University of Pittsburgh
Graduate Courses

Spring 2017

HPS 2503 History of Science 2
Paolo Palmieri
M 3:00p.m. - 5:30p.m.
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 2660 Causality
J. Dimitri Gallow
W 7:00p.m. - 9:30p.m.
cross-listed with PHIL 2662/30244-1001 CL This course will offer an introduction to metaphysical theories of causation. Though it will include a survey of regularity accounts, probabilistic accounts, and process accounts of causation, the course will focus on recent attempts to utilize structural equations models and Bayesian networks to provide an account of causation, causal explanation, and the relationship between causation and objective chance.

HPS 2667 Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics
Porter Williams
W 2:00p.m. - 4:30p.m.
cross-listed with PHIL 2627/30246 Quantum mechanics is rightly heralded as one of the great successes of 20th century physics, and provides the framework for our best contemporary theories of matter and radiation. However, almost a century after its birth, it remains unclear how we ought to understand what the theory is telling us about the world. This course will be an advanced introduction to the conceptual problems that beset the theory and selected proposals for addressing them. Topics discussed will include (i) the problem of measurement, its main proposed solutions, and the role of decoherence; (ii) Bell-type theorems, the Aharonov-Bohm effect, and the status of locality in quantum mechanics; (iii) and (if time allows) either topics at the interface of quantum and classical mechanics, or the conceptual motivation for moving beyond quantum mechanics to quantum field theory. No prior familiarity with quantum mechanics is required; all relevant background material will be introduced in class. However, the amount of mathematics required for a responsible discussion of the material is non-zero, and students will be expected to acquire the technical tools necessary for informed discussion.

HPS 2668 Topics in Phil of Biology: Extended Evolutionary Synthesis
Eva Jablonka
T 9:30a.m. - 12:00p.m.
On the basis of new findings and new ideas from several branches of biology, the course explores the view that there is a need to construct an Extended Evolutionary Synthesis (EES) that goes beyond the current neo-Darwinian model of evolution, which is based on the Evolutionary Synthesis (ES) forged during the first half of the 20th century. Starting with a historical review of the current, generally accepted view of evolutionary theory, we will survey recent ideas and studies on developmental plasticity, inclusive inheritance (i.e., genetic, epigenetic, behavioral, and symbol-based inheritance), niche construction, and the Tree of Life. On the basis of these studies we will follow the ways in which they extend and modify our assumptions about the nature of heredity, development, and individuality. We will then examine the effects of these discoveries and ideas on the present version of evolutionary theory, and discuss their implications: Is the change in evolutionary theory a within-paradigm change or does it require a paradigm shift? What can the nature of current debates about this question tell us about the sociology and philosophy of biology?
The course is designed for graduate students interested in the philosophy of modern evolutionary biology. Students will read biological and philosophical texts and engage in discussions. The format of the course will be a combination of lectures and discussions: an hour lecture by the teacher and a short (30 minutes) presentation by a student (which will also be summarized in a short essay by that student), followed by discussion. All students will be asked to submit a half page summary or “abstract” of the material they have been asked to read, for each session, and each student will be required to submit a short essay on one of the topics of the course. The mark will be based on the seminar given in class and the short essay based on it, and on the final essay.

HPS 2679 Philosophy of Mathematics: Expressive Means & Intelligibility in Mathematics
Kenneth Manders
M 12:00p.m. - 2:30p.m.
cross-listed with PHIL 2580/30242-1001 CL Intellectual accomplishment fundamentally consists in improved intelligibility. Direct attacks on “What is Knowledge?” must diagnose intelligibility enhancements. Mathematical contexts can provide relatively straightforward criteria of improvement.
What kind of differences matter, and how? Many examples indicate: Transformation of expressive usages is a first mover in intelligibility enhancement.
 Expressive modifications in mathematics can facilitate strategic information management, and structuring of search spaces. Central tenets of contemporary analytic philosophy must then adapt. Although declarative contents must indeed be importantly inter-translatable across such transformations (“straightforward criteria of improvement”), those translations fundamentally cannot preserve epistemically crucial intelligibility contributions. 

This goes against conceptions of contents (eg., propositions) as exhaustively translation-invariant. It goes against the idea that existing logical formalisations can serve as adequate basis for the epistemology of mathematics. Notably, providing a basis for sound justificatory practice, the central “foundations” concern, is only one requirement on a mathematical expressive usage.

