Graduate Courses (2013-2014)
HPS 2503: History of Science II
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 2565: The Gene: The Transformation and Fragmentation of a Concept
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 2622: Recent Topics in Philosophyof Science: Explanation
James Woodward and Robert Batterman
This course will explore some of the recent literature on explanation in science and mathematics. Among the topics discussed will be the following: Are there non-causal forms of explanation and if so, what distinguishes them from causal explanations? What is the role of mathematics in scientific explanation? Are there mathematical explanations of physical events? What explanatory role is played by abstract structural features of scientific models – topological or network relationships and so on? What role is played by asymptotics and limiting behavior? Must an explanatory model mirror or be isomorphic to or otherwise realistically represent the systems it explains? What is the role of information about mechanisms in explanation? How do explanations differ in structure across different areas of science?
HPS 2627 / PHIL 2628: Philosophy of Physics: Climate Change and Public Policy
Philosophy Seminar Room 1001
Climate modeling is an outstanding topic in philosophy of science, which raises both epistemological and ethical issues. In this seminar we focus on the nature of the uncertainty associated with the construction of climate models and we look at how such an uncertainty is dealt with in the relevant decision-making processes in public policy.
HPS 2679: Philosophy of Mathematics
Philosophy Seminar Room 1001 CL Friday 10:00-12:30
The seminar will survey the recent strand in philosophy of mathematics that focuses on mathematical practices (historical or current) rather than mathematical truth and logical formalization. This opens up novel philosophical perspectives on mathematical thought; notably non-justificational perspectives on the value of mathematical knowledge. I will present mathematically not-so-demanding case studies that will orient us in this way of thinking about intellectual practices. This is a research course.
HPS 2699: Experiment & Scientific Practices
Experimentation is a central plank of scientific practice. However, experiments have tended to receive less attention from philosophers of science than scientific theories. In this course we will explore a range of topics in the philosophy of experiment, including the historical development of the idea of a scientific method, and the relationship between experimentation, theorising and model-building. We will also examine problems around observation and measurement, drawing on examples from the physical and biological sciences.
HPS 2720: Pragmatism
Pragmatism has been called the only truly indigenous American philosophy. In this seminar we will critically look at some of the seminal works in the history of Pragmatism, however the main emphasis of the seminar will be on the works of John Dewey. I tend to think of this emphasis as Yankee know how meets British knowing that (propositional knowledge). Towards the end of the term we will work through some more contemporary 'pragmatic' philosophers.
HPS 2501 / PHIL 2600: Philosophy of Science Core
Norton, John D.
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: Helmholtz
Palmieri, Paolo and Chirimuuta, Mazviita
Hermann von Helmholtz (1821–1894) played a major role in the history of science and philosophy. This seminar will explore Helmholtz’s fundamental contributions especially to the neurophysiology of hearing (including topics such as perception of sound, frequency analysis, harmony) and vision (including topics such as color and depth perception). We will examine Helmholtz’s influential idea of perception as "unconscious inference" and we will also consider his work in physics and the popularization of science. We will place Helmholtz in the intellectual and cultural context of the nineteenth century, investigate the debates that informed his philosophy of science, and look at the lasting influence that he had on twentieth-century science and philosophy. For example, we will read some recent work in perceptual theory which casts unconscious inference in Bayesian terms.
HPS 2540: Locke and Leibniz
John Locke's Essay concerning Human Understanding is often considered to be one of classics of early modern philosophy. It was fist published in 1690, though many of Locke’s famous doctrines, like the association of ideas were not developed in the original edition of the Essay but were added to later editions (e.g., the association of ideas comes in the 4th edition of the Essay (1700). The image of Locke grows during the Enlightenment. Yet very quickly, Locke's vision and specific doctrines were disputed. Most notably by G.W. Leibniz in his New Essays Concerning Human Understanding; [Nouveaux essais sur l'entendement humain] (finished in 1704, but suppressed on Locke’s death). This is a chapter by chapter rebuttal of Locke’s ideas. This seminar will carefully examine these two books, plus a little supplementary material.
HPS 2553: Darwin's Origin
Lennox, James G.
This seminar is in part an examination of the argumentative strategies used by Charles Darwin in On the Origin of Species, and in part a historical inquiry into the origins of those strategies. Thus we will begin with a study of the first edition of the Origin, and then, beginning with the scientific and philosophic context of the early 19th century, search for the origins of the Origin. For this purpose we will make use of such tools of research as Darwin's correspondence, marginalia and private notebooks. There is a second order, historiographic inquiry implicit in such research, highlighted by such questions as: Can historians of science uncover the cognitive strategies of a historical figure? What tools and methods are needed for such work to succeed? How, if at all, are the argumentative strategies of a published text related to the strategies used in the research and inquiry leading to that text, or in the formulating and preliminary testing of hypotheses and theories? What is the connection between the logic, methodology, cognitive strategies and rhetoric of a scientific text? We will keep these sorts of historiographic questions in view as we work on understanding Charles Darwin and his work on ‘the species problem.'
HPS 2622 / PHIL 2625: Topics in Recent Philosophy of Science
The purpose of this seminar is to explore a variety of interpretative and metaphysical issues in the philosophy of physics, ranging from topics in spacetime, quantum mechanics and quantum field theory. The topics have been chosen so that little or no previous expertise in physics is required or expected.
HPS 2659: Neurobiology, Reduction, and Emergence
Schaffner, Kenneth F.
This is an introductory level graduate seminar on the reductive/emergent relations of the mind and the brain, with a focus on a number of issues related to the problem of consciousness. The course will begin with several analyses of reduction, emergence, and integrated ways of approaching experience and reality. These analyses include multi-level models, minimal models and "mechanisms." The readings in this section will be based on the models of Batterman, Butterfield, Churchland-Hooker-Bickle, Hartmann, Machamer-Darden-Craver, Nagel-Schaffner, and others. The reduction/emergence analyses will be the backdrop to in-depth examinations of a range of theories of consciousness, including Dennett’s account, the Churchlands’ eliminitivist approach, and non-reductive views, including Chalmers hard problems, McGinn’s dualism, and strong criticisms of reductive strategies. The systematic approaches will be supplemented with classical philosophical articles and book chapters in philosophy of mind, as well as readings on recent developments in the neurosciences, theoretical brain science, and computer science. 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. Applications to psychiatric disorders will also be discussed, in particular recent developments in schizophrenia from both phenomenological and more molecular genetic and circuit reductive perspectives.