Philosophy of Science
Robert Mangold, Ring B, Orange, 2010.
|PHIL-SHU 90-001 (19362)||1555 Century Avenue, Room 304||Tuesdays and Thursdays, 11:30am–12:45pm|
|Brad Weslakeemail@example.com||1555 Century Avenue, Room 1226||Tuesdays and Thursdays, 3:00pm–4:00pm, or by appointment.|
This is a survey course in general philosophy of science. Our topics include: Is scientific knowledge different from other forms of knowledge? Should the history of science be seen as an ever-increasing advance of knowledge? Given that most scientific theories have turned out to be false, are we justified in believing that our current theories are true? What are scientific explanations, and what makes an explanation better than another? Do the laws of nature govern the world or simply encapsulate some interesting patterns in the world? What is the relationship between more and less fundamental scientific theories? We will examine these questions through readings drawn from both the history and philosophy of science.
The aim of this course is for students to significantly improve their capacity to:
- Extract, explain and evaluate the arguments contained in philosophical texts.
- Understand the central arguments and theories contained in the assigned readings.
- Contribute to constructive philosophical discussion.
- Write clear, concise, and well organised philosophical essays.
- Three 6–8 page papers.
- Attendance and participation.
The final grade will be determined approximately as follows:
|Attendance and participation:||10%|
|First Paper:||Tuesday 6 October||[PDF]|
|Second Paper:||Thursday 12 November||[PDF]|
|Third Paper:||Thursday 10 December||[PDF]|
Attendance and Lateness
Students are required to attend all classes on time. An explanation for every absence or late attendance must be submitted in writing to the instructor. Every failure to attend class on time will count against the component of the final grade awarded for attendance and participation, unless an explanation is received and approved at least one day prior to the class in question. Requests for exceptions will be considered on a case by case basis, and typically granted only when related to an illness or other unforeseeable change in life circumstance. Students who have been excessively absent will be considered to have unofficially withdrawn and will be given a final grade of F.
It is a condition on passing this course that students read and adhere to the NYU Shanghai policy on academic integrity as described in the current NYU Shanghai Academic Bulletin.
Meeting 1: What is Philosophy of Science? (Tuesday 1 September)
Section I: What is Science?
Meeting 2: Falsificationism (Friday 4 September)
- Popper, Karl. 1963. “Science: Conjectures and Refutations”, in Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, pp. 33–58, §§1–3.
Meeting 3: Normal Science (Tuesday 8 September)
- Kuhn, Thomas S. 1970. “Logic of Discovery or Psychology of Research?”, in Lakatos and Musgrave (Ed), Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, Vol. 4, pp. 1–22.
Meeting 4: Testing and Auxiliary Hypotheses (Thursday 10 September)
- Putnam, Hilary. 1974. “The ‘Corroboration’ of Theories”, in Schilpp (Ed), The Philosophy of Karl Popper, Open Court, La Salle, Vol. 14, pp. 221–240.
Meeting 5: String Theory I (Tuesday 15 September)
- Smolin, Lee. 2006. “What is Science?”, in The Trouble with Physics: The Rise of String Theory, the Fall of a Science, and What Comes Next, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, pp. 289–307.
- Woit, Peter. 2006. “Is Superstring Theory Science?”, in Not Even Wrong: The Failure of String Theory and the Continuing Challenge to Unify the Laws of Physics, Jonathan Cape, London, pp. 208–216.
Meeting 6: String Theory II (Thursday 17 September)
- Dawid, Richard. 2011. “Theory Assessment and Final Theory Claim in String Theory”, in Foundations of Physics, Vol. 43, No. 1, September, pp. 81–100. URI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10701-011-9592-x.
Meeting 7: String Theory III (Tuesday 22 September)
- Ritson, Sophie and Camilleri, Kristian. 2015. “Contested Boundaries: The String Theory Debates and Ideologies of Science”, in Perspectives on Science, Vol. 23, No. 2, pp. 192–227. URI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1162/POSC_a_00168.
Meeting 8: The Demise of Demarcation (Thursday 24 September)
- Laudan, Larry. 1983. “The Demise of the Demarcation Problem”, in Cohen and Laudan (Ed), Physics, Philosophy and Psychoanalysis: Essays in Honor of Adolf Grünbaum, Reidel, Dordrecht, Vol. 76, pp. 111–127.
Section II: Induction and Confirmation
Meeting 9: The Old Problem of Induction I (Tuesday 6 October)
- Lange, Marc. 2011. “Hume and the Problem of Induction”, in Gabbay, Hartmann and Woods (Ed), Handbook of the History and Philosophy of Logic, Elsevier, Amsterdam, Vol. 10: Inductive Logic, pp. 43–91, §§1–6.
Meeting 10: The Old Problem of Induction II (Thursday 8 October)
- Lange, continued.
Meeting 11: Theories of Confirmation I (Tuesday 13 October)
- Easier: Godfrey-Smith, Peter. 2003. “Induction and Confirmation”, in Theory and Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp. 39–56.
