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History and Philosophy of Science   

Graduate Courses

undergraduate | by title

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2503 History of Science II
McGuire, James
W 3:00-5:30
This course is the second part of the two-part series. It will provide an overview of major developments in the sciences from the second half of the seventeenth century to the first half of the twentieth century, considering the physical, chemical, biological, psychological and social sciences. It will deal with the work of individuals, of general movements and their institutional and national settings.

2513 History of the Theory of Equation
Palmieri, Paolo & Manders, Kenneth
T 9:30-12:00
This seminar explores the history and philosophy of the theory of equations, focusing especially on the question of solvability. We will study works by Cardano, Descartes, Newton, Lagrange, Gauss, Abel, Ruffini, Galois, and others, up until the nineteenth century. We will read primary sources as well as secondary sources relevant to the seminar's topics.

2534 General Relativity and Gravitation
Earman, John
W 6:00-8:30
This seminar will survey foundations issues in classical general relativity theory (including the causal structure of spacetime; the initial value problem, the “hole argument,” and the status of general covariance; and spacetime singularities) and in general relativistic cosmology (including the “horizon problem” and the genesis of inflationary cosmology; accelerating expansion and “dark energy”; and the multiverse and anthropic selection).

2555 / PHIL 2555/20331 / CLASS 2392/20332 Aristotle’s Conception of Natural Science
Lennox, James & Gotthelf, Allan
W 12:00-2:30

In Metaphysics VI. 1 Aristotle distinguishes three areas of theoretical knowledge: first philosophy, natural science and mathematics. There are, however, numerous problems in trying to understand precisely how he thinks these fields are to be differentiated from each other, what sorts of investigations belong in each category, and whether each field has its own distinctive methods and principles. In HPS 2555 we will focus on ‘natural science’ (phusike epistêmê) and on the following questions: How does Aristotle distinguish it respectively from first philosophy and from mathematics? Can we determine which of the investigations Aristotle carried out himself fall within natural science? What, if anything, unifies these investigations such that he considered them to be at once independent investigations and at the same time contributions to a single science of nature? (For example, how are the various works that make up his investigation of animals unified as a single study, and what the place of that study in the science of nature?) Can we form a reasonable picture of the explanatory and conceptual structure of natural science? How should we conceive of the De anima or the ‘subordinate sciences’ of optics, harmonics, astronomy and mechanics in relationship to the science of nature? And finally what philosophical premises shape Aristotle thinking about these questions? We hope and expect that exploring Aristotle’s views about how philosophy, natural science and mathematics are related and about the structure of natural science will at the same time provide us with fresh insights into the relationships within and between these fields.
Besides exploring these questions and themes in the texts of Aristotle, we will examine Andrea Falcon’s recent investigation of many of them in Aristotle and the Science of Nature: Unity without Uniformity (Cambridge 2005). The course will not presuppose knowledge of classical Greek, but, for those who wish to, a reading group will be organized for the purpose of translating and discussing a selection of texts of particular importance to the course themes.

2585 / Anthro 2612/20374 Evolutionary Theory
Schwartz. Jeffrey
T 1:00-3:30
This will be an in-depth survey of the historical development of evolutionary thought, with emphasis on alternatives to Darwinism. The theme of the course will be to identify the assumptions, the things taken as given without foundation, the motivations - to explore how different scholars can take the same observations as "fact" in arriving at totally different conclusions/interpretations. Students will lead class discussion based on their annotation of original works by Darwin, Huxley, Mivart, Mendel, Weismann, de Vries, Bateson, pre- and post-1910 Morgan, Haldane, Wright, Fisher, Dobzhansky, Mayr, Simpson, Goldschmidt, Schindewolf, de Beer, Lovtrup, Alberch, Williams, Eldredge and Gould, and as much else as we can fit in. From this corpus, students will choose topics that they will pursue further in their final papers and presentations. Students will be evaluated on their class participation, annotated bibliographies, and final paper and presentation. Graduate standing in anthropology, history and philosophy of science, biology, and geology, or permission of the instructor.

