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This course will present some core subject areas of analytical philosophy of science. No in-depth knowledge of any science is presupposed for this course, nor are any mathematics beyond basic algebra. The bulk of the course is concerned with ‘general' philosophy of science rather than with the philosophies of specific sciences (such as the philosophy of quantum mechanics or biology). There will however be one lecture on the philosophy of space and time at the end of the course in order to convey the main idea of what the philosophy of a special science amounts to. The first term covers the problem of induction, theories of confirmation, probabilities, the nature of scientific theories, laws of nature, and scientific explanation. The second term covers reductionism, the realism antirealism debate, social constructivism, feminism, causation, and the philosophy of space and time.
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Curd, Martin and J. A. Cover (1998): Philosophy of Science. The Central Issues. New York and London: W. W. Norton. [Henceforth abbreviated to ‘C&C']
Salmon, Marrilee et al. (1992): Introduction to the Philosophy of Science. Indianapolis and Cambridge: Hackett.
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Bird, Alexander (1998): Philosophy of Science. London: Routledge.
Hitchcock, Christopher (ed.) (2004): Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Science. Oxford: Blackwell.
Kosso, Peter (1992): Reading the Book of Nature. An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science. Cambridge: CUP.
Ladyman, James (2002): Understanding Philosophy of Science. London: Routledge.
Lambert, Karel and Gordon G. Brittan Jr. (1992): An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science. Atascadero/CA: Ridgeview. 4 th ed.
Losee, John (1992): A Historical Introduction to the Philosophy of Science. Oxford: Oxford UP. 4th ed.
O'Hear, Anthony (1989): An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science. Oxford: Oxford UP.
Rosenberg, Alexander (2000): Philosophy of Science. A Contemporary Introduction. London: Routledge.
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Braithwaite, Richard B. (1953): Scientific Explanation. Cambridge: CUP.
Carnap, Rudolph (1966): An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science. New York: Dover 1995 (Repr. of: Philosophical Foundations of Physics: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science. New York 1966).
Hempel, Carl G. (1966): Philosophy of Natural Science. Princeton: Princeton UP.
Nagel, Ernest (1961): The Structure of Science. Problems in the Logic of Scientific Explanation. New York 1961; repr. Indianapolis/Cambridge 1979: Hackett.
Pap, Arthur (1963): An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science. London: Eyre and Spottiswoode.
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Cartwright, Nancy (1983): How the Laws of Physics Lie, Oxford: OUP.
Duhem, Pierre (1906): La Théorie Physique, son Objet et sa Structure. 1st ed. Paris 1906. Engl. trans. by Philip P. Wiener: The aim and Structure of Physical Theory. Princeton: Princeton UP 1954.
Goodman, Nelson (1954): Fact, Fact, and Forecast. 4 th ed., Cambridge/Ma and London: Harvard UP1983.
Hempel, Carl G. (1965): Aspects of Scientific Explanation and other Essays in the Philosophy of Science. New York.
Howson, Colin and Peter Urbach (1989): Scientific Reasoning: the Bayesian Approach. Illinois: Open Court (second edition 1993).
Hacking, Ian (1983): Representing and Intervening. Cambridge: CUP.
Kuhn, Thomas (1962): The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago and London: Chicago UP (second edition 1969).
Lakatos, Imre (1970): ‘Falsification and the Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes', in Imre Lakatos and Alan Musgrave (eds.): Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge, Cambridge: CUP, pp. 91-196.
Popper, Karl R. (1932): The Logic of Scientific Discovery. London: Routledge 2003.
– (1989): Conjectures and Refutations. London: Routledge.
van Fraassen, Bas C. (1980): The Scientific Image. Oxford.
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Newton-Smith, W. H. (ed.) (2000): A Companion to the Philosophy of Science. Malden/MA and Oxford: Blackwell.
Machamer, Peter and Michael Silberstein (2002): The Blackwell Guide to the Philosophy of Science. Oxford: Blackwell.
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The readings listed below are the compulsory readings of the course; a list with additional readings will be made available at the beginning of the course.
It is commonly believed that scientific knowledge is special because it bears a particular relation to empirical evidence. What, if anything, is this particular relation? Can we be sure, on the bases of empirical evidence, that theories are true? If not, can we at least be sure that certain theories are false? Does the inevitable involvement of so-called auxiliary assumptions in the testing of a theory imply that we can never definitely refute a theory? Do the notions of simplicity and avoidance of ad hoc assumptions play a major (and defensible) role in deciding how to modify a set of theoretical assumptions in the face of a negative experimental result?
Duhem, Pierre (1906): ‘Physical Theory and Experiment', C&C pp. 257-279.
Glymour, Clark (1980): ‘Why I am not a Bayesian', C&C pp. 584-606.
