] [link2].
  • Here’s the Youtube Video on the Ship of Theseus I mentioned. There are lots of other treatments on the web as well. [link]

Week Two: Sept 25th.

  • T0103: We did an overview of the story of where am I, talked about it, and talked about some other cases (internet, virtual reality).
  • T0203: We covered some questions about materialism, and spent the remainder discussing the story and plausibility of where am I.
  • T0303: We talked about Descartes and supervenience a fair bit, moving toward discussion of where am I at the end.
  • I mentioned that there is a fun(ky) video covering part of Dennett’s Where Am I on youtube. The link is [here]. There are also some videos of him presenting the paper that you can find on there too.
  • Some of the thought experiments we mentioned in tutorials, that you might want to look up, include: the “experience machine” thought experiment, the “brain in a vat” case, and the “ship of theseus” (which we will talk about next week and to come).

Week One: Sept 18th.

  • T0103: I talked about the structure of tutorials and participation grading. We recapped the material on Descartes, and clarified what was happening with the Leibniz content.
  • T0203: I talked about the structure of tutorials and participation grading. We recapped the material on Descartes, and clarified what was happening with the Leibniz content.
  • T0303: I talked about the structure of tutorials and participation grading. We recapped the material on Descartes, and clarified what was happening with the Leibniz content. We also spent more time addressing the differences between substance, attributes, and modes.
  • NOTE: While the original download link for the optional text has been deleted, you can still read it online. See the main PHL240 page on this site for the link. I will continue to monitor the situation.
  • NOTE: Thank you for filling in the info sheets I handed out today, they’re a pleasure to read and I’m delighted both with what information you feel comfortable disclosing, and the number of people vocally excited for this course. I’ll be taking these comments to heart this term, and please feel free to provide feedback at any time.
  • FOR NEXT WEEK: Email me photos if you want; try to keep up with course materials; gather an idea of how you’d like discussions to run on Friday and keep tabs on any questions you may have with lectures and readings; check out Krispy Kreme’s talk-like-a-pirate day for free donuts.


Responses to Feedback

Your feedback is important. If for some reason your feedback is unaddressed and you’d like me to respond, please let me know pointedly. Often, I put positive feedback aside as it feels less in want of a response, but I do want you to know that every bit of your feedback helps a lot to know what is and is not working. Without your feedback, both positive and negative, it would be very difficult to improve as a TA and to provide you the educational spaces you most deserve.

Responses are loosely grouped by theme, newest entries at the bottom of each section. Last updated: Dec 3rd.

