Philosophy of Science
Michael Faraday's diagram of magnetic lines of force, from his “Experimental Researches in Electricity” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Vol. 142, 1 January 1852, pp. 25–56.
|PHL 252, PHL 252W, PHL 452||Dewey 2110D||Mondays and Wednesdays, 3:25pm to 4:40pm|
This is a survey course in general philosophy of science, focussing on metaphysical questions concerning the nature of science. Our questions: Do scientific explanations work because they tell us about laws, or because they tell us about causes, or for some other reason? How should we understand scientific laws? Do the laws of nature govern the world or simply encapsulate some interesting patterns in the world? What is the relationship between lower level and higher level laws, and between lower level and higher level scientific theories? The course may taken for upper level writing credit.
- Ten 1–2 page weekly reading summaries. Ideally each summary will include a proposed question or topic for discussion, and an indication of which—if any—parts of the reading were unclear or confusing.
- A 10–15 minute presentation, followed by discussion.
- A first 5–7 page research paper, questions to be provided.
- A second 9–11 page research paper, questions to be provided.
The final grade will be determined as follows:
Note: Graduate students or students enrolled for upper level writing credit will be required to write longer essays. Graduate students will also be required to do additional reading and meet for an additional discussion section.
|First Paper:||Monday 16 March||Questions [PDF]|
|Second Paper:||Monday 4 May||Questions [PDF]|
|Reading Summaries:||At each associated class, with no exceptions|
Essay guidelines [PDF]
Lecture One (Wednesday 14 January)
Introductory Discussion: What is Science?
Lecture Two (Wednesday 21 January)
Sections §1–§2 to be read for this class.
Lecture Three (Monday 26 January)
Focus on sections §1–§2.
Scriven, Michael. 1959. “Explanation and Prediction in Evolutionary Theory: Satisfactory Explanation of the Past is Possible Even When Prediction of the Future is Impossible”, in Science, Vol. 130, No. 3374, 28 August, 1959, pp. 477–482. [URI].
Lecture Four (Wednesday 28 January)
Lecture Five (Monday 2 February)
Salmon, Wesley C. 1989. “Four Decades of Scientific Explanation”, in Philip Kitcher and Wesley Salmon (Eds), Scientific Explanation, Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science, Vol. 13, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, pp. 3-219. [PDF]
Sections §2.4–§3.1 to be read for this class (§3.2 is optional).
Lecture Six (Wednesday 4 February)
Lecture Seven (Monday 9 February)
Lecture Eight (Wednesday 11 February)
Kuorikoski, Jaakko. 2007. “Explaining with Equilibria”, in Johannes Persson and Petri Ylikoski (Eds), Rethinking Explanation, Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, Vol. 252, Springer, New York, pp. 149–162. [PDF]
Lecture Nine (Monday 16 February)
Lecture Ten (Wednesday 18 February)
Lecture Eleven (Monday 23 February)
Lecture Twelve (Wednesday 25 February)
Reprinted in his The Concept of a Person and Other Essays, Macmillan, London, 1963, 209–234 and Martin Curd and Jan A. Cover (Eds), Philosophy of Science: The Central Issues, W. W. Norton, New York, 1998, pp. 808–825 and Michael Tooley (Ed), Laws of Nature, Causation, and Supervenience, Metaphysics, Vol 1, Garland, New York, pp. 52–73.
Lecture Thirteen (Monday 2 March)
It is pp. 365–368 that is relevant to our discussion.
Lecture Fourteen (Wednesday 4 March)
Lecture Fifteen (Monday 16 March)
Lecture Sixteen (Wednesday 18 March)
Earman, John and John T. Roberts. 2005. “Contact with the Nomic: A Challenge for Deniers of Humean Supervenience about Laws of Nature Part I: Humean Supervenience”, in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Vol. 71, No. 1, July 2005, pp. 1–22. [URI]
Earman, John and John T. Roberts. 2005. “Contact with the Nomic: A Challenge for Deniers of Humean Supervenience about Laws of Nature Part II: The Epistemological Argument for Humean Supervenience”, in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Vol. 71, No. 2, September 2005, pp. 253–286. [URI]
Lecture Seventeen (Monday 23 March)
Schaffer, Jonathan. 2008. “Causation and Laws of Nature: Reductionism”, in Theodore Sider and John Hawthorne and Dean W. Zimmerman (Eds), Contemporary Debates in Metaphysics, Blackwell, Malden MA, 2008, 82–108. [PDF]
Lecture Eighteen (Wednesday 25 March)
Today our regular class is cancelled so that we can attend a lecture by Chris Fuchs which will be (partly) on the topic of how to understand the laws of quantum mechanics. The lecture will be at 3:45pm in Bausch and Lomb 106.
