Curriculum Overview 

Scientific and Philosophical Studies of Mind (SPM) seeks to bridge the sciences and the humanities in the study of a common topic: the nature of mind. In order to provide a breadth of perspective as well as depth in an area of special interest, the SPM curriculum divides into two Areas of Concentration: Cognitive Science and Moral Psychology.

Cognitive science is concerned with how minds fit into the natural world. Nature is mechanistic; could the mind be a machine? Can other animals—or even computers or robots—think? What is the (neural?) basis for consciousness? How do minds and mental abilities develop as we mature?

Moral psychology is concerned with what it is for an individual to be a moral agent—worthwhile and responsible in a way that rocks, trees and the “lower” animals appear not to be. Can we square our moral assessment of persons with a psychological understanding of the self? What does it take for a life to be significant or meaningful?

Successfully bridging the sciences and humanities so as to answer these questions requires that students gain a broad background in both the content and methodology of philosophy and psychology; the courses in the “Core” of the major aim to provide this background. The needed depth is provided in the concentrations themselves, in which majors further hone their skills of critical thinking and philosophical analysis in the context of the interpretation, assessment and even construction of empirical research. The SPM major culminates in the Senior Research Seminar, in which students conduct research on a topic that combines both philosophical and scientific approaches to the study of a topic of their choosing. Majors may also expand their senior thesis with the goal of presenting the project for departmental honors.

A major in SPM consists of 12 courses. Of these, five courses are required as a part of the common core, and six courses must be within a particular area of concentration. (For details, see below.) The remaining course can be from either concentration or from the following list: FND 126; FND 127; FND 129; FND 152; FND 154; PHI 213.

Students intending to major in SPM are encouraged to take one or more of the following courses in their first year: PSY 100, PSY 230 or one of the Foundations curriculum courses from the above list. Students who decide to enter the SPM major after reaching the 300-level in psychology, but without having taken Introductory Psychology, should substitute any second 300-level psychology course for PSY 100.


  • The following courses are required for the core:
  • PSY 100: Introduction to Psychology.
  • PSY 230: Experimental Design and Statistics.
  • SPM 250: Philosophy of Mind.
  • SPM 337: Philosophy of Natural Science.
  • SPM 495: Senior Research Seminar.


Areas of Concentration

Majors may select either the Cognitive Science or the Moral Psychology Concentration. The six courses within the concentration must be evenly split between those designated as science courses and those designated as humanities courses. In addition, at least one course in the sciences and at least one course in the humanities must be at the 300-level or higher. The following summarizes what courses fulfill what requirements in the concentrations.

Cognitive Science

Sciences: CPS 210: Intermediate Programming; BIO 220: Principles of Physiology and Development; SPM 240: Neuroscience; BFB 250: Animal Behavior; SPM 301: Sensation and Perception; SPM 302: Biopsychology; SPM 303: Ecological Psychology; SPM 304: Developmental Psychology; SPM 305: Cognitive Psychology; SPM 306: Evolution of Mind and Intelligence; SPM 312: Embodied Cognition; SPM 375: Cognitive Neuroscience; SPM 48x: Collaborative Research.

Humanities: LIN 101: General Linguistics; PHI 244: Symbolic Logic; SPM 255: Mobile Robotics; SPM 256: Evolutionary Psychology of Religion; PHI 331: Free Will; PHI 335: Epistemology; PHI 339: Philosophy of Language; PHI 342: Rational Choice; SPM 355: Possibility of Artificial Intelligence; SPM 374: Philosophy of Emotions; SPM 37x: Phenomenology and Cognitive Science.

Moral Psychology

Sciences: SOC 220: Social Psychology; SOC 301: History of Sociology; SPM 304: Developmental Psychology; SPM 307: Personality Psychology; SPM 308: Psychopathology; SPM 309: Social Psychology; SOC 320: Criminology; SOC 380: Sociology of Law; SPM 489: History and Philosophy of Psychology; SPM 48x: Collaborative Research.

Humanities: PHI 220: Moral Theory; GOV 241: Classical Political Theory; GOV 242: Modern Political Theory; PHI 319: 20th-Century Continental Philosophy; SPM 331: Free Will; SPM 360: Concept of a Person; SPM 361: Moral Psychology; SPM 365: Friendship and Character; SPM 375: Respect, Responsibility, and Ethics; RST 384: Soul in Search of Selfhood.

Majors in the Scientific and Philosophical Studies of Mind Program have studied abroad in the following programs in recent years: University of Melbourne; Victoria University; Tohoku Gakuin (Japan); Tibetan Studies. We also have arranged an exchange program with the Institute of Cognitive Science at the University of Osnabrück, Germany. See the International Programs section of the Catalog for further information.

Areas of Concentration 

A list of regularly offered courses follows. Please note the key for the following abbreviations: (A) Arts; (H) Humanities; (S) Social Sciences; (N) Natural Sciences with Laboratory; (LS) Language Studies requirement; (NSP) Natural Science in Perspective; (NW) Non-Western Cultures requirement.


Cognitive  Science

1. Sciences

Courses not cross-listed with SPM. See department listing for descriptions.

  • BIO 220. Principles of Physiology and Development.*(N)
  • CPS 210. Intermediate Programming.*
  • PSY/BFB/BIO 250. Animal Behavior. (N)
  • PSY/BFB 310. Conditioning and Learning.
  • PSY 487. Collaborative Research in Biological Psychology. (N)
2. Humanities 

Courses not cross-listed with SPM. See department listing for description.

  • LIN 101. Introduction to Linguistics.
  • PHI 244. Symbolic Logic. (H)
  • PHI 331. Free Will. (H)
  • PHI 335. Epistemology. (H)
  • PHI 339. Philosophy of Language. (H)
  • PHI 342. Rational Choice. (H)

Note that courses below marked with an asterisk (*) have prerequisites that do not count toward the SPM major.



Moral Psychology 

1. Sciences

Courses not cross-listed with SPM. See department listing for description.

  • PSY 482. Collaborative Research in Social Psychology. (N)
  • PSY 484. Collaborative Research in Personality. (N)
  • PSY 488. Collaborative Research in Psychopathology. (N)
  • SOC 220. Social Psychology.*
  • SOC 301. History of Sociological Theory.*
  • SOC 320. Criminology.*
  • SOC 480. Sociology of Law.* 
2. Humanities 
Courses not cross-listed with SPM. See department listing for description.
  • GOV 241. Classical Political Theory. (H)
  • GOV 242. Modern Political Theory. (H)
  • PHI 220. Moral Theory. (H)
  • PHI 319. 20th-Century Continental Philosophy. (H)
  • PHI 331. Free Will. (H)
  • RST 384. Soul in Search of Selfhood: The Writings of St. Augustine. (H)


Special Topics 

See program chairperson for information on what major requirements particular special topics offerings satisfy.

Topics Courses Expected to be Offered in 2014-2015 

Philosophy of Emotions.

490. Independent Study.

Independent study directed by the SPM staff. Permission of the chairperson required.