  1. Structure of the tutorial
    1. A good number of people have indicated, both at the beginning of the term and through continuing evaluations, that the stable structure of tutorials is really helpful. That is, knowing that there will be administrative stuff, then a recap, and then participation.
    2. Many of you have suggested that the structure is really helpful for getting you to engage. Some think that my asking for your input makes the tutorial feel unstructured. I’m not sure how both to keep a structured feel and be open to mixing tutorials around your needs without the structure I have in place. If you have more specific thoughts or recommendations, please let me know! I’d like to help.
    3. Regarding administrative stuff, whereas in the beginning of this course and in other classes I’ve TAed, students have liked reminders and transparency in administrative content, recent comments suggest that it is taking too much time. I like to provide reminders, but I’ve noticed that reminding isn’t doing too much and people may be tuning out (eg, people forgetting still to submit to turnitin, to bring paper copies, etc). I will cut administrative content from our tutorial schedules except when necessary, but it puts burden on you to keep a closer eye on guidelines, due dates, and other course info.
    4. More than 15% of you have asked that we have more time overall in tutorials. Unfortunately, we only get an hour. The good news is that higher level courses turn into smaller seminars, which are not unlike tutorials often are, and which will give you a chance to spend more time in tutorial like discussion. Sadly, I don’t think we can get away with doing only one hour of lecture and two of tutorials.
    5. Finally, many of you complained about the room. It’s in UC, middle of nowhere, up too many stairs, cramped, and hard to focus in. I cannot change the room assignment, but if I can do anything to make the physical space a better learning environment, please let me know!
  2. Delivery of content
    1. Regarding recaps, many of you have told me that my short recaps are actually really helpful (and for some reason, some think more so than lectures), and a few of my examples have been particularly well received. I will do my best to keep providing recaps, and I hope you will continue to keep me informed as to what helps you learn.
    2. Some of you have asked that I spend more time covering material from class. This is a difficult request for a few reasons. First, tutorials shouldn’t just be another lecture: you are responsible for doing the readings and attending lecture prepared to learn, and to build up your own understanding where you find gaps. That said, some content is difficult and I definitely do want to make sure you have an understanding of course content: I just cannot shoulder all the burden. Second, we have limited time and I don’t want to squander it on unnecessary lecturing. Third, I need feedback to know what in particular is confusing or needs explaining. I ask for prompts, and often get dead air. Do not be afraid to ask for clarification: I need to know what you need to know, and it’s hard for me to do that by myself.
    3. It’s also good to know that my bad jokes and weird examples are actually helpful and informative, to a surprising number of you, to the extent that you shared as much. I will try to keep them coming, and if there’s anything about them which identifies why you find them valuable, please let me know so I can keep doing them better!
    4. [newest] I’ve been told, quite close to our final tutorial, that sometimes I may speak too quickly and that can make it difficult to understand, especially for (if not merely exclusively) those for whom English isn’t their first language. I try often to ask if I can help clarify what I’ve already said, or when to slow down, but I can understand why some people wouldn’t have spoken up. Overall, though, when I do speak at my quickest, that’s usually content that is not important to the proceedings of the tutorial or course (such as talking about the pathways in the brain with which Mary would be familiar). I also want to leave more time for you all to speak! I will try, in the future, to check in more often.
  3. Tutorial discussions
    1. Some have indicated that there are often long pauses, or silence in tutorials. This is hard for me to address alone: tell me why you have been silent and whether I can fix that in the future. Moreover, not all silence is bad: sometimes people need to spend a few seconds preparing their thoughts, and I encourage the occasional silence accordingly. Takeaway: let me know if and when silence is bad and how I can help!
    2. A few comments suggested that tutorial would be better if more students spoke: I try to create spaces for speaking and encourage it with open ended questions and ideas. A surprising number of you have highlighted those open ended by directed questions as helpful. For those for whom it is not helpful, if you can think of other ways I can encourage you to speech, do let me know! But, some people are shy, or anxious, or have other barriers to speaking, and that’s okay and we should respect that too.
    3. Two people have noted that it seems like most conversation is just responding to questions. With such a diverse group with varied backgrounds, I have felt that open ended questions are good launching points for shared conversation, and I hope I’ve been able to lead more sessions than just Q&A back and forth. If you have better ways to launch off, let me know what you’d prefer!
