Topics in the Philosophy of Science

Fall 2020

From Michael Faraday, Experimental Researches in Electricity

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.


Course CodeLocation Times
PHIL-GA 3009OnlineMondays, 1:15pm to 3:15pm




This course will cover three central topics in general philosophy of science: explanation, laws and causation. The focus will be on how general issues intersect with some more applied topics in the particular sciences, with some candidates being: causal and non-causal explanation in evolutionary theory; explainability in artificial intelligence; the relationship between the idea that the dynamical laws of physics govern and the idea that they explain; and the relationship between the cognitive science of causal judgment and the metaphysics of causation. We will focus on the topics that those attending become most interested in.



Due dates:

Annotations: Continuously
Research Paper: Monday 14 December


Meeting One: Introductory Discussion (Wednesday 9 September)

Section I: Explanation

Meeting Two: Nomological Theories of Explanation (Monday 14 September)

Meeting Three: Causal Theories of Explanation (Monday 21 September)

Meeting Four: Counterfactual Theories of Explanation (Monday 28 September)

Meeting Five: Case Study: Drift (Monday 5 October)

Meeting Six: Case Study: Neural Networks (Monday 12 October)

Meeting Seven: Case Study: Chance and Explanation (Monday 19 October)

Section II: Laws

Meeting Eight: Nomic Fundamentalism (Monday 26 October)

Meeting Nine: Humeanism (Monday 2 November)

Meeting Ten: Humeanism and Explanation (Monday 9 November)

Section III: Causation

Meeting Eleven: Actual Causation: Philosophical Background (Monday 16 November)

Meeting Twelve: Actual Causation: Functional Theories (Monday 23 November)

Meeting Thirteen: Actual Causation and Normative Judgement (Monday 30 November)

Meeting Fourteen: Actual Causation and Explanatory Judgement (Monday 7 December)

Updated: 24 November 2020