Graduate Courses

Spring 2019

HPS 2503    History of Science 2  
Palmieri, Paolo  2194    30773                                                                                                             
Thursday 9:30a.m.-12:00p.m.
1008-B CL
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 2519     Controversy, Crisis and Consensus
Michael Dietrich  2194    30756                                                                                                             
Tuesday 9:30a.m.-12:00p.m.
G-28 CL
In this course we will critically examining specific scientific controversies, their origins, their persistence, and their closure.  Controversies provide valuable opportunities to examine how communities of scientists reason about theories, evidence, experiments, methodologies, and wider social implications of their work.  We will consider a number of different controversies in this course which will be selected by seminar participants.  These disputes may include the Mendelian-Biometrician controversy in Genetics, controversies over climate change, the Cold Fusion Controversy, the controversies over Scientific Creationism, the Plate Tectonics controversy, the N-ray Controversy, and the Controversy over Race and IQ, as well as an array of priority disputes. 
HPS 2653     Models and Modeling in Science                                                                                
Robert Batterman  2194    31101                                                                                                             
Monday 9:30a.m.-12:00p.m
1008-B CL
Cross-listed with PHIL 2663/30852
This course will examine various strategies for modeling across scales. These include justifying the use of continuum models to explain and characterize behaviors of systems that we know are not continua. An overarching theme will be the use of what one can call ``asymptotic reasoning'' to justify ignoring details at scales (spatial and temporal) beyond those where various behaviors are dominant.  We consider a host of examples, from physics, materials science, and biology.  
HPS 2657    Philosophy of Biology: Causation & Explanation in Biology                                         
James Woodward  2194    30774                                                                                                             
Tuesday 2:00p.m.-4:30p.m.
1008-B CL
This course will explore some of the recent literature on causation and explanation in biology. Among the issues we will discuss are the following:  How should we understand the notion of mechanism and mechanistic explanation in biological contexts? How central are mechanistic explanations to biology?  What notion (or notions) of causation do we find in biology? Are the non-causal explanations in biology for example, are explanations that appeal to network structures non-causal as several philosophers have recently claimed?  What strategies do biologists employ in formulating explanatory theories about systems that are highly complex?  Can we make sense of the idea that some causal relationships in biological systems are more important than others or in some way privileged?                                      
HPS 2663    Perception                                                                                                                 
Mazviita Chirimuuta  2194    30775                                                                                                                  
Monday 1:00p.m.-3:30p.m.
1008-B CL
This course will be an examination of naturalistic philosophy of perception – mostly contemporary, but some historical examples. We will consider the strengths and pitfalls of different versions of naturalism, including non-standard approaches such as Huw Price’s “subject naturalism”, as employed in Gert’s (2017) theory of colour. We will also consider the relevance of different branches of perceptual science – e.g. neuroscience, psychophysics, and evolutionary psychology – for philosophy of perception, and examine how general issues in philosophy of science, such as realism vs. instrumentalism, impact on naturalistic methodologies. Topics will include colour ontology, the primary-secondary quality distinction, the relationship amongst the sensory modalities, and the status of introspection.
HPS 2665     Philosophy of Medicine                                                                                                        
Anya Plutynski  2194    30792                                                                                                          
Wednesday 9:30a.m.-12:00p.m.
1008-B CL
Philosophy of medicine is an investigation into what doctors know, and how they know it. This course will focus on cancer as a case study for exploring a variety of conceptual and epistemic questions about the nature of disease, challenges facing disease classification, explanation, and evidential reasoning in cell and molecular biology, epidemiology, and biomedicine generally. Some questions will explore include: Does cancer diagnosis involve an evaluative component? What is the scope and what are the limitations of mechanistic thinking about cancer? What does it mean to say that cancer is a genomic disease?  How ought we to classify cancers? What sort of evidence is required to justify the claim that "smoking causes lung cancer"? Is cancer a product or byproduct of our evolutionary history, and how do we know? Is cancer progression an evolutionary process? What counts as process in cancer science? What count as warranted claims about the effectiveness of medical interventions? When are we justified in saying that this or that screening method or treatment is effective? In sum, how do scientists and clinicians explain, predict, and intervene successfully on cancer? This course is about the variety of conceptual, metaphysical, epistemological, and practical, political questions that arise in medicine and the biomedical sciences as concerns cancer, in particular.

