Graduate Courses (2011-12)
HPS 2502: History of Science I
James G. Lennox
W 9:30 AM - 12 PM
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 2535: Laws of Nature in the Renaissance
Peter K. Machamer
Th 2-4:30 PM
Natures of things, causes of happening, and the laws by which all these operate are crucial concerns of the 16th and 17th century. this seminar will examine how these (and some other) concepts operate in explanations (and descriptions). Readings will be from both primary and secondary sources. One focus of the course will be on explanations of local motions. J.E. McGuire will co-teach part of this course.
HPS 2622 / PHIL 2625: Recent Topics in the Philosophy of Science
Robert Batterman & Mark Wilson
W 4-6:30 PM, 1001 CL
Philosophers have generally not appreciated the degree to which productive science often succeeds through blending "theories" pertinent to different size scales of observation in manners that prove "greater than the sum of their parts" with respect to the amalgam's empirical reliability and universality. A nice illustration of such policies can be found in the manner in which rather amorphous requirements on energy balance at the molecular level are selectively blended with empirical observations obtained at much higher scale lengths to frame the reliable treatments of material behavior employed in modern engineering. The key to these successes lies in the underlying policies of "selective blending" and in this seminar we'll try to isolate how such strategies for "combining theories from different scale levels" operate. In work of this kind we witness methodologies that conform neither to the simple "reductive" patterns championed by Nagel et al. nor to the "special sciences" models provided by Fodor, Cartwright and others. In addition, recent work in materials science is exploring more sophisticated patterns for "combining theories from different scale levels" utilizing so-called "renormalization group techniques" in an effort to break the "tyranny of size scales" problem that has limited traditional modeling efforts in unsatisfactory ways. So we'll try to survey some of this exciting new work in "theory blending" as well. We shall try to present the pertinent material in a pedagogically gentle manner and will not require any particular scientific background for this seminar. It is our hope that our investigations may break down current "unity of science"/"disunity of science" stereotypes in helpful ways.
HPS 2659 / PHIL 2659: Neurobiology, Reduction and Emergence
Kenneth F. Schaffner
T 2-4:30 PM
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 and subjectivity. Several very recent analyses of reduction, emergence, and integrated pluralistic ways of approaching experience and reality, including multi-level models and "mechanisms," will be discussed. Some of these analyses, beginning with Nagelian theory reduction and its variants and alternatives, were originally intended for physics, chemistry, and biology, but have potentially useful roles to play in sciences of the mind. Here we will read some recent articles by Batterman, Butterfield, Schaffner, and others. These analyses will be the backdrops to in-depth examinations of a range of theories of consciousness.These include Dennett's account, the Churchlands' eliminitivist approach, as well as non-reductive views, including Chalmers hard problem, Kim’s approach to qualia, and McGinn's dualism, as well as the perennial problem of what Sellars termed the relation(s) between the manifest and scientific images of the world. Several sessions will deal with methods for capturing and representing first-person subjective experience and its phenomenological dimensions, as well as their relations to neural correlates of consciousness (NCCs). These sessions will also cover the subjective experiences and NCCs of psychiatric disorders, especially of schizophrenia, depression, and autism. We will also supplement the above material with a number of classical philosophical articles and book chapters, as well as readings on recent developments in the neurosciences and theoretical brain sciences. 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.
HPS 2663: Perception
M 9:30 AM - 12 PM
This course examines recent work in the philosophy of perception concerning ecological and relationist accounts of colour and colour perception (e.g. Thompson 1995, Matthen 2005, Cohen 2009, Aikins ms, Chirimuuta ms). These ideas have partly been inspired by psychology, neuroscience and comparative colour science, so we will discuss the empirical basis for the relationist theory, and also examine the relative merits of colour relationism in comparison to non-relationist views such as physicalism (Byrne and Hilbert 2003) and eliminatism (Hardin 1993).