Goodman, Nelson (1954): Fact, Fact, and Forecast. 4 th ed., Cambridge/Ma and London: Harvard UP1983, Ch. 3.
Hempel, Carl G. (1966): ‘Criteria of Confirmation and Acceptability', C&C pp. 445-459.
Horwich, Paul (1993): ‘Wittgensteinian Bayesianism', C&C pp. 607-624.
Hume, David (1748): Enquiries Concerning Human Understanding and Concerning the Principles of Morals. Ed. by L. A. Selby-Bigge. Oxford: Oxford UP 1997, Secs, 2-7.
Popper, Karl (1932): ‘The Problem of Induction', C&C pp. 426-432.
Salmon, Wesley and John Earman (1992): ‘The Confirmation of Scientific Hypotheses', in Salmon et al. (1992) Ch. 2.
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A central aim of science is to develop theories and to discover laws around which these theories centre. What are theories? Are theoris linguistic or non-linguistic objects? How do they represent their subject matter? What is a law of nature? Is there an objective distinction between a law of nature and a generalization that is merely universally true? Can laws be explained in terms of relations between universals? Have philosophers misrepresented science's concern with laws?
Ayer, Alfred J. (1956): ‘What is a Law of Nature?', C&C pp. 808-825.
Carnap, Rudolph (1939): ‘The interpretation of Physics', repr. in: Herbert Feigl and May Brodbeck: Readings in The Philosophy of Science. New York 1953, pp. 309-318.
Cartwright, Nancy (1983): ‘Do the Laws of Physics State Facts?', C&C pp. 865-877.
Dretske, Fred (1977): ‘Laws of Nature', C&C pp. 826-845.
Earman, John (1984): ‘Laws of Nature: The Empiricist Challenge', in: R. Bogdan (ed.): D. M. Armstrong. Dordrecht: Reidel, pp. 191-223.
Giere, Ronald N. (1988): Explaining Science. A Cognitive Approach. Chicago: Chicago UP, Ch. 3.
Molnar, George (1969): Kneale's Argument Revisited. Philosophical Review 78, pp. 79-89.
Putnam, Hilary (1962): ‘What Theories are Not', in: Ernest Nagel, Alfred Tarski and Patrick Suppes (eds.): Logic, Methodology, and Philosophy of Science. Reprinted in: Hilary Putnam: Mathematics, Matter, and Method. Philosophical Papers, Volume I. Cambridge 1975, pp. 215-227.
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Many believe that science does not only state facts; it also explains these facts. What qualifies as a scientific explanation? Does any generalisation that entails an experimental outcome explain it? Or does the generalisation need to be a law of nature? Are real explanations inevitably causal ? Is explanation achieved through (or even ohly through) unification? What, if anything, is the difference between explanation and understanding? Closely related to these questions is the issue of reductionism, as there is a prevailing intuition that we explain occurrences at a certain level by reducing them to something more fundamental. What is reduction? Does reduction really explain? Are some theories more fundamental than others? Can some theories be reduced to others? Is science a unity?
Carnap, Rudolph (1966): ‘The Value of Laws: Explanation and Prediction', C&C pp. 678-684.
Cartwright, Nancy (1999): The Dappled World. A Study in the Boundaries of Science. Cambridge: CUP, Introduction and Chapter 1.
Dupré, John (1993): The Disorder of Things. Metaphysical Foundations of the Disunity of Science. Cambridge/Ma and London: Harvard UP, Ch. 4.
Friedman, Michael (1974): ‘Explanation and Scientific Understanding', Journal of Philosophy 71, pp. 5-19.
Hempel, Carl G. (1962): ‘Two Basic Types of Explanation', C&C pp. 685-594.
– (1965): ‘Inductive Statistical Explanation', C&C pp. 706-719.
– (1965): ‘The Thesis of Structural Identity', C&C pp. 695-705.
Hempel, Carl and Paul Oppenheim (1948): ‘Studies in the Logic of Explanation. Philosophy of Science 15, pp. 135-75.
Kitcher, Philip (1981): ‘Explanatory Unification', Philosophy of Science 48, 507-31.
Nagel, Ernest (1974): ‘Issues in the Logic of Reductive Explanations', C&C pp. 905-921.
Salmon, Wesley (1984): Scientific Explanation and the Causal Structure of the World. Princeton: Princeton UP, Ch. 5.
Salmon, Wesley (1992): ‘Scientific Explanation', in Salmon et al. (1992), Ch. 1.
Railton, Peter (1978): ‘A Deductive Nomological model of Probabilistic Explanation', C&C pp. 746-765.
