Current Debates in Language & Mind (PHIL*4120) | College of Arts

Current Debates in Language & Mind (PHIL*4120)

Code and section: PHIL*4120*01

Term: Winter 2019

Instructor: Don Dedrick


This course is cross listed with PHIL*6120

This course is about evolutionary ideas and their application to our understanding of Art. We will read two fairly recent philosophical books, The Art Instinct by Dennis Dutton, and The Artful Species by Steven Davies. Davies takes a fairly broad approach to the impact of evolution (and evolutionary thinking) on art-related practice, while Dutton offers us a view that can be called "an evolutionary psychology for art." In both cases, the concern is with how we think, make, and talk about art, given that our minds have evolved by natural selection.

This is a seminar course. You are expected to attend and to contribute. The instructor aims to foster a safe, collaborative space for the exchange of ideas.


-1 or 2 short seminar presentations (depending on class size) = 20% of the grade.

-Weekly (about 8 total) very short papers (approx. 400 words) = 20% of the grade

-participation = 10% of the grade

-major paper = 50% of the grade.

The length of the major paper is set at approximately 3500 words, which is the typical length of a paper for conference submission. Students will be encouraged to submit papers of good quality to a conference (though this is not a requirement for the course). The instructor will assist you with this.

Books: The Stephan Davies book, The Artful Species, is available from the bookstore. The Denis Dutton book The Art Instinct is bizarrely out of print (Dutton died unexpectedly, which may have something to do with it). I am trying to obtain copies, but it is available as an electronic text from Amazon.


Course Outline

The University of Guelph resides on the land of the Between the Lakes Treaty No. 3, the territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit. This land is part of the Dish with One Spoon, a covenant between Indigenous nations to live peaceably on the territories of the Great Lakes region. We recognize that today this gathering place is home to many First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples and acknowledging them reminds us of our collective responsibility to the land where we learn, live and work.