2622 / PHIL 2625/12924 Recent Topics in Philosophy of Science
Glymour, Clark
T 2:00-4:30

In discussing current philosophy, we should not think the dead having nothing to contribute. Hans Reichenbach’s philosophical work is both a reflection of 19th century philosophical and scientific ideas—from Kant, Helmholtz, Poincare’, Hausdorff, von Kries and others—and an anticipation of current debates and proposals in philosophy of science about realism, the meaning of probability, causality, and other topics. For but one example, the technical thesis and arguments of Michael Strevens’ Bigger than Chaos (Harvard, 2003), are almost exactly those in Reichenbach’s doctoral thesis. For another, the extensive discussions of the connection of causality and probability in recent work by James Woodward (Making Things Happen) and Nancy Cartwright (The Dappled World), are anticipated in various ways in Reichenbach’s The Direction of Time and in Nomological Statements and Admissible Operations. For another, the general perspective of Stephan Hartmann and Luc Bovens’ Bayesian Epistemology was an anathema against which Reichenbach devoted much of his career. We will consider the development of Reichenbach’s philosophical ideas and compare them with current discussions. So, for example, we will read his recently translated doctoral thesis side by side with Strevens’ book, read (parts of) his Theory of Probability in juxtaposition with Bovens and Hartmann, read The Direction of Time and Nomological Operations in connection with Woodward, and read Reichenbach’s Experience and Prediction in connection with recent discussions if scientific realism.

2659 Neurobiology, Reduction and Emergence
Schaffner, Kenneth
H 2:00-4:30
This is an introductory level graduate seminar on the relations of the mind and the brain, with a focus on a number of issues related to the problem of consciousness. Several analyses of reduction, emergence, and integrated ways of approaching experience and reality, including multi-level models and “mechanisms,” will be discussed. These analyses will be the backdrop to in-depth examinations of a range of theories of consciousness, including Dennett’s account, the Churchlands’ eliminitivist approach, and non-reductive views, including Chalmers hard problems, McGinn’s dualism, and strong criticisms of reductive strategies (Uttal and others). The systematic approaches will be supplemented with classical philosophical articles and book chapters, as well as readings on recent developments in the neurosciences, in theoretical brain science, and in computer science. More specific topics to be examined within the broad themes of consciousness, reduction, and emergence include the nature of the self, free will, representation, and learning. Applications to psychiatric disorders will also be discussed.

2673 / CLASS 2314/20334 / PHIL 2041/20336 Studies in Aristotle
Moss, Jessica
T 4:00-6:30

Aristotle holds that all action, human and animal, is for the sake of “the good or the apparent good.” The aim of the seminar is to make sense of this claim, by looking at Aristotle’s discussions of action both in the psychological works (On the Soul, On the Movements of Animals, On Dreams) and in the ethical works (the Nicomachean and Eudemian Ethics). We will investigate, among other things, the role of pleasure in Aristotle’s psychology of action, the relations between perception, ‘imagination,’ and reason in practical thought, and the role of emotions and non-rational desires in character and in action.
This is intended as a “research seminar”: those with no Aristotle background are very welcome, and I’ll provide introduction and orientation, but the course will not be a survey of Aristotle’s ethics or psychology.

2687 / PHIL 2687/20338 Epistemology of Experimental Practices
Mitchell, Sandy & Machery, Edouard
H 9:30-12:00

Observation and Experimentation have long been taken as central to the legitimacy of scientific claims. Richard Feynman wrote “The test of all knowledge is experiment”. Experiment is the sole judge of science ‘truth’ (1963). But how do experiments reveal the way nature is organized? Since Duhem, the problem of the under determination of theory by observation has been known and descriptions of observational results are theory laden. So what is the reasoning by which experimental observations direct the community of scientists to accept or reject a given hypothesis? This seminar will be organized as a research group on the epistemology of experimentation – each participant will develop their own research project within the framework of more general philosophical issues, which jointly engages both the philosophical issues and particular scientific practices and results. Ongoing research reports, a final presentation of results, and an annotated bibliography will be required.

2693 / ENGLIT 2045/20373 / CLST 2041 Philosophy of Science in the Humanities
Machamer, Peter & MacCabe, Colin
T 5:00-7:30

This course will show students how the major concepts in the philosophy of science may be used in relation to dominant forms of humanistic explanation, and why it is important for students in the humanities as well as the sciences to understand these concepts. We will focus on biology as a paradigm science and, particularly, evolutionary biology. The course will examine good and bad evolutionary explanations and use that discussion to focus both on humanistic explanation and general questions of explanation and interpretation.