    4. Some think that certain people talk too much. I do my best to leave silences between picking people just to make sure others who haven’t spoken get a chance to raise their hands or their voices. Ultimately, I like to keep conversation going, so those who speak up will continue to be given a voice. That said, I do try hard to prioritize those who haven’t spoken recently, and to create a space for them to contribute. If I’m missing you, or there are other ways I can help, please let me know!
    5. Nobody has mentioned this, but if I ever seem dismissive of your comments or contributions, please let me know! I try to let a lot of people speak, and hold back from constantly moderating and comment. In doing so, I don’t myself comment on all the points raised, or forget to validate them as they should be. Your points are all excellent, and I don’t ever want you to feel like your contributions weren’t really appreciated: I want to encourage you to keep participating. If I seem dismissive, or fail to give you the credit you deserve, please let me know so I can address you directly!
  4. Tutorial tickets
    1. An overwhelming number of you have indicated that you really like the tickets. This is great news, as this is my first time using them.
    2. A few have asked for them in advance of class. I won’t be repetitive of what I mentioned in tutorials this week, but in general, my partial response is that there will be few opportunities to do so, given the general structure of the course. I will do my best to try to make this a possibility in the future.
    3. Some people complained that there isn’t as much time to complete tickets now as at the beginning of the term. I’m handing tickets out earlier in tutorial so you can gradually work on them so you’re not rushed in five minutes at the end of tutorial. Moreover, remember that they are graded for completion: you only need to put in as much effort as you feel like. I’m grateful so many of you are taking tickets seriously and taking the opportunity to think a lot about the questions, but I just want to remind you that it isn’t required.
    4. Some people have indicated that they appreciate my giving out tickets immediately after recapping and answering content questions, because it gives them more time to think over the hour. Some have indicated that a chance to think on their own and write things down makes it easier to participate verbally. I’m glad: these are goals I hoped to accomplish with tickets.
    5. Some are concerned that tickets restrict conversation. I always try to solicit class consent before engaging in tickets, and I try to make sure I give several opportunities to see if there are other things you would all like to cover. Please don’t hesitate to speak up, and please don’t feel that ticket questions are mandatory or enforced. They are there to guide discussion and prompt more connected thinking when other material is lacking. Your own interests are my first priority, always.
  5. Groupwork
    1. People have, from the beginning, had mixed positions on groupwork. As a result of the feedback from earlier groupwork, I’ve toned down emphasis on it, though it is clear that some students need to be able to have conversations with one another. This is important: I don’t want to be the middle-person in a conversation all the time. Rather, we should engage in dialogue, and you have indicated you want more dialogue with each other. Still, I don’t want to isolate those for whom groupwork is an issue, and there are barriers which groupwork can present. It is difficult to know how to moderate this divide, but my current plans are as follows:
      1. I will try to announce groupwork in advance of the day, or at least at the very beginning of tutorial if I cannot provide earlier notice, so you can prepare as needs be (even if it means leaving).
      2. I will keep groups small so everyone has a chance to speak and doesn’t feel overwhelmed, I will try not to make groups so small that people are obligated to speak, and I will always give people time to think on their own before pairing into groups.
      3. I will rotate around to try and moderate conversation when I can, when we have groupwork.
      4. I will consider some instances of “think pair share” tactics, and debates, when content is appropriate.
    2. Some of you have emphasized that groupwork is valuable because you want to talk to other students. Know that, when not doing groupwork, you don’t have to address me. We had some good exchanges between students this month, and it’s a good thing to build on.
  6. Grading participation
    1. Some have expressed worries that participation is weighed too much on speaking up. The framework I shared at the beginning of the term identifies that half of your participation grade is built around showing up and participating with tickets: this is supposed to validate efforts to participate beyond speaking up. Moreover, in the remaining ten out of twenty percent, I am trying to be attentive to active listening and to reward non-traditional participation. Participation in philosophy is supposed to be discursive and interactive, so it is hard to prioritize other styles of engagement. But if you have thoughts, please share them and I’ll try to see what I can arrange. I am always open to renegotiating how I approach participation grades (as long as it is equal and fair to everyone it can be).
  7. [newest] Essays
