Graduate Courses (2010-2011)
HPS 2524: Experimental History and Philosophy of Science
W 9:30 AM - 12 PM
In this seminar, we will explore an experimental approach to the history and philosophy of science. We will engage both in theoretical discussion and in experiment design, implementation, and interpretation. We will learn about landmark experiments in the history of science, and have hands-on activities in the HPS laboratory. The seminar will offer a challenging educational setting, emphasizing active participation rather than passive transmission of doctrines.
HPS 2622 / PHIL 2625: Recent Topics in Philosophy of Science
W 3-5:30 PM
This course (and indeed my period as Wagner ‘Pre-Fellow’) acts as a precursor to a major Pitt initiative in the philosophy of risk. The course will involve some investigation of the concept of ‘risk’ but will principally look at epistemic/evidential issues concerning risk factors - largely, though not exclusively, in medicine. Clearly assessments of risk play an important role in both individual and social policy decisions: was the UK government right to introduce a ban on smoking in public places? should I, as a UK resident, be intent on keeping out of such summer sunshine as we have (for fear of skin cancer) or should I be making sure I get regular sunshine when I can (for fear of developing Vitamin D deficiency)? Should I be taking statins to lower my cholesterol level? The rationality of such decisions clearly centrally involves correct evidential assessments of the risks involved. It is very widely believed in medicine that ‘gold standard’ evidence for any clinical intervention, and hence any intervention aimed at reducing risk, is provided (only) by the results of RCTs (randomized controlled trials). A central part of the course will concern the development of ‘Evidence Based Medicine’ over the past few decades and its relationship to the ‘RCT is the gold standard’ view. This will involve in turn issues about the nature of probability and of causation as distinct from probability increase (owning large numbers of ashtrays is not a (causal) risk factor for lung cancer, even though Prob (lung cancer/own lots of ashtrays) > Prob (lung cancer/¬ own lots of ashtrays)). We will concentrate largely on evidence in medicine, but will also look at epistemic issues concerning evidence and risk in some other areas – notably climate change.
HPS 2650: Philosophy of Psychiatry
Peter Machamer & Kenneth Schaffner
T 3-5:30 PM
This course will examine some of the conceptual and methodological issues, as well as several historical topics, in psychiatry. We will assess the ways in which psychiatry analyzes and proposes criteria for the definitions of psychiatric disorders and classifications, and discuss their reliability and validity. These issues will be considered in general, and also as they relate to the last edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) IV-TR of the American Psychiatric Association and the current DSM-5 project for revising this manual. More specifically, these topics include examining the organizing principles for psychiatric classification and the roles of etiological and non-etiological characterizations of disorders. The usefulness of reductive strategies and the mechanisms of disorders (including related genetic and neuroimaging research) will be reviewed. Our philosophical perspective is primarily analytical, however phenomenological and hermeneutical approaches will also be discussed. Historical topics will include the contrast between psychoanalytical, narrative approaches and biological psychiatry, and the transition of the discipline from the former to the latter. Extended consideration of schizophrenia, depressive disorders, Alzheimer’s dementia, and autism will be course themes.
HPS 2660 / PHIL 2662: Causality
TH 9:30 AM - 12 PM
This seminar will focus (among other things) on the strengths and limitations of various philosophical “theories” of causation, including regularity theories (Mackie), probabilistic theories (Suppes, Ells/Sober), counterfactual theories (Lewis and students), and causal process theories (Salmon, Dowe). We will also discuss some accounts of causal inference found in statistics and social science, including accounts based on Bayes nets. The emphasis throughout will be on the application of these accounts to problems of causal reasoning and inference found in the various sciences.
HPS 2667 / PHIL 2627: Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics
F 9:30 AM - 12 PM
This course is an introduction to the philosophical issues raised quantum mechanics. The guiding questions will be: “What should we take the empirical success of quantum mechanics to be telling us about the world?” and “How are we to understand the differences between quantum and classical mechanics?” No background in quantum mechanics will be presupposed; all relevant background will be introduced in class. Mathematical formalism will be kept to a minimum, as the focus of the course is on the conceptual issues. The minimum amount of mathematics required for an informed discussion of the conceptual issues is, however, nonzero, and students must be willing to acquire the conceptual tools requisite for thoughtful and informed engagement with the issues. The main text will be course notes by the instructor, supplemented by readings from the key players in the debates on the interpretation of quantum mechanics.
HPS 2687 / PHIL 2687: Epistemology of Experimental Practices
T 6-8:30 PM
In this course we will look at the epistemology of experimental practices in psychology, in cognitive neuroscience, and in neuropsychology. The possible topics of discussion include the role of dissociations in neuropsychology, the debate between single-subject vs. group studies in neuropsychology, the practice of reverse inference from brain data to psychological hypotheses in cognitive neuroscience, controversies about fMRi, null hypothesis significance testing, the use of aggregated data, and the justification of rejecting the null hypothesis.