Optional Background Reading
Timpson, Christopher Gordon. 2008. “Quantum Bayesianism: A Study”, in Studies In History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies In History and Philosophy of Modern Physics, Vol. 39, No. 3, September 2008, pp. 579–609. [URI]
Lecture Nineteen (Monday 30 March)
Reprinted in Carroll, John W. 2004. Readings on Laws of Nature, University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, pp. 250–276.
Lecture Twenty (Wednesday 1 April)
Beatty, John. 1995. “The Evolutionary Contingency Thesis”, in Gereon Wolters and James G. Lennox (Eds), Concepts, Theories, and Rationality in the Biological Sciences, University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, 1995, pp. 45–81. [PDF]
Reprinted in Elliott Sober, Conceptual Issues in Evolutionary Biology: An Anthology, 3rd Edition, MIT Press, Cambridge MA, 2006, pp. 217–248; and Marc Lange, Philosophy of Science: An Anthology, Blackwell, Malden MA, 2006, pp. 338–357.
Sober, Elliott. 1997. “Two Outbreaks of Lawlessness in Recent Philosophy of Biology”, in Philosophy of Science, Vol. 64, No. 4, December 1997, Supplement, Proceedings of the 1996 Biennial Meetings of the Philosophy of Science Association, Part II: Symposia Papers, pp. S458– S467. [URI]
Reprinted in Elliott Sober, Conceptual Issues in Evolutionary Biology: An Anthology, 3rd Edition, MIT Press, Cambridge MA, 2006, pp. 249–260.
Lecture Twenty One (Monday 6 April)
Lecture Twenty One (Wednesday 8 April)
Lecture Twenty Three (Monday 13 April)
Lecture Twenty Four (Wednesday 15 April)
Reprinted in Ned Block (Ed), Readings in Philosophy of Psychology, Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA, 1980, Vol. 1, pp. 120–133; Jerry A. Fodor, RePresentations: Philosophical Essays on the Foundations of Cognitive Science, MIT Press, Cambridge MA, 1983, pp. 127–145; Paul K. Moser and J. D. Trout (Eds), Contemporary Materialism: A Reader, Routledge, London, 1995, pp. 53–67; and Mark A. Bedau and Paul Humphreys (Eds), Emergence: Contemporary Readings in Philosophy And Science, MIT Press, Cambridge MA, 2008, pp. 395–410.
Lecture Twenty Five (Monday 20 April)
Lecture Twenty Six (Wednesday 22 April)
Loewer, Barry. 2008. “Why There Is Anything Except Physics”, in Jesper Kallestrup and Jakob Hohwy (Eds), Being Reduced: New Essays on Reduction, Explanation and Causation, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 149–163. [PDF]
Callender, Craig. 1997. “What Is ‘The Problem of the Direction of Time’?”, in Philosophy of Science, Vol. 64, Supplement, Proceedings of the 1996 Biennial Meetings of the Philosophy of Science Association Part II: Symposia Papers, December 1997, pp. S223–S234. [URI]
Lecture Twenty Seven (Monday 27 April)
Lecture Twenty Eight (Wednesday 29 April)
Today we'll have a general discussion and recap of the course. Those wishing to submit writing summaries—please write to me telling me what you liked and what you didn't like about the course.
Optional: Two Nobel Laureates on The Big Picture
Reprinted in Mark A. Bedau and Paul Humphreys (Eds), Emergence: Contemporary Readings in Philosophy And Science, MIT Press, Cambridge MA, 2008, pp. 345–358.
Updated: 28 April 2009