    1. Some people remarked that it would have been nice to see more positive feedback. I tried to highlight this problem in class last tutorial, but I’ll repeat it here. I have very limited time to grade, and I want to focus on areas on which you can improve for your next paper. Highlighting good things comes at a loss for critical feedback on areas of improvement. That said, I recognize that it’s helpful to be told what you’re doing right, and that it can be hard to receive comments that are wholly critical. I didn’t want anyone to feel bad because of those comments, and I hope you can see them as chances to improve. I’ll do what I can to add more positive feedback in the future where it doesn’t hold back from letting you know how to improve. If you want to know what you did right, I would be happy to meet with you in person or otherwise to let you know. My comments and feedback don’t need to stop when I lift the pen.
    2. I tried using smiley faces sometimes to help offload some of the apparent negativity, but one person indicated that seemed passive-aggressive: sorry! They were genuine smilies, I swear!
    3. Some people complained about the legibility or shorthand. I’m really sorry about this: it’s hard to mark that many papers with arthritis and keep things clear. Typing comments is slower because they have to be correlated, and I can’t provide as many targeted comments. I tried to err on the side of more comments with what time I had, but it isn’t helpful if it’s messy. And some papers were messier than others depending on how long I had been grading. If you haven’t been able to decipher my comments or shorthand, please don’t hesitate to ask me to interpret for you: it’s my fault after all, and shouldn’t be your problem. It isn’t helpful to give you comments you can’t read! If you have problems, let me know so I can fix them/clarify.
    4. Two people asked for more detail on what comments meant. Often, I went into a fair bit of detail, but when I needed to highlight more than a few things or reading was tough, I adopted shorthand or was more brief. If you want elaboration on comments, let me know before the next paper is due and I can help explain things for you! Sometimes I leave weird notes that are ways for me to know what I was thinking, precisely for cases where we can meet together and I have more time to explain things. If you’re uncertain about something, let me know!
    5. One person said they could use more direction on what to cite. Hopefully comments toward the end of tutorials today helped with that. In general: cite whatever someone might have reason to question: did they really say that? Why should I believe that? Etc. It’s better to overcite than undercite, and it’s easier for me to tell you when a citation is superfluous than when it’s lacking.
  8. Miscellaneous things you’ve said you liked. I’m listing these verbatim. It’s useful to have these both so I know what’s been working, and so that I can be held transparently accountable to these quotes: if you disagree with your peers on one of these points, let me know so I have a balanced perspective. Otherwise, I will take these to be indicators of things that are good and/or working. (unsorted, randomized, to promote anonymity).
    1. “Not being forced to speak up.” “Descriptions involve a sense of humour.” “The way ticket questions are set up.” “The ratio of time spent between reviewing and discussing.” “Learning about other points of view and how to counter argue by example.” “Effective summaries of what we’re learning.” “When we learn ‘basics’, like core philosophy terms that philosophers [should] know.” “Feels like you care about the class.” “Clarity and cheer!” “[tickets are] a good way to reinforce what we’ve learned.” “That we can be comfortable with raising further questions about both lecture and … tutorial.” “Bring[ing] up examples that were not covered in the lecture, hence providing a better clarification.” “I love your summaries in the beginning.” “Very open environment to share ideas.” “[Summaries] clarify what was unclear to me from lectures/readings.” “You make every concept clear before, so the lectures make more sense.” “Always engaged and prepared.” “A very open minded approach.” “Charles’s jokes.” “When you explain/reiterate concepts talked about during lecture with easier to understand examples.” “Group discussions of the tickets have been really interesting so far!” “The discussion is good, very interactive.” “TA is very nice and energetic.” “I like ‘tutorial’ environment.” “More tutorials would be nice.” “I love coming to this class, discussions help a lot.” “I like that there is a focus on our needs in tutorial.” “People aren’t forced to say anything if they don’t want to.” “I really like that I feel like I can answer a question (or ask a question!) without feeling uncomfortable.” “[tickets are] a good way to get the thoughts and opinions of everyone, every tutorial.” “We have a ticket to review and enhance the lecture.” “Your openness to not only discuss what you want but we want as well. It’s completely ‘open floor’ essentially.” “I like that you are trying to see where we need help rather than only doing a set bit of work with no leeway.” “The inclusive environment.” “The emphasis of meeting the needs of the student in relation to the course material, and open to clarification.” “Very friendly, very.” “The opportunity for everyone to participate through the tickets. I think equity is really important and this practice makes education a bit more accessible for everyone.” “I like that these tutorials can clarify key concepts from the lectures.” “I don’t feel so awkward or pressured to talk.” “I like the tickets, they give direction to the tutorial.”  “The tickets make the tutorial more organized and gives a sense of purpose.”

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