THINK! - 6 - Aspects of Mind






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True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.



The parable talks of a tiny striped caterpillar and how he joined a pillar of other squirming, pushing caterpillars who were trying to get to the top of the pile. It was only when he talked to a certain yellow caterpillar that the two of them decided that getting on the top wasn't really what they wanted most. So, they climbed down and away from the others.

They enjoyed being together, and they ate and grew fat until one day they became bored, and they wanted to find out if there was more to life. The striped caterpillar decided to find out by climbing again to the top of the caterpillar pile. The yellow caterpillar felt ashamed that she didn't agree but decided it was better to wait until she could take action she could believe in. So he climbed, and she wandered aimlessly until she saw a caterpillar hanging upside down on a branch and caught in some hairy substance.

She said, "You seem to be in trouble. Can I help you?" "No," said the hanging caterpillar, "I have to do this to become a butterfly."

"Butterfly? What is a butterfly?"

"It's what you are meant to be. It flies with beautiful wings and joins the earth to heaven. It drinks only nectar from the flowers and carries seeds of love from one flower to another. Without butterflies the world would soon have few flowers."

The yellow caterpillar exclaimed, "It can't be true! How can I believe there's a butterfly inside you or me when all I see is a fuzzy worm? How does one become a butterfly?"

The hanging caterpillar said, "You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar." 

The yellow caterpillar began fearfully but continued the process until at length she became a butterfly. Then she helped the striped caterpillar learn who he was and leave the pile to become what he was really meant to be.





The following information has been extracted from AA308 Philosophy of Mind booklets: (1) Course Guide and (2) TMA Booklet.  The intention is to provide a brief overview of the course for the benefit of people who hit on this particular page of the Krysan website.  Maybe, even this brief look at what is entailed in studying with the Open University will spur others on to become life-long learners.


The main aims of the course are:

  • To introduce a number of central philosophical questions concerning the nature of activities of the human mind, and its place in the natural and social worlds.
  • To introduce some of the philosophical litrerature on this subject by great thinkers of the past as well as by recent writers, including Descartes, Hume, Kant, William James, Putnam, Ryle, Grice, Fodor, Boden, Jackson, Chalmers and Dennett.
  • To develop the abilities needed for a philosophical understanding of problems in this area and for discussion of them in a philosophical way.


On completion of this course, students should be able to demonstrate the following key skills:

  • Communicaton - communicate ideas effectively in written form.
  • Improving own learning and performance - evaluate your own progress and learn from feedback.
  • Information literacy - access information in an appropriate way and use information technology to access library resources.
  • These learning outcomes are assess via the tutor-marked assignments (TMAs), the examination and the activities in the course materials.  Tutor feedback on the TMAs enables you to evaluate your own progress and improve your performance.


As well as the five course books, there are six audio CDs.  There is a course website, online exercises and electronic forums.

Course books:  The five course books are each written by a different author.  The books are:

  1. Book 1:   Aspects of Mind by Dr. Sean Crawford
  2. Book 2:   Emotion by Dr. Caroly Price
  3. Book 3:   Language and Thought by Dr. Alex Barker
  4. Book 4:   Imagination and Creativity by Dr. Michael Beaney
  5. Book 5:   Consciousness by Dr. Keith Frankish

The first book provides a short historical introduction to some of the main conceptions and positions in the philosophy of mind, and the other four books explore specific topics in detail: emotion, language and thought, imagination and creativity, and consciousness.  Each book is self-standing.


With the exception of the first TMA which is shorter than the others, requiring exposition rather than critical evaluation, almost a whole week has been set aside for writing each TMA (in the case of the sixth TMA, two weeks for preparation and one week for writing).  ... In philosophy, it is generally far better to think carefully about a selected short passage than to race through a long discourse.  By keeping the texts relatively short, it is hoped that this will give you more time to understand them properly and to reflect on the issues for yourself.  There is also an abundance of optional material and study plans, etc. 


Today, I attended a tutorial in Newcastle upon Tyne.  This was to introduce students to the tutor and each other and also to provide an opportunity for the tutor to introduce Book 1: Aspects of Mind.  I learned that this course will be interesting, and not an easy ride - but I didn't think it would be.  I thoroughly enjoyed studying A211 Philosophy and the Human Situation last year.  Therefore, I see no reason why I should not be similarly well-entertained, well-occupied and well-informed by this one ...  

The first TMA is to be 1,500 words in length (maximum) and the question is:

What is a sensation?  What sorts of things can have sensation?

The cut-off date is the 25 February 2011

And so, whilst I go off to THINK (!), maybe you will have glimpsed something of what is involved in studying with the Open University or, indeed, with any other university.

It goes without saying that this is 'my passion' ... 

Thank you for joining me and watch out for the occasional blog. Please note, the course in question will be referred to henceforth by the short title: AA308 Philosophy of Mind.  

Kind Regards 

Marian @ Krysan 




"O, what a world of unseen visions and heard silences, this insubstantial country of the mind!  What ineffable essences, these touchless rememberings and unshowable reveries!  And the privacy of it all!  A secret theater of speechless monologue and prevenient counsel, an invisible mansion of all moods, musings, and mysteries, an infinite resort of disappointments and discoveries ... An introcosm that is more myself than anything I can find in a mirror.  This consciousness that is myself of selves, that is everything, and yet nothing at all - what is it?

And where did it come from?

And why?

(Jaynes 1976, 1)

The problem of consciousness concerns the very essence of human life and has implications for our treatment of other living creatures and for the prospects of creating artificial life.  It is, in short, a big problem - arguably one of the few really big problems left to solve.

(AA308 Philosophy of Mind 2005, Book 5) 



Available to listen (and worth the effort!)

Listen as Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the great nineteenth century political philosopher John Stuart Mill.

Listen to In Our Time: John Stuart Mill on BBC Radio 4


Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the great nineteenth century political philosopher John Stuart Mill. He believed that, 'The true philosophy is the marriage of poetry and logic'. He was one of the first thinkers to argue that a social theory must engage with ideas of culture and the internal life. He used Wordsworth to inform his social theory, he was a proto feminist and his treatise On Liberty is one of the sacred texts of liberalism.

J S Mill believed that action was the natural articulation of thought. He battled throughout his life for social reform and individual freedom and was hugely influential in the extension of the vote. Few modern discussions on race, birth control, the state and human rights have not been influenced by Mill's theories.

How did Mill's utilitarian background shape his political ideas? Why did he think Romantic literature was significant to the rational structure of society? On what grounds did he argue for women's equality? And how did his notions of the individual become central to modern social theory?

With A C Grayling, Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London; Janet Radcliffe Richards, Reader in Bioethics at University College London; Alan Ryan, Professor of Politics at Oxford University.

- ENDS -

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