University of Pittsburgh
Graduate Courses (2009-2010)

Spring 2010

HPS 2533 / PHIL 2533: Descartes
Machamer, Peter & McGuire, James
Wednesday 3-5:25 p.m.
Descartes' works are often treated as a unified, unchanging whole. We shall examine in detail some of the major Descartes’ texts (and Letters) that show how the philosopher's views, particularly in natural philosophy, actually change radically between his early and later works--and that any interpretation of Descartes must take account of these changes. No changes in Descartes’ thought are more significant than those that occur between the major works The World (1633) and Principles of Philosophy (1644). Often seen as two versions of the same natural philosophy, these works are in fact profoundly different, containing distinct conceptions of causality and epistemology. We will trace the implications of these changes and others that follow from them, including Descartes' rejection of the method of abstraction as a means of acquiring knowledge, his insistence on the infinitude of God's power, and his claim that human knowledge is limited to that which enables us to grasp the workings of the world and develop scientific theories. The readings will be mainly original Cartesian texts and letters, but will relate to our newly published book, Descartes’ Changing Mind (Princeton UP, 2009) as well as other recent work.

HPS 2547: Aristotle’s Philosophy of Science: Aristotle on Methods of Investigation
Lennox, James G.
Thursday 9:30 a.m.-noon
The first book of Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics (APo) discusses conditions that must be satisfied before one can claim to possess unqualified, demonstrative knowledge, while the second book discusses related forms of search or inquiry that purport to lead to such knowledge. In the case of APo II the discussion is highly abstract and the examples more often perplexing than illuminating. In this seminar I am proposing that we turn to a variety of texts throughout the corpus, all of which reflect on the question of how an inquiry or an investigation ought to be carried out. The guiding hypothesis is that Aristotle thinks that the answer to that question will vary from one investigation to the next, partly owing to differences in objects we are seeking to know and partly owing to differences in our epistemic access to those objects. If that is so, then significant progress might be made on understanding how Aristotle views the inductive aspects of science by comparing these ‘on the ground’ reflections with more abstract discussions such as Posterior Analytics II.

HPS 2565: The Gene: The Transformation and Fragmentation of a Concept
Schaffner, Kenneth F.
Thursday 2-4:30 p.m.
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 historically from hypothetical construct to indivisible particle and on to divisible segment of a long chain molecule, paying attention to the distinction often discussed by philosophers between the so-called classical gene and the molecular gene. In addition, we briefly examine the origins of population genetics and of quantitative genetics. We also 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 the difficulties associated with medical and psychiatric genetics, including recent genome-wide association studies (GWAS). If time permits, we will also consider the pre-genetic world and the origin of life. The course will additionally discuss various approaches to the historiography of the biological sciences, including the role of oral history and the use of various document sources. Readings will be both from original genetic sources and from secondary historical and philosophical sources. This course should be of special interest to any graduate student potentially planning work in the philosophy of biology, as well as being of general interest.

HPS 2587 / ANTH 2613: Evolutionary Theory II
Schwartz, Jeffrey
Friday 9-11:30 a.m.
This will be a continuation in the Fall Term 2101, of ANTH 2612 (HPS 2585), which covered readings from Darwin to Goldschmidt. In this course, readings will begin with the 2nd edition of Dobzhansky's Genetics and the Origin of Species and proceed onto works by Mayr, Simpson, Schindewolf, Lovtrup, Alberch, GC Williams, and Eldredge and Gould. Added to this list (in the appropriate order) will be publications on development by Waddington, J. Huxley, L. Wolpert, A. Lumsden, R. Raff, S. Carroll, G. Wagner et al (from his recent edited volume on the character concept). In order to bring up to pace students taking this course who were not in the first seminar, we will spend the first 1-2 weeks reviewing the main points of the works of Darwin et al. The theme of this course will be the same as the other: to identify the assumptions, things taken as given without foundation, motivations-to explore how different scholars can take the same observations (say, gaps in the fossil record) as "fact" in arriving at totally different conclusions/interpretations,how/why Darwinism emerged as dominant from a field of alternatives, how/why current discoveries in developmental genetics lend themselves to a revival of some of these alternatives, and how/why we need not continue to view the disagreements between "Darwinians" and "non-Darwinians" in the context of an either/or situation (where there is only one question, therefore only one correct answer) but rather elements of a hierarchical biological world. As we proceed to the more recent articles and books we will explore the implications of developmental genetics (or developmental evolutionary biology as the new field is being identified) for systematics. Graduate standing in anthropology, history and philosophy of science, biology, or geology, or permission of the instructor. Students will be evaluated on their class participation, their annotated bibliographies, and final paper.