- Harder: Earman, John and Salmon, Wesley C. 1992. “The Confirmation of Scientific Hypotheses”, in Salmon, Earman, Glymour and Lennox (Ed), Introduction to the Philosophy of Science, Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs NJ, pp. 42–103, §§2.1–2.4.
Meeting 12: Theories of Confirmation II (Thursday 15 October)
- Godfrey-Smith, Earman and Salmon continued.
Meeting 13: The New Problem of Induction (Tuesday 20 October)
- Goodman, Nelson. 1955. “The New Riddle of Induction”, in Fact, Fiction, and Forecast, Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA, pp. 59–83.
Section III: Values and Objectivity
Meeting 14: Bias and its Consequences (Thursday 22 October)
- Okruhlik, Kathleen. 1994. “Gender and the Biological Sciences”, in Canadian Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 24, January, pp. 21–42.
Meeting 15: Values and Inductive Risk (Tuesday 27 October)
- Douglas, Heather. 2000. “Inductive Risk and Values in Science”, in Philosophy of Science, Vol. 67, No. 4, December, pp. 559–579.
Meeting 16: Values and Underdetermination (Thursday 29 October)
- Intemann, Kristen. 2005. “Feminism, Underdetermination, and Values in Science”, in Philosophy of Science, Vol. 72, No. 5, December, pp. 1001–1012.
Special Event on Monday 2 November
“Expanding Epistemic Risk“, a lecture by Rebecca Kukla, Professor of Philosophy at Georgetown University (5:30pm–6:30pm, Room 101).
Section IV: Laws
Meeting 17: Against Fundamentalism (Tuesday 3 November)
- Cartwright, Nancy. 1994. “Fundamentalism vs. the Patchwork of Laws”, in Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Vol. 94, No. 1, June, pp. 279–292. URI: https://doi.org/10.1093/aristotelian/94.1.279.
Meeting 18: For Fundamentalism (Thursday 5 November)
- Sklar, Lawrence. 2003. “Dappled Theories in a Uniform World”, in Philosophy of Science, Vol. 70, No. 2, April, pp. 424–441. URI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/375476.
Meeting 19: Regularities (Tuesday 10 November)
- Bird, Alexander. 1998. “Laws of Nature”, in Philosophy of Science, McGill-Queen’s University Press, Montreal, pp. 17–40. For today, read pp. 17–32.
Meeting 20: Necessities (Thursday 12 November)
- Bird, Alexander. 1998. “Laws of Nature”, in Philosophy of Science, McGill-Queen’s University Press, Montreal, pp. 17–40. For today, read pp. 33–40.
Meeting 21: Governing (Sunday 15 November)
- Beebee, Helen. 2000. “The Non-Governing Conception of Laws of Nature”, in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Vol. 61, No. 3, November, pp. 571–594. URI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/2653613.
Section V: Explanation
Meeting 22: Nomological Theories (Tuesday 17 November)
- Hempel, Carl Gustav. 1965. “Aspects of Scientific Explanation”, in Aspects of Scientific Explanation and Other Essays in the Philosophy of Science, Free Press, New York, pp. 331–496. Read §§1–2.
Meeting 23: Singular Causal Explanations (Thursday 19 November)
- Woodward, James. 2003. “Causal Explanation: Background and Criticism”, in Making Things Happen: A Theory of Causal Explanation, Oxford University Press, New York, pp. 152–186.
Meeting 24: Causal Theories (Tuesday 24 November)
- Lewis, David. 1986. “Causal Explanation”, in Philosophical Papers, Oxford University Press, Oxford, Vol. II, pp. 214–240. URI: http://doi.org/10.1093/0195036468.003.0007.
- Sober, Elliott. 1983. “Equilibrium Explanation”, in Philosophical Studies, Vol. 43, No. 2, March, pp. 201–210. URI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/BF00372383.
Meeting 25: Explanatory Depth (Tuesday 1 December)
- Woodward, James and Hitchcock, Christopher. 2003. “Explanatory Generalizations, Part II: Plumbing Explanatory Depth”, in Noûs, Vol. 37, No. 2, June, pp. 181–199. URI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1468-0068.00435.
- Weslake, Brad. 2010. “Explanatory Depth”, in Philosophy of Science, Vol. 77, No. 2, April, pp. 273–294. URI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/651316.
Section VI: Reduction and Emergence
Meeting 26: (Thursday 3 December)
- Bedau, Mark A. 1997. “Weak Emergence”, in Noûs, Vol. 31, pp. 375–399. URI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/0029-4624.31.s11.17.
Meeting 27: (Tuesday 8 December)
- Selections from Mitchell, Melanie. 2009. Complexity: A Guided Tour, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Meeting 28: (Thursday 10 December)
- Kim, Jaegwon. 1999. “Making Sense of Emergence”, in Philosophical Studies, Vol. 95, No. 1 - 2, pp. 3–36. URI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1023/A:1004563122154.
Updated: 2 December 2015