HPS 2673 / PHIL 2041 / CLASS 2314: Studies in Aristotle
W 7-9:30 PM, 1001 CL
In this course, we will investigate Aristotle’s understanding of the psychological states, processes, and acts that play central roles in his theory of moral psychology and human action. Topics covered will include Aristotle’s views on desire, emotion, pleasure, imagination (phantasia), deliberation, weakness of will, and the formation of character. The texts that will receive the most focus are Aristotle’s ethical treatises (Nicomachean Ethics, Eudemian Ethics), his psychological treatises (De Anima, De Motu Animalium), and the Rhetoric. Since our primary goal will be to understand Aristotle’s views on different questions in moral psychology, our focus will be on interpreting Aristotle’s texts. However, if time permits, we will also explore the extent to which Aristotle’s insights have made contributions to contemporary discussions in moral psychology. Here, readings will include works from G.E.M. Anscombe and Michael Thompson. All participants (including auditors) must do at least one class presentation. Graduate status. This course is intended for graduate students in philosophy. Other students may be admitted to any places remaining but only with the consent of the instructor.
HPS 2688 / PHIL 2675: Scientific Explanation
James F. Woodward
T 9:30 AM - 12 PM
This will be primarily a research seminar, although we will begin with a review of some standard accounts of explanation in philosophy of science, including the DN model, Salmon’s SR and causal mechanical models, and Friedman’s and Kitcher’s unificationist models. We will then explore some more specialized topics and more recent literature. The selections of these will depend in part on what students taking the seminar are most interested in, but possibilities include the role of idealizations and approximations in explanation, the various roles of probability and statistics in explanation, explanation and reduction, notions of levels of explanation, whether there is such a thing as inference to the best explanation, and similarities and differences among the forms of explanations in the different sciences – e.g. how explanations in physics resemble and differ from those in biology, psychology etc.
HPS 2692 / PHIL 2175: Topics in History of Recent Philosophy of Science
W 1-3:30 PM, 1001 CL
This course examines Kant's philosophy in relation to the exact sciences, i.e., logic, mathematics, and physics. The first part of the course is devoted to Kant’s own work. We will discuss his conception of logic, his philosophy of geometry, arithmetic, and algebra, and his theory of matter, motion, and space. In the second part of the course, we will examine the challenges posed to the Kantian philosophy by new developments in the exact sciences, namely, the discovery of non-Euclidean geometries, Frege’s logicist program, and Einstein’s theories of relativity, and look at several neo-Kantian rescue-attempts. Our readings will include the following works by Kant: Jäsche Logic (selections); Critique of Pure Reason (selections); Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science; ‘On the first ground of the distinction of regions in space’. The neo-Kantians or anti-Kantians to be studied in the second part of the course include: Poincare, von Helmholtz, Frege, Reichenbach, Cassirer, Schlick, and Michael Friedman. The intended participants are graduate students in philosophy. Other students may be admitted, but only with the approval of the instructor.
HPS 2501: Philosophy of Science Core
John D. Norton
M 3-5:30 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 2552: Special Topics in History of Science: History and Philosophy of Musical Science
W 9:30 AM - 12 PM
This seminar explores historical and philosophical questions concerning music as a form of knowledge in the history of Western civilization (with some ethno-musicological excursuses relatively beyond). These questions include (but are not limited to): The emergence of music theory in antiquity; the role of music in the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century; the relation between music as a science and musical aesthetics; music and mathematics; music and cognition in humans and animals; the foundations of modern psychoacoustics; the nature of harmony.
The seminar will be based on an integrated historical-philosophical and experimental methodology which emphasizes the study of primary sources, Socratic dialogue, personal reflection and meditation, design and implementation of experiments with sound and music, and more generally a hands-on approach to learning.
HPS 2544 / PHIL 2544 / CLASS 2315: Understanding Aristotle's Teleology
Allan Gotthelf & James G. Lennox
Th 1:30 - 4 PM (Corrected from earlier posting of 1 - 4 PM)
This seminar’s aim is captured in its title: it is to understand Aristotle’s teleology. We will focus primarily on the nature and ontological basis of his natural teleology, but will consider also how he thinks teleological explanation applies to human action and production. We will consider the range of Aristotle's natural teleology: is it limited to the development, structure, and functioning of living organisms, as we ourselves think, or does it extend, as some think, to inanimate objects or even to the cosmos as a whole? and why or why not? As for the ontological basis of its application to nature, we’ll ask, among other questions, whether the natural teleology rests on an anti-reductionist or rather (as one influential view has it) an anti-eliminativist thesis, or on something else; and if anti-reductionist in what precisely the irreducible core of the theory lies. We will consider how the form(s) of teleological explanation Aristotle uses for human action and production (including in social-political contexts) compare to the form(s) of teleological explanation he uses for living organisms, and why they relate in that way. Other topics we hope to touch on include (i) the relationship of Aristotle’s natural teleology to contemporary biological teleology, (ii) supporters and opponents of Aristotelian teleology in Renaissance and early modern philosophy and science and (iii) a comparison of Darwin’s teleology and Aristotle’s. A few seminar meetings will be led by visiting specialists. The grade, for those doing the seminar for credit, will be based partly on participation, but significantly on a substantial term paper on a seminar-relevant theme of interest to you.