HPS 2691: Perspectives in History and Philosophy of Science: History and Philosophy of Medicine
TH 2-4:30 PM
This course traces the history of concepts of health and disease in Western culture and the institutional, social, and cultural contexts in which they developed, with attention paid to the philosophical dimension (whether the figure of the doctor as philosopher in older times, or the philosophy of medicine as a new field in the 20th century). Medicine is and was not a monolithic ‘thing’, always one and the same (or an ever-improving stable entity). After an introduction devoted to the historical perspective on health and medicine, the course is divided into three main segments: medicine in the ancient and medieval eras, classical (‘early modern’) European medicine, and modern Western medicine, commonly held to begin in the 19th century. In each of these sections of the course, we will study a combination of theories, practices and contexts – from diseases to ideas to institutions. The balance of coverage between medical thought and medical practice will vary depending on the state of historical knowledge of the given period. The last segments of the course look at different perspectives on medicine, no longer just historical: from the cultural to the social, and the philosophical, including much-debated concepts such as ‘normality’, ‘health’ and ‘embodiment’. Texts include primary sources such as Hippocrates, Galen, Harvey, Willis, La Mettrie and Claude Bernard, and secondary sources which approach the history of medicine from various contexts including philosophy, methodology, and sociocultural context. Graduate students will be assigned additional readings designated as ‘advanced’ in the syllabus.
HPS 2691: Pragmatism
W 9:30 AM - 12 PM
The course focuses on key pragmatic texts from C. S. Peirce to the present, but it will also give some consideration to the historical background of pragmatism and to later critical responses and reactions. Emphasis will be upon those pragmatic teachings — especially in sematics, epistemology, and philosophy of science — that bear on currently controverted issues. This is a Background seminar.
HPS 2501 / PHIL 2600: Philosophy of Science Core
T 5-7:30 PM
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 2503: History of Science II
TH 1:30-4 PM
This course is designed as an introduction to the history of human understanding of the non-living world from antiquity to the modern era. Highlighted during this course will also be topics in the historiography of the sciences. Most readings will be drawn from primary source materials. The specific topics treated in this course vary from year-to-year and from professor-to-professor.
HPS 2517: Mechanical Philosophy
T 2-4:30 PM
The Mechanical Philosophy is the name we give, though was coined by Robert Boyle, to the late 16th, 17th Century movement that constituted a prominent intellectual development in the rise of modern science and philosophy. It also provided a new foundation for social theorizing and a new way to think about persons. This course will look at the mechanical underpinnings, and theoretical development of certain major concepts in the 'new science’. More specifically, we will examine the ideas of matter and motion as they occur in some of major theoretical texts of Galileo, Descartes, Huygens, Hobbes, Hooke, Boyle, Wren, Wallis, etc. At least one session will be spent on the "anti" mechanical tradition. Another session or two will address the historiographic problem recently raised by Garber (et al.) as to whether the mechanical philosophy is a useful historical construct. Course requirements include a seminar presentation on a text, and term paper.
HPS 2667 / PHIL 2627: Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics
M 9:30-12 PM
This course surveys the issues of causality and non-locality in Algebraic Quantum Field Theory (AQFT). After introducing the technical and conceptual structure of the theory, we tackle some specific problem arising in the philosophy of physics literature. In the first part of the course we address the problem of non-locality, by focusing on the violation of Bell's inequality, the Reeh-Schlieder theorem, operational independence and the status of entangled correlations in AQFT. In the second part of the course, we address the problem of causality, in particular relativistic causality, Einstein's principle of causality and the common cause principle. All the necessary technical background will be provided in class.
HPS 2671: Models of Scientific Change
TH 9:30-12 PM
The aim of Models of Scientific Change is to examine the various attempts made by philosophers, historians, cognitive scientists and sociologists to understand the nature of historical changes in the concepts, methods and theories of the natural sciences. The seminar will begin with an attempt to identify the reasons for this subject emerging as a problem in the period 1955-60, and will move on to look at various attempts to resolve the perceived problem in the next two decades by people such at Lakatos, Laudan, Shapere and Toulmin. From that point on we will focus on a few key episodes in the history of the biological sciences, and at recent attempts (by people such as Darden, Kitcher and Thagard) to provide philosophical accounts of those historical episodes without abandoning the idea of scientific progress and objectivity.
HPS 2679 / PHIL 2580: Philosophy of Math
F 10-12:30 PM
Description available from instructor at a later date.
HPS 2682 / PHIL 2690: Theories of Confirmation
Norton, John D.
M 3:00-5:30 PM
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.
HPS 2683 / PHIL 2620: Philosophy of Social Science
Mitchell, Sandra & Woodward, James
T 9:30-12 PM
The social sciences deal with the interactions of individuals and the products of those interactions. Philosophical scrutiny of explanations of social life raise questions of social ontology, broadly defined to include collective intentionality, shared agency, and the reality of group agents. This seminar will consider questions of explanatory strategy, such as whether the social sciences provide causal explanations similar to those in the natural sciences, or whether instead they provide Verstehen (understanding) and interpretation. In addition in this seminar we will consider specific questions about social causation, rational choice, why people cooperate as much as they do, the biological foundations of human social behavior and the character of social complexity. We will draw from both philosophical and social scientific readings to explore these issues.