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Department of

History and Philosophy of Science   

Graduate Courses

undergraduate | by title

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2501 / PHIL 2600/10725 Philosophy of Science Core
Norton, John
H 9:30-12

This course will focus on central topics in philosophy of science, from the era of logical positivism onwards: including explanation, confirmation, theory change, the meaning of theoretical terms, and scientific realism.

2503 History of Science I
Palmieri, Paolo
M 2-4:30

This course is designed as a survey of specific movements in the history of science from antiquity to the early 17th century. Highlighted during this course will be topics in the history of mathematics, physics, optics, astronomy, biology, and medicine. Most readings will be drawn from primary source materials. This course is the first part of a two-part series. The second course, History of Science II, will deal with specific issues from the 17th century up to the present. Throughout, it should be kept in mind that a major goal of this course is the development of the skills and techniques of the historian. Specific topics treated in these survey courses vary from year-to-year and from professor-to-professor. The seminar is open to graduate students and advanced undergraduate students from other departments by permission only. Interested students should contact the professor for an interview.

2542 Hobbes and Spinoza
Machamer, Peter
W 5:30-8

Thomas Hobbes and Benedict de Spinoza are often seen as contrary contemporaries in the history of philosophy. Hobbes was the complete materialist, with a vision of unified science that ranging from geometry and matter, though the nature of humans, to the nature of the commonwealth. Spinoza is concerned to derive all from the nature of God (an anathema to Hobbes). But Spinoza too was a monist, and had a unified view of nature (and natures). And it is arguable that Spinoza takes his idea of body from Hobbes. This course will read carefully selected texts from Hobbes and Spinoza, including from De Corpore, De Homin, Leviathan, and the Ethics--and the reactions of both of Descartes.

2553 Darwin's Origin
Lennox, Jim
T 9:30-12

This seminar is in part an examination of the argumentative strategies used by Charles Darwin in On the Origin of Species, and in part a historical inquiry into the origins of those strategies. Thus we will begin with a study of the first edition of the Origin, and then, beginning with the scientific and philosophic context of the early 19th century, search for the origins of the Origin. For this purpose we will make use of such tools of research as Darwin's correspondence, marginalia and private notebooks. There is a second order, historiographic inquiry implicit in such research, highlighted by such questions as: Can historians of science uncover the cognitive strategies of a historical figure? What tools and methods are needed for such work to succeed? How, if at all, are the argumentative strategies of a published text related to the strategies used in the research and inquiry leading to that text, or in the formulating and preliminary testing of hypotheses and theories? What is the connection between the logic, methodology, cognitive strategies and rhetoric of a scientific text? We will keep these sorts of historiographic questions in view as we work on understanding Charles Darwin and his work on 'the species problem.'

2565 The Gene: The Transformation and Fragmentation of a Concept
Schaffner, Ken
H 2-4:30

The gene has enjoyed the status of a fundamental unit, a concept with a privileged status in biology. But just as its centrality in modern biology became recognized, the unity of its conceptual status began to erode so that today there are many different definitions of the concept. But the gene concept persists in diverse forms. We plot this checkered career of the gene from hypothetical construct to indivisible particle and on to divisible segment of a long chain molecule, paying special attention to the distinction often discussed by philosophers between the so-called classical gene and the molecular gene. We review the development of the "human genome project" in the context of the so-called privileged status of the gene, the generality of the principles of molecular biology, and their application to the mystery of the origin of life. The course will also discuss various approaches to the historiography of the biological sciences, including the role of oral history and the use of various document sources.

2633 / PHIL 2633/18983 Philosophy of Cognitive Science
Machery, Edouard
W 2-4:30

This course will survey the main philosophical questions provoked by cognitive science. Students will acquire a comprehensive grasp of the main issues in this field. Lectures and readings will be taken from artificial intelligence, psychology, philosophy, and neuroscience. We will discuss questions such as: Is the mind modular? Is the mind embodied and situated? Do we ascribe mental states by simulation or by means of a theory? What is consciousness? What are concepts?

2654 19th Century Philosophy of Science
Snyder, Laura
M 5:30-8

In 19th century Britain, controversies about the nature of science were very often intertwined with debates over issues in morality and politics. Some writers, such as J.S. Mill, were primarily interested in these other issues, and developed a philosophy of science expressly for political ends. Others, such as William Whewell and John Herschel, were actively involved in the practice of science, and desired accurately to portray the philosophy and methods of science, yet nevertheless believed that philosophy of science could help in solving some of the social problems of the day. In this course we will examine the views of science developed by these thinkers and others, and consider the relations between these views and disputes over morality and politics in Victorian Britain.

2679 / PHIL 2580/18984 Philosophy of Mathematics
Manders, Kenneth
T 9:30-12

At least since Russell, analytic philosophers have had a dim view of diagrams in traditional "Euclidean" geometrical proof: diagrams are misleading and proofs using them have gaps. Ancient-style geometrical reasoning practice, however, was so resilient across a millennium of general cultural disruption that it emerges in the modern period as the model of human intellectual certainty; and indeed its results are without exception subsumed in contemporary mathematics. Maybe it's worth another look. We will reconstruct ancient diagram-based reasoning practice (basic plane geometry) and contrast it with modern re-castings (Hilbert, Tarski) and criticisms (Hahn), to find a new philosophical perspective. Issues include: deploying the notion of mathematical practice on historical data in a philosophically productive way; distinct agentive roles, limit-apodicticity, partial-negation and otherwise propositionally under-articulate reasoning. We will also see why diagram-based geometrical reasoning is the source of pressure for an epistemological intermediate between empirical and non-empirical knowledge (as in Kant's a priori intuition). The course is designed as an introduction with short-paper requirements; a research-paper would also be an option.