HPS 2626 / PHIL 2627: Recent Topics in Philosophy of Physics
M 9 AM - 12 PM T 2-4:30 PM
This seminar deals with the foundations of statistical mechanics. Specifically, we address the issue of how the theory can account for the irreversible thermodynamic behavior observed at the macroscopic level. The problem is that the microscopic dynamical laws of statistical mechanics are time-reversal invariant, and thus some additional time-asymmetric ingredient ought to be introduced. Yet the jury is still out concerning what such an ingredient would be. We shall focus, in particular, on the emergence of irreversibility in modern approaches to statistical mechanics.
HPS 2630: Cognition and Knowledge
T 3-5:30 PM
Recent work in cognitive neuroscience has been claimed to make significant alterations in the views we ought to have about the nature of knowledge and related epistemological issues. This seminar will examine some of these claims about the nature of rationality, the role of emotions in knowledge, and the role of memory (or memory systems). We will also consider some recent work on the nature of scientific knowledge. We will look at work by Giere, Nersessian, van Fraassen, Thagard, and Bernecker, among others.
HPS 2631: Method and Interpretation in Cognitive Neuroscience: A Science of Consciousness?
Th 10 AM - 12:30 PM
This graduate course uses the topic of consciousness to explore philosophical issues concerning methodology in cognitive neuroscience. It is now orthodoxy that consciousness and all other characteristic features of mental life are the result of processes in the brain and central nervous system. However, controversy rages as to the best way to tackle the problem of consciousness within a scientific framework. Cognitive neuroscience has borrowed experimental paradigms from psychology in the attempt to discover the causal mechanisms behind conscious exeprience. Interpretation of the resulting data is often problematic. The course examines some of the different approaches currently influential in this field, and examines the historical background that has shaped the debate. Areas to be covered include: reduction and the integration of biology and psychology; 1st person report and 3rd person method in science; introspective psychology and the behaviourist reaction; understanding causation in neuroscience; neural correlates of consciousness.
HPS 2649: Science and Values
W 3-5:30 PM
What is the proper understanding of the role of values in science? It is well understood that science is a human activity, and thus the very act of doing science involves value commitments. But which value commitments (and at what points in the process of doing science) are normatively acceptable-- or even desirable-- and which are not? Answering this question requires an examination of both the role of values in scientific reasoning and the influence of values on the research agenda. We will begin the course with a look back at the debates over values in science in past century, and then delve into more recent work on the subject, including the discussion over how social values shape the direction of science. We will read work by a wide range of authors, including Carl Hempel, Ernan McMullin, Helen Longino, Philip Kitcher, and Janet Kourany.
HPS 2668: Topics in Biology: Robustness and Multi-Level Explanation in Biological Systems
T 9:30 AM - 12 PM
In this seminar we will read both philosophy and biology concerning issues that have lead to the development of a new discipline “systems biology.” Robustness is a system level property of central significance for systems biology. Robustness can refer to the character of a theory or explanation, the evidence for a theory or explanation or a feature of phenomena themselves. In this course it is the latter – robustness as a feature of complex phenomena – that we will examine. Kitano (2002, Science) suggests that robustness occurs in “(i) adaptation, which denotes the ability to cope with environmental changes; (ii) parameter insensitivity, which indicates a system's relative insensitivity to specific kinetic parameters; and (iii) graceful degradation, which reflects the characteristic slow degradation of a system's functions after damage, rather than catastrophic failure.” How does a system maintain robustness, how does robustness evolve? How does robustness analysis affect our understanding of causality in flexible networks, modularity, and feedback control, as well as the empirical access to this form of dynamic stability? We will explore a wide variety of examples from bacterial chemotaxis to brain reorganization. In addition to robustness, biological systems also display multi-level organization, and are subject to multi-level explanations. We will consider alternative views about the relationships among the levels, and how experimental and explanatory strategies manage the multiple levels. For example, we will investigate if system-level properties are emergent and whether causal mechanisms can be multi-level.