MSc Mind, Language and Embodied Cognition

An intensive grounding in the philosophy of embodied cognitive science

Four views of a brain scan with an x-ray of a hand


This programme examines the wide landscape of issues that arise where philosophy of mind meets the study of psychology, linguistics, and cognitive science. In particular, the programme links these issues with the growing body of work in embodied cognition, one of the most exciting areas of contemporary research in philosophy of mind.

Programme content and structure

Comprehensive programme overview

The combination of courses you take is tailored to your interests, and agreed at the start of the year in consultation with the programme director.

Compulsory courses

There are two courses that all students on this programme take:

  • Introduction to Mind, Language and Embodied Cognition
  • Advanced topics in Mind, Language and Embodied Cognition

Students who are relatively new to the study of philosophy are also required to take Introduction to Philosophical Methods.

Optional courses

A significant part of the programme is made up of optional courses. These come from across the University and cover a diverse range of topics, such as:

  • Social Cognition
  • Psychology of Language Learning
  • Mind, Body, and Consciousness
  • Neural Computation

There are many other options available. For a list of suggestions, see the comprehensive overview linked to above.


The dissertation is worth 60 of the 180 credits required for an MSc, and provides an opportunity to pursue research into your chosen area of interest. The project is carried out under the supervision of a member of staff within the School, or potentially from a related subject area such as Informatics.

Learning outcomes and careers

Embodied cognition is the study of minds as embedded in, interacting with, and inextricable from the physical, biological, and social environments in which they evolve, develop, and act.

Embodied cognition marks a point of convergence between the front-lines of cognitive science and philosophy, drawing on analytic and continental traditions, the philosophy of mind and language, the philosophy of biology, moral philosophy and ethics, in live dialogue with empirical research in psychology, linguistics, artificial intelligence, robotics, human-computer interaction, and beyond.

This programme will provide you with the training necessary to undertake research in philosophy of cognitive science, and ultimately to pursue a career in academic philosophy. You will also acquire an understanding of the central debates in the sciences of the mind today.

If you do not intend to follow an academic route, the study of philosophy helps to develop general intellectual abilities and enhance analytical, critical, interpretive and problem-solving abilities.

Who is this programme for?

Students join this programme from a wide range of backgrounds, including but not limited to philosophy, psychology, linguistics, and cognitive science. The main features we look for in applicants are an interest in the topic and a strong academic record.

If you have any questions about the suitability of your academic background, please contact the programme director, Dr Tillmann Vierkant.

Why study philosophy at Edinburgh?

The University is at the cutting edge of research in philosophy, and has particular strength in areas that require collaboration between philosophy, psychology, and linguistics.

In December 2014, the Research Excellence Framework highlighted our work in philosophy of mind and cognition as deserving of special mention.

Edinburgh also attracts a wide range of visiting speakers, with figures such as Daniel Dennett, Steven Pinker, and Simon Blackburn passing through the University in recent years.

Our own Professor Andy Clark is one of the leading contemporary thinkers in the philosophy of mind, and is known in particular for his exploration of the Extended Mind hypothesis.

Teaching and assessment

This programme comprises two semesters of taught courses followed by a dissertation of 8,000 words written towards the end of the second semester. You will be assigned a dissertation supervisor with whom you meet to plan your reading and discuss your work.

Facilities and resources

Students can avail themselves of the resources (including study space, libraries, and computer labs) available within the school of Philosophy, Psychology, and Language Sciences, as well as in the university more broadly.

Student support

In addition to the student support offered to all students in the school of Philosophy, Psychology, and Language Sciences, your Programme Director or Supervisor will be able to provide you with academic advice and guidance specific to your programme of study.

Staff profiles

    Research interests
Tillman Vierkant

Dr Tillmann Vierkant

Programme Director

Philosophy of mind; free will; mental actions; mindreading; consciousness; implicit/explicit mental processing; neuroethics; philosophy of psychology and cognitive science
Andy Clark
Professor Andy Clark FRSE Philosophy of mind; artificial intelligence, including robotics, artificial life, embodied cognition, and mind, technology and culture
Alistair Isaac
Dr Alistair Isaac The nature of representation and its role in inference
Jesper Kallestrup
Professor Jesper Kallestrup Philosophy of language; epistemology; philosophy of mind
Suilin Lavelle
Dr Suilin Lavelle Philosophy of psychology; philosophy of mind; cognitive science; moral psychology; philosophy of science
Aidan McGlynn
Dr Aidan McGlynn Epistemology; philosophy of language; philosophy of mind
Rob Rupert
Professor Rob Rupert Philosophy of mind; philosophical foundations of cognitive science; philosophy of science; metaphysics
  Dr Paul Schweizer Philosophical logic; the computational paradigm and conceptual foundations of cognitive science and AI; philosophy of mind and language
Mark Sprevak
Dr Mark Sprevak Philosophy of mind, philosophy of science, metaphysics, and philosophy of language, with particular focus on the cognitive sciences
Nick Treanor
Dr Nick Treanor Metaphysics, epistemology and the philosophy of mind
David Ward
Dr David Ward Philosophy of mind and cognitive science

Banner image: "In My Head" by David Foltz.

Find out more

Fees, funding and how to apply