HPS 2682 Theories of Confirmation
John D. Norton

H 9:30a.m. - 12:00p.m.
cross-listed with PHIL 2690/30133 Science is distinguished from other investigations of nature in that the claims of mature sciences are strongly supported by empirical evidence. Theories of induction and confirmation provide accounts of this relation of inductive support. We shall review the range of theories of induction and 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 2687 Epistemology of Experimental Practices
Sandra Mitchell/Mazviita Chirimuuta

W 9:30a.m. - 12:00p.m.
cross-listed with PHIL 2687/30247 Observation and Experimentation have long been taken as central to the legitimacy of scientific claims.  Richard Feynman wrote “The test of all knowledge is experiment.  Experiment is the sole judge of scientific ‘truth’” (1963).  But how do experiments reveal the way nature is organized? In this course we will explore a range of topics in the philosophy of experiment, including underdetermination and theory-ladenness, replicability, techniques and norms of experimental practice, the relationship between experimentation, theorizing and model-building and the new challenges of digitization and big data.

Fall 2016

HPS 2501 Philosophy of Science Core
Robert Batterman
M 9:30 am-12:00 pm
Cross-listed with PHIL 2600/10503 This course will focus on central topics in philosophy of science including explanation, confirmation, theory change, the meaning of theoretical terms, and scientific realism. We shall combine a reading of some classic texts with more recent work.

HPS 2522 Special Topics in History of Science: Galileo and All That
Paolo Palmieri
M 3:00 pm - 5:25 pm
The seminar focuses on Galileo's contributions to the cultural revolution of the seventeenth century, including the astronomical discoveries, the physics of falling bodies, the philosophy of nature, the harmony of religion and science. The seminar approaches Galileo in the broader humanistic, philosophical, mathematical and religious context of early modern Europe. This seminar traces his lasting legacy in the controversies that shaped the history and philosophy of modern science.

HPS 2633 Philosophy of Cognitive Science
Edouard Machery
W 9:30am - 12:00 pm
Cross-listed with PHIL 2633/29879 This course will survey the main philosophical questions provoked by cognitive science. Students will acquire a comprehensive grasp of the main issues in this field. Lectures and readings will be taken from artificial intelligence, psychology, philosophy, and neuroscience. We will discuss questions such as: Is the mind modular? Is the mind embodied and situated? Do we ascribe mental states by simulation or by means of a theory? What is consciousness? What are concepts?

HPS 2646 Topics in Hist & Phil of Biology - Teleology: History & Theory
James G. Lennox
H 2:00pm - 4:30 pm
Cross-listed with PHIL 2630/29952 This course traces debates about the validity, nature and scope of teleological explanation in the study of the living world. The course will begin with these debates as the originate and develop in Ancient Greek science and philosophy, looking at Plato’s Phaedo and Timaeus, Aristotle’s biological works, the Epicurean criticism and Galen’s defense of teleology. Among later developments that will be studied are the defense and us of teleological explanation among Early Modern neo-Galenic and neo-Aristotelian anatomists; the debates among professed ‘mechanical philosophers’ about the validity and scope of such explanations; the emergence of the debate between vitalism and mechanism in the 18th century; teleo-mechanism in the 19th century; debates about the place of teleology within evolutionary and developmental biology; and debates about the goal-directedness of development and behavior in the 20th century. The approach in the seminar will be ‘episodic’-i.e. this perennial debate will be studied in context at different moments in history, rather than attempting a ‘survey history’ of the topic.

HPS 2669 Realism
Mazviita Chirimuuta
T 2:00pm - 4:30 pm
Cross-listed with PHIL 2681/28970 Scientific realists think that on balance we have good reason to believe that our best scientific theories are at least probably and/or approximately true descriptions of how things stand in a mind-independent natural world. In this course we will begin by examining the classic statements and defenses of this view, including the so-called "Miracle" argument (viz. that the success of science would be a miracle if the theories used to achieve it were not at least approximately true). We will then consider some classic responses to this realist rationale from thinkers who articulate challenges to realism from such sources as the underdetermination of theories by evidence and the pessimistic induction over the history of science and who defend various alternatives to the realist position. We will then examine the most recent round of controversies surrounding scientific realism, considering versions of realism that have been revised in sophisticated ways to address the concerns of the objectors (e.g. entity realism and structural realism), as well as the most recent challenges that have been raised to these views. In the final part of the course we will discuss pragmatist alternatives to the traditional forms of realism and we will also focus on debates over realism regarding theories and posits in the special sciences.

Spring 2017

TBA