HPS 2645 / PHIL 2645: Topics in Philosophy of Biology:Moral Psychology
Machery, Edouard
Tuesday 5-7:30 p.m.
In this course, we will examine some recent issues discussed in the empirically informed moral psychology. We will focus on a limited number of topics, examining them in depth rather than surveying the whole field of moral psychology. The following topics are among those that might be considered: Does situationism invalidate virtue ethics? Did morality evolve? Is sentimentalism true? Are people altruistic or egoist? Does the research on moral intuitions justify some form of moral skepticism? Can psychology debunk morality? Authors will probably include Doris, Prinz, Haidt, Sinnott-Armstrong, Stich, Greene, and Joyce.

HPS 2660 / PHIL 2662: Causality
Glymour, Clark N.
Wednesday 9:30 a.m.-noon
This seminar has two options: Causality and physics, or Causality and he mind. If there is an overwhelming preference among students for one or the other, that's what we will do all semester. If, however, the class is substantially divided, we will do each option for 6 or 7 weeks, but participants will be obliged to take part in both halves.

Causality and Physics: The Causal Markov Condition has been extensively debated by philosophers while assumed without notice in the social sciences. How does it stand n physics, particularly in General Relativity and in Quantum theory? We will consider how the causal interpretation of signal boundaries in relativity fits with the Causal Markov Condition, where the condition determines a direction of time in general relativity, and whether it is a constraint on "physical" models of general relativity. We will consider what the Bello inequalities and their empirical confirmation say about the Condition.

Causality and the Mind: Since philosophers have been so much, for so long, concerned with the mind and causality, one place to look for a fruitful connection between philosophy and science is in studies of how the brain produces behavior. This seminar will trace the scientific and philosophical sources of a single contemporary paper: Joseph Ramsey, et al, "Six Problems for Causal Inference from fMRI," NeuroImage, in pres. The trail will lead through recent neuroscience, Bayesian statistics, machine learning, causality, and the "logic" of discovery, with asides on Searle, Simon, the Churchlands, mechanisms, etc.

HPS 2688 / PHIL 2675: Scientific Explanations
Wilson, Mark
Thursday 2-4:30p.m., (Room 1001 CL)
In his whimsical moments, Brigham Young would order members of his flock to “travel directly south two hundred miles and plant cotton.” When these exiled settlers encountered some easily skirted ravine or coulee, they would not deviate from their instructions but would painstakingly carve ruts and fastenings into the rock so that their wagon trains could be pulled across the obstacle at hand, obedient to their “travel directly southward” instructions. I fancy that on a blistering Utah afternoon some of these tortured souls may have entertained the impious thought, “Mightn’t we have gone around this canyon?”

Well, analogous situations often arise within scientific endeavor, where a direct, “bottom up” modeling of a physical situation will lead the enquirer into dreadful mathematical complexities which can be easily skirted by a brisk invocation of macroscopic data extracted from experiment . The basic project of this seminar is to investigate how such “mixed level” (that is, neither purely “bottom up” nor “top down”) explanations operate and the manner in which key concepts like “cause,” “law” and “possibility” shift their own meanings when they appear within these altered explanatory contexts. To begin this project, we will study first Leibniz’ great essays on physical methodology, which reveal a profound appreciation for “mixed level” explanatory structure. From there, we will examine a number of cases in modern metaphysics where significant misunderstandings about “reduction,” “possibility” and “law”seem to have arisen through a lack of appreciation for the varieties of explanatory structure in real life practice. We shall also examine the well known dispute between Bob Batterman and Gordon Belot over the status of “theories emeritus” in this light. Although we will discuss a range of scientific examples along the way, this is not intended as a technical course in any way (if the distinctions we draw don’t prove straightforwardly “commonsensical,” then we haven’t done our philosophical work properly). Students wishing to complete the course for a grade may elect to pursue individual projects along historical, metaphysical or philosophy of science contours.


