HPS 2682 Theories of Confirmation Spring 2021

Files from HPS 2682, Fall 2010.
Files from HPS 2682, Spring 2017

Course documents.

Science is distinguished from other investigations of nature in that the claims of mature sciences are strongly supported by empirical evidence. Theories of confirmation provide accounts of this relation of inductive support. We shall review the range of theories of confirmation, including formal and less formal approaches. The review will be critical; none of them is entirely successful. The theories will be tested against significant cases of the use of evidence in science.

John D. Norton, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, 11th floor CL, 412 624 5896 jdnorton@pitt.edu
Zoom Room
Wednesday 2:20pm - 4:50pm

Your Part

Term paper
To be submitted by 5pm, Friday April 30 in email.

The paper may be on any subject of relevance to the seminar. If you are unsure of a topic, a natural project is to take some episode in history of science in which evidential relations were prominent and see how well a popular account of inductive inferences fits with it. (See "small project" below.)

To assist you in commencing work, please submit a paper proposal by the seminar meeting, Wednesday April 7, in email ahead of the class meeting. The proposal need only be brief. It should contain a short paragraph describing the topic to be investigated and give a brief indication of the sources you intend to use. Do talk to me about possible topics in advance!

My policy is NOT to issue incomplete grades, excepting in extraordinary circumstances. I really do want your papers completed and submitted by the end of term. We do not want them to linger on like an overdue dental checkup, filling your lives with unnecessary worry and guilt.
Small project, week 2, Wednesday January 27.
Each of you will find an interesting evidential claim in science made by scientists, either in present science or past science, and describe it briefly (10 minutes) in our Wednesday January 27 meeting. The natural choice is to note that item X is claimed by scientists to be strong evidence for hypothesis Y in scientific theory Z.
Closing presentation, final seminar meeting Wednesday April 28
In the course of the seminar, you will track how well the different approaches to induction explicate the claim and give a short report.
If you have engaged in a different research project pertinent to inductive inference and confirmation theory, you will present your results.
Take your turn presenting material
The seminar will be structured around presentations by seminar members, including me. They are based on weekly readings drawn from the topics and reading list; and a short report on the small project.

In presenting a reading, you should presume that the seminar has read the reading. You should spend a short amount of time reviewing the principal claims and arguments of the reading. This is not intended to replace the seminar's reading of the text, but merely to provide a basis of common agreement on its content and upon which subsequent discussion is erected. Your principal burden is to provide a critical analysis and response to the reading. This analysis can take many directions. Is the project of the paper clear? Are the theses clear? Are the arguments cogent? How does the reading relate to other readings and issues in the seminar? Are there plausible counter-theses? What arguments support them?

You should plan to present for at most 30 minutes and that will be followed by discussion of up to 15 minutes for discussion. If discussion starts prematurely, the discussion time may be interleaved with the full 45 minutes allocated. Many presenters provide handouts so that few notes need to be taken.

Attendance and participation
I look forward to seeing and hearing you each week in the seminar.