University of Pittsburgh
Graduate Courses (2013-2014)

Spring 2014

HPS 2503: History of Science I
Olby, Robert
Thursday 9:30-12:00
The seminars in the History of Science Core course (HPS 2502) for the Spring Semester 2014 will be given to major figures in the life sciences (biological and medical) from Aristotle to Darwin and on to Francis Crick. They have been selected for the purpose of introducing the fundamental concepts they explored and the issues which these concepts raised. We will touch on the differing historiographical approaches adopted by historians of science, and will draw special attention to the example of the cultural approach as used in the history of genetics.

HPS 2536: Laws of Nature: Modern Treatment
Mitchell, Sandra D.
Wednesday 3:00-5:30
The purpose of this seminar is to critically survey recent accounts of the concept of a law of nature, including the “no laws” view of Giere, regulatory accounts, necessitarian accounts and pragmatic approaches. More specialized topics concerning the role of laws in the social, biological and physical sciences will be taken up.

HPS 2607: Neuroethics
Schaffner, Kenneth F.
Friday 1:00-3:30
This course is an introduction to ethical, social, and philosophical issues in the neurosciences and brain research. The topics to be covered include (1) neurological and brain enhancement, (2) ethical and policy issues related to neuroimaging, (3) mind control and “mindreading,” (4) free will and responsibility, (5) criminal culpability and “dangerous brains,” and (6) neurodevelopment and the emergence of personhood and the self. There are no prerequisites for this course. Graduate students enrolled in this version of the course are required to attend the undergraduate lectures, set for Mondays and Wednesdays from 3:00-4:15 in Room 306 CL, as well as attend the graduate-only hour on Fridays in 1017 H CL, specific Friday times TBA. Graduate students will receive additional reading assignments, be required to submit a term paper, and also be asked to offer a 20 minute presentation to the undergraduate class on a topic of their own special interest in neuroethics.

HPS 2626 / PHIL 2626/28311: Topics in Recent Phil of Physics: Philosophical Issues in High Energy Physics Experiments
Perovic, Slobodan
Thursday 1:30-4:00
Some of the key features of experimentation in high-energy physics laboratories do not characterize the classical table-top experiments and theories they test, which have been typically the focus of philosophy of science. For instance, rather than direct observation being used as evidence for hypothesized elementary particles such as the Higgs boson, particle colliders produce a staggering amount of potentially interesting micro-physical events, only a tiny portion of which (approximately 1%) can be recorded, and even less analyzed. Thus, in a physics mega-lab, discovery results from a multi-stage selection process that affects each aspect of experimentation. It is a complex interrelation between theory influencing selection criteria on one hand, and statistical methods, modeling and other experimental techniques on the other. We will discuss the nature of indirect evidence that such a process produces, the nature of selection criteria that establish it, and how discoveries are justified, and in what way, in contexts such as these. The physics mega-labs are also characterized by unprecedented collaborative complexity in producing scientific evidence. This has prompted some philosophers to emphasize the social aspect of scientific knowledge in various ways. We will discuss such accounts, as well as some very elaborate empiricist-minded reactions that draw on relevant case-studies. Finally, we will touch on the innovative modeling and simulation strategies in such experiments, and ask whether they should be considered an integral part of experimentation, given the pivotal role they play throughout the experimental process. All the necessary technical details will be kept to a necessary minimum and explained in the class.

HPS 2627 / PHIL 2628/28288: Philosophy of Physics
Valente, Giovanni
Philosophy Seminar Room 1001
Tuesday 9:30-12:00
All around us we observe irreversible phenomena, that is natural processes taking place in one direction of time but not in the opposite one. That allows us to distinguish between past and future, thereby establishing an arrow of time. The Second Law of thermodynamics is often regarded as grounding such a fundamental time-asymmetry in terms of a monotonic increase of entropy. This seminar aims at investigating whether and how the second law embodies the arrow of time by looking at different formulations of thermodynamics.