Fall 2009

HPS 2501 / PHIL 2600: Philosophy of Science Core
Norton, John
Wednesday 9:30 a.m.-noon
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.

HPS 2502: History of Science Core I
Lennox, James
Tuesday 9:30-noon
In our newly reorganized History of Science Core sequence, HPS 2502 (History of Science I) will study the history of the investigation of the living world from the Ancient Greeks through to the late 20th century. This study will be based on a close study of primary texts (in translation when necessary). A primary focus of the seminar will be to track continuity through historical changes as well as the cultural context of the texts we will be studying. Special attention will be given to the ways in which different philosophical and theological views impact thinking about the study of life, and in particular thinking about how the study of human beings and the study of other livings things are related.

HPS 2585 / ANTH 2612: Evolutionary Theory
Schwartz, Jeffrey
Tuesday 1-3 p.m.
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.

HPS 2622 / PHIL 2625: Recent Topics in Philosophy of Science
Massimi, Michela
Thursday 9:30 a.m.-noon
Causation, laws of nature, and natural kinds are deeply interconnected metaphysical notions. Is causation an objective structural feature of nature? If so, are there natural kinds as repository of causal dispositions? And, to what extent do our laws of nature express causal dispositions, and are read off natural kinds and their causal properties? Realists have traditionally answered the questions above in a positive way, while philosophers with empiricist leanings have answered the quest for causation, laws, and kinds with a moderate skepticism. The first aim of this course is to explore the motivation behind both realist and empiricist intuitions, and to assess their strengths and viability. The second aim is to try to explore whether a ‘third way’ about causation, laws, and kinds-somehow intermediate between realism and empiricism-is possible, or even desirable at all.

HPS 2633 / PHIL 2633: Philosophy of Cognitive Science
Machery, Edouard
Tuesday 3:30-6 p.m.
This course will survey the main philosophical questions raised by cognitive sciences. 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?

HPS 2642 / PHIL 2625: Determinism
Earman, John
Wednesday 3-5:30 p.m.
This seminar is intended as an introductory survey of major issues that arise in analyzing the concepts of determinism and causation. Roughly the first half of the course will be devoted to such questions as: What does it mean for the world to be deterministic? What are the relations among determinism, predictability, and randomness? What are the problems and prospects for determinism in various branches of physics? The second part of the course will survey the various approaches to causation, including counterfactual, interventionist, transference, and regularity accounts.

HPS 2679 / PHIL 2580: Philosophy of Mathematics
Manders, Kenneth
Monday 7-9 p.m.
The current tradition in Epistemology of Mathematics rests on a fruitful restriction, to questions of (primarily logical and foundational) justification. In this course, we pursue broader epistemological inquiry into the power of mathematical thought, and illustrate philosophical avenues of approach. These involve rethinking mathematical reasoning in non-foundational, practice conceptions and taking into account the quality of representational contributions to mathematical reasoning. We will discuss case studies of mathematical concept formation (negative quantities in analytic geometry) and ones comparing competing representations. This will open up novel perspectives on the philosophy of language (improving a language to better deal with a class of problems) that go beyond the philosophy of mathematics. There will also be student presentations of term paper projects.

HPS 2689 / PHIL 2689: Explanations, Causes and Mechanisms
Machamer, Peter K.
Monday 4-6:30 p.m.
The seminar will examine some recent philosophical writings on these three topics. Specifically we will analyze the nature of explanations by mechanisms in a variety of domains and fields, including social science, cognitive science, and neuroscience. We shall also consider multi-level explanations, such as those that relate persons to sub-personal states and environments. Along the way we shall discuss the issues of reduction, emergence, the space of reasons, and the nature of information as used in some sciences. If there is interest and time we may spend a session or two on discovery of mechanisms.