Summer 2023 - PHIL 343 D100

Topics in the Philosophy of Mind (3)

Mental Representation

Class Number: 2841

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    May 8 – Aug 4, 2023: Tue, 2:30–5:20 p.m.

  • Instructor:

    Simon Pollon
    Office: WMC 5655
  • Prerequisites:

    Either one of: PHIL 201 or 203; or both of PHIL 100, 100W, or 300, and COGS 200.



A study of theories of the mind, consciousness, and human action. Students may repeat this course for further credit under a different topic.


Selected Topics: Mental Representation

Think of the route you take to work or school. Think about the Burnaby Campus. Think about the Surrey Campus. Think about a tree, any tree. Notice that you could do this in a sensory deprivation chamber with minimal to no sensory input. How is this possible?—to think about something that is not before you, not available to your senses? Indeed, how is thinking about something even possible?

The Representational Theory of Mind is meant to answer these questions by postulating that our mental states like beliefs, desires, intentions, wishes, etc., have ‘representational content’—some kind of picture, or word, or something else that stands in for the concrete and abstract objects and states of affairs that we can think about. The fact of representation in our minds, in our mental states, enables us to even think ‘about’—to direct our thoughts in some way at the world beyond our minds and whatever it is that makes up our minds.

In this course, we will discuss many aspects of representational theories of mind, like: what kinds of mental states we have, how those presumed mental states come to have their content, how representational contents are to be individuated, and whether or not representational theories of mind are likely to give us an accurate picture of what minds are and what constitutes them.


  • 5 Short Written Assignments 50%
  • Final Paper 35%
  • Participation (assessed via a combination of class attendance and contribution to class discussion) 15%


Written work for this course will be submitted via Turnitin, a third party service licensed for use by SFU. Turnitin is used for originality checking to help detect plagiarism. Students will be required to create an account with Turnitin, and to submit their work via that account, on the terms stipulated in the agreement between the student and Turnitin. This agreement includes the retention of your submitted work as part of the Turnitin database. Any student with a concern about using the Turnitin service may opt to use an anonymous identity in their interactions with Turnitin. Students who do not intend to use Turnitin in the standard manner must notify the instructor at least two weeks in advance of any submission deadline. In particular, it is the responsibility of any student using the anonymous option (i.e. false name and temporary e-mail address created for the purpose) to inform the instructor such that the instructor can match up the anonymous identity with the student.



Readings will be available electronically through the SFU Library.


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at:

Department Undergraduate Notes:

Thinking of a Philosophy Major or Minor? The Concentration in Law and Philosophy? The Certificate in Ethics? The Philosophy and Methodology of Science Certificate?
Contact the PHIL Advisor at   More details on our website: SFU Philosophy

New elective grade policy : P/CR/NC, pilot project in place from Spring 2021 to Summer 2023. List of exclusions for the new policy. Specifically for Philosophy: 

  • Students can use a P or CR to satisfy any requirement for a major, joint major, honours, or minor in Philosophy (with the exception of Honours tutorials).
  • Students can use a P or CR to satisfy any prerequisite requirement for any PHIL course.
  • Students can use a P (but not a CR) to satisfy any requirement for the Ethics Certificate, or the Philosophy and Methodology of Science Certificate.
  • Philosophy Majors and Honours students can use a P (but not a CR) to satisfy any WQB requirement.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating. Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the university community. Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the university. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the university.


Students with a faith background who may need accommodations during the semester are encouraged to assess their needs as soon as possible and review the Multifaith religious accommodations website. The page outlines ways they begin working toward an accommodation and ensure solutions can be reached in a timely fashion.