Previous Semesters----------------

Fall 2018

HPS 2501    Philosophy of Science (Core)

Dr. James F. Woodward
Tuesday 2:00p.m.-4:30p.m.
Cross-listed with PHIL 2600/10480

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 2504    History of Genetics: Mendel to Methylation

Dr. Michael Dietrich
Wednesday 9:30a.m.-12:00p.m.

In this course we will survey major developments in the history of genetics from Mendel to contemporary research on epigenetics.  Drawing upon a mix of primary and secondary sources, we will consider how systems of practice in genetics reflect their wider social contexts, how choices of problems and organisms shaped genetic research programs, how the rise of molecular biology transformed genetics and lead to the genomic era, and how epigenetics has challenged the scope of our understanding of inheritance.

HPS 2505    Philosophical Foundations of Cognitive Science

Dr. Colin Allen
Monday 3:00pm-5:30pm

The cognitive sciences began with great enthusiasm for the prospects of a successful multi-disciplinary attack on the mind. This enthusiasm was fueled by the faith that computational ideas could put flesh on abstract notions of mental representation, providing the means to make good physical sense of questions about the nature of mental information processing. The challenges of understanding how minds work have turned out to be much greater than many of the early enthusiasts predicted — in fact they have turned out to be so great that many have argued that we need new paradigms to replace the computationalist-representationalist assumptions of traditional cognitive science. This course aims to provide an understanding of the historical origins of these foundational discussions, and to apply this understanding to a specific topic in the philosophy of cognitive science. For Fall 2018 that topic will be the relevance or irrelevance of Shannon’s information theory to cognitive science.

HPS 2522    Special Topics in History of Science: Women in and out of Science

Dr. Paolo Palmieri
Wednesday 3:00p.m.-5:30p.m.

This open-platform seminar questions the presence and absence of women in science from antiquity to the twenty-first century. The pedagogy of the seminar is student-centered and promotes intellectual and identity emancipation. Participants are welcome from all academic fields and perspectives, including (but not limited to!) Africana, the history and philosophy of science, philosophy, psychoanalysis, feminism, literature, cultural studies, fine arts, theater, ethnicity and different abilities. We will debate visibility, oppression, objectification, seclusion, the denial of sexuality, violence, institutional racism, and the role of hierarchies in marking disciplinary boundaries… [place holder for participants’s suggestions]. Examples of women in classical science include Virginia Galilei, Maria Gaetana Agnesi, Émilie du Châtelet, Clémence Royer. We will read women scholars who have contributed to women science studies, for instance, Joy Harvey, Banu Subramaniam, Lynn Hankinson Nelson, Justine Larbalestier… [place holder for participants’s suggestions]. Readings, writing and creative projects, punctuated silence, and colorful patterns of resistance are encouraged. Activism and disobedience on diversity, sexual preference, political and linguistic difference, and ethnicity are welcome.

HPS 2590    Einstein 1905

Dr. Harvey Brown
Tuesday 9:00a.m.-12:00a.m.

This seminar will involve the study of papers related to (i) the historical origins of Einstein’s contributions to physics in his annus mirabilis 1905, with special emphasis on his special theory of relativity in the context of discoveries in nineteenth century either theories, and (ii) the origins of his general theory of relativity and its cosmological implications.

HPS 2626    Recent Topics in Philosophy of Physics

Dr. Harvey Brown
Thursday 9:30a.m.-12:00p.m.

This seminar will involve the study of papers related to some or all of the following topics in the philosophy of physics:

recent controversies concerning the nature of explanations in special and general relativity
the role of probability in prominent interpretations of quantum mechanics
the origins of time asymmetry in thermodynamics and the understanding of the arrow of time in statistical mechanics
assorted issues related to symmetry principles in physics, such as Noether’s theorems and the Aharonov-Bohm effects