University of Pittsburgh
Graduate Courses

Fall 2017

HPS 2501 Philosophy of Science Core
Dr. John D. Norton
T 3:00p.m. - 5:25p.m.
Cross-listed with PHIL 2600/10491. 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 2509 Special Topics in History of Philosophy of Science
Dr. Mark Wilson
M 10:00a.m. - 12:30p.m.
Cross-listed with PHIL 2610/30437. This seminar will focus on the foundations of classical mechanics, with a particular emphasis on how altering conceptions of matter have affected wider topics within philosophy more generally, continuing onto the present day. Rather than comprising a truly unified conceptual domain, the term “classical mechanics” embraces a number of distinct themes that lie in tension with one another. We will isolate some of these threads and observe how they play out within the writings of Descartes, Leibniz, Newton, Duhem and other historical figures. By untangling these divergent strands sympathetically, we will be able to correct a goodly amount of “classical mechanics” folklore that distorts orthodox philosophy of science and metaphysical thinking even to this day. No especial technical background will be presumed; just a willingness to think about billiard balls and clocks in a disciplined way.

HPS 2522 Special Topics in History of Science: Plotinus through HPS
Dr. Paolo Palmieri
M 3:00p.m. - 5:25p.m.
This seminar explores scientific models of knowledge and humanistic models of knowledge in Plotinus and the intellectual movement known as Neoplatonism. We will study Plotinus’s Enneads and other sources by focusing on a variety of philosophical, cultural, and historical aspects, such as methods of inquiry, patterns of antagonism with Christianity, the definition of disciplinary boundaries, the notion of the self, the production and transmission of texts in the school, first principles, the conception of matter, nature, soul, and the categories of being that Western science appropriated from this enormously influential cultural tradition.

HPS 2541 History of Neurosciences
Dr. Mazviita Chirimuuta
H 2:00 - 4:30p.m.
This seminar takes a philosophically motivated inspection of the sciences of the brain and nervous system in the late 19th and early 20th century. Figures such as the neurologist John Hughlings Jackson (1835-1911) and physiologists Herman von Helmholtz (1821-1894) and Emil du Bois-Reymond (1818-1896) established an explicitly mechanistic research tradition in brain science. As noted by Thomas Henry Huxley, as early as 1874, this research had radical implications for the understanding of mental causation and the metaphysics of mind and sensations. In this course we will examine both the significant scientific discoveries and the philosophical debates that attended their dissemination amongst the learned public. We will consider their legacy in shaping the trajectory of philosophy of mind in the 20th century. We will also examine the steps that were made in this period to develop comprehensive theories of the nervous system, looking in particular at the reflex theories of Thomas Laycock (1812–1876) and Charles Sherrington (1857-1952), and the neuron doctrine of Ramon y Cajal (1852-1934).

HPS 2571 Going Molecular
Dr. Michael Dietrich
H 10:00a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
The rise of molecular biology stands as one of the landmarks of twentieth century biology. In this seminar, we will come to terms with the transformative impact of molecular biology on biology in general. After reviewing different approaches to the history of molecular biology, we will consider how concepts, data, practices, and technologies from molecular biology have altered the fields of genetics, evolutionary biology, systematics, and developmental biology. This seminar will address fundamental questions about scientific change, and how it should be characterized and assessed.

HPS 2622 Recent Topics in Philosophy of Science: Science and Metaphysics
Dr. Porter Williams
T 9:30a.m. - 12:00p.m.
The appropriate relationship between science, philosophy of science, and metaphysics has recently been a topic of considerable controversy. This course will selectively examine the changing historical relationship between these fields in the 20th century before turning toward contemporary debates. Our focus will be on both the broad methodological dispute(s) and certain special topics, such as causation, laws of nature, or modality, where one can see this debate play out. My aim is to have guest speakers visit the seminar at least semi-regularly.

HPS 2673 Studies in Aristotle: Aristotle and Neo-Aristotelianism
Dr. James G. Lennox
W 9:30a.m. - 12:00p.m.
Cross-listed with PHIL 2041/30350 Recently philosophers engaged in inquiry in ethics, metaphysics, and philosophy of science have been explicit in acknowledging inspiration from Aristotle and the Aristotelian tradition, often identifying their projects as “Neo-Aristotelian”. In this seminar we will do a selective examination of work in this genre, focused not only on the merits and shortcomings of that work itself, but also on its connections with Aristotle’s philosophical inquiries into the same or related topics. It is hoped that a clear (or clearer) answer will emerge to the question, “What is it to be an Aristotelian (or “Neo-Aristotelian”) in the 21st century?

HPS 2681 Authority: Political and Scientific
Dr. John Beatty
W 3:00p.m. - 5:30p.m.
We use the same term when we refer to political ‘authority’ and scientific ‘authority.’ And in spite of obvious differences, they do resemble each other in key respects. Most notably, both suggest broad contexts in which we should defer to others rather than judge for ourselves. On the other hand, the forms of deference seem very different: obedience to the state vs. belief in (or some other cognitive attitude toward) a scientific conclusion. (Or are they so different?) Back on the side of similarities, deference of whichever sort is customarily justified by consensus, e.g., it takes a consensus of legislators to enact laws that we are obligated to obey, and it is often said that consensus among scientists obligates the rest of us to defer to their conclusions. On the other hand, procedures for gauging consensus (e.g., voting) are standard in the case of politics, but seem more atypical of science. (Or?) And there are a host of issues about equality that are sometimes common to both forms of authority and sometimes distinctive.

  In addition to considering various ways in which political and scientific authority can be compared and contrasted (and the implications of these similarities and differences), we will also consider how they relate in practice – how they may reinforce each other, or oppose one another – in different forms of government (e.g., democracies understood mainly as liberal, or mainly as electoral, or representative, or deliberative, or epistemic). We will examine these questions in light of contributions to political philosophy, social epistemology, HPS, and science and technology studies, with concrete cases.