HPS 2663: Perception
Machery, Edouard and Chirimuuta, Mazviita
Wednesday 9:30-12:00
This course examines recent work at the intersection between philosophy of perception, vision science, and cognitive psychology. In particular, we will focus on enactive theories of perception (Noë 2004, 2012) and relationist theories of colour and colour perception (Thompson 1995, Matthen 2005, Cohen 2009, Chirimuuta ms). These theories have partly been inspired by scientific research, so we will discuss their empirical basis, and also examine the relative merits of enactivism and relationism in comparison to their rivals.

HPS 2688 / PHIL 2675/28290: Scientific Explanation
Woodward, James and Wilson, Mark
Tuesday 1:30-4:00
In recent years, a fair number of "analytic metaphysicians" have wandered into topics (causation and how we talk of parts and wholes) that have traditionally belonged to the bailiwick of philosophy of science and applied mathematics. And they usually bring with them very strong assumptions about the "necessary truths" that should guide research in these areas, in a vein that frequently dismisses as "irrelevant to metaphysics" many of the claims about these subjects that we might frame on the basis of the straightforward analysis of real life scientific practice. The result is a Major schism or disjunction between the ideas and methods of these self-described "metaphysicians of science" and more traditional, methodologically oriented philosophy of science. This course will explore this schism and some of its sources. We suspect that one source is the tendency of contemporary philosophers of science to abandon any concern with general philosophy of science (or methodology) in favor of much more specialized kinds of inquiries into the particular sciences. This has left general philosophy of science open to ill-informed interlopers from metaphysics who now occupy its abandoned residences. We shall discuss these issues partially in the light of our own researches. Some of these basic themes are broached by Wilson in his forthcoming book, Physics Avoidance and Other Essays and by Woodward in his Presidential Address to the PSA, "A Functional Account of Causation or A Defense of the Legitimacy of Causal Thinking by Reference to the Only Standard that Matters-Usefulness (as opposed to Metaphysics or Agreement with Intuitive Judgment)".

Fall 2013

HPS 2501 / PHIL 2600: Philosophy of Science Core
Batterman, Robert
Wednesday 9:30-12:00
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 2522: Special Topics in History of Science: Human/Animal in Western Civilization
Palmieri, Paolo
Monday 3:00-5:30
This seminar explores the liminality that has continually demarcated the frontier between human and animal in the history of Western civilization. We will engage diverse historical-philosophical approaches to the question of what constitutes human as opposed to animal, beginning with ancient Greek philosophy, and tracing contemporary ideas back to their origins in the Graeco-Christian worldview. We will investigate the shifting human/animal frontier during the Renaissance and the scientific revolution of the seventeenth-century, in the Enlightenment and Romanticism, and in contemporary thought. By reconstructing the genesis of human/animal debates, we will transgress the bounds of sectarian divisions between styles of thinking and become more self-conscious about history and philosophy of science as a multi-faceted, humanistic form of inquiry.

HPS 2547: Aristotle’s Philosophy of Science
Lennox, James
Tuesday 9:30-12:00
The first book of Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics 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.
I will have a completed manuscript of a book, tentatively titled Aristotle on the norms of inquiry, by the Fall, and course readings will include chapters from that manuscript.

HPS 2565: The Gene
Schaffner, Kenneth F.
Tuesday 2:00-4:30
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) and trends in mechanism identification and pathway analysis. Philosophical issues raised by the history of the gene concept, including reduction, causation, natural kinds, and integrative pluralism will also be addressed. 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 philosophical and historical 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 2626 / PHIL 2626: Topics in Recent Philosophy of Physics
Norton, John
Thursday 9:30-12:00
This seminar will discuss recent topics in philosophy of physics, drawing on suitable issues in quantum, relativistic and statistical physics, according to the interest of the participants.

HPS 2689 / PHIL 2689: Explanations, Causes & Mechanisms
Machamer, Peter K. and James Bogen
Thursday 2:00-4:30
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.