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Scientific theories seem, if taken literally, to describe an unobservable reality underlying the phenomena. Are there good reasons for interpreting theories in this way and for holding that they are true, or at any rate approximately true? Would the success of science be a miracle without this interpretation of theories? Or should we instead think of theories as merely instruments for codifying and predicting phenomena? Does the fact that any given set of data can be accommodated within an infinite number of possible scientific theories mean that there are never good reasons to accept any particular scientific theory on the basis of given data? Does the existence of scientific revolutions (and the possibility of further revolutions in the future) imply that there is no good reason to think our present theories even approximately true? Is there even an objective notion of what it takes for a claim to be false, but approximately true?
Boyd, Richard (1983): ‘On the Current Status of Scientific Realism', Erkenntnis 19, pp. 45-90.
Churchland, Paul (1982): ‘The Ontological Status of Observables: In Praise of the Superempirical Virtues', Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 63, pp. 226-236.
Fine, Arthur (1984): ‘The Natural Ontological Attitude', C&C pp. 1186-1208.
Hacking, Ian (1982): ‘Experimentation and Scientific Realism', C&C pp. 1153-1168.
Kuhn, Thomas (1962): Chs. 9, 10 and the Postscript to the 1969 2 nd ed.
– (1977): ‘Objectivity, Value Judgement, and Theory Choice', C&C pp. 102-118.
Laudan, Larry (1981): ‘A Confutation of Convergent Realism', C&C pp. 1114-1135.
Maxwell, Grover (1962): ‘The Ontological Status of Theoretical Entities', C&C pp. 1052-1062.
Psillos, Stathis (1999): Scientific Realism. How Science Tracks Truth. London: Routledge, Ch. 4.
Worrall, John (1989): ‘Structural Realism: The Best of Both Worlds?' Dialectica 43, 99-124; repr. in: David Papineau (ed.): The Philosphy of Science. Oxford 1996, pp. 139-65.
van Fraassen, Bas (1980): ‘Arguments Concerning Scientific Realism', C&C pp. 1064-1087.
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Science is practised in a social context. What influence does this context have on the outcomes of scientific investigations? Does the fact that science operates in a certain context threaten the objectivity of scientific knowledge? Does science describe mind-independent facts or are the claims of science social constructions? What role do gender and gender relations play in science? Does science have a male bias; i.e. is science based on male values? If so, how would a ‘ female science ' look like?
Barnes, Barry and David Bloor (1982): ‘Relativism, Rationalism, and the Sociology of Knowledge', in M. Hollis and S. Lukes (eds.): Rationality and Relativism. Boston: MIT Press 1982, 21-47. Reprinted in Daniel Rothbart (ed.): Science, Reason, and Reality. Issues in the Philosophy of Science. Forth Worth: Harcourt Brace College Publishers 1998, 325-343.
Fox Keller, Evelyn (1978): ‘Gender and Science', repr. in: Sandra Harding and Merrill B. Hintikka (eds.): Discovering Reality. Feminist Perspectives on Epistemology, Metaphysics, Methodology, and Philosophy of Science. Dordrecht: Reidel 1983, 187-205.
Haack, Susan (1998): ‘Science as Social? – Yes and No', in: Susan Haack: Manifesto of a Passionate Moderate. Chicago: Chicago UP, 104-22.
Hartsock, Nancy (1983): ‘The Feminist Standpoint: Developing the Ground for a Specifically Feminist Historical Materialism', in Sandra Harding and Merrill B. Hintikka (eds.): Discovering Reality. Feminist Perspectives on Epistemology, Metaphysics, Methodology, and Philosophy of Science. Dordrecht: Reidel 1983, pp. 283-310.
Harding, Sandra (1993): ‘Rethinking Standpoint Epistemology: What is “Strong Objectivity”?' In: Keller, E. Fox and Longino, H. (1996): Feminism and Science. Oxford: OUP. p. 235-248.
Latour, Bruno (1987): ‘Selections from Science in Action', in Daniel Rothbart (ed.): Science, Reason, and Reality. Issues in the Philosophy of Science. Forth Worth: Harcourt Brace College Publishers 1998, 344-366.
Longino, Helen (1990): Science as Social Knowledge. Values and Objectivity in Scientific Inquiry. Princeton: Princeton UP, Chs. 1, 4, 5.
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Causal Claims are ubiquitous in science as well as in every-day contexts. ‘Smoking causes lung cancer', ‘ Aspirins relieve headaches', ‘Seatbelts save lives', ‘asteroids killed the dinosaurs', ‘the second world war was caused by German imperialism', and ‘in 79 AD, the eruption of the Vesuvius destroyed Pompeii' are just some well-known examples. But what is causation? Is causation reducible to spatio-temporal contiguity, succession and constant conjunction? Or does causation involve relations between properties? How is causation related to counterfactual conditionals? How can we ‘read off' causal claims from empirical data or from equations describing these data?
Mackie, John L. (1965): ‘Causes and Conditions', American Philosophical Quarterly 2, 245-64; repr. in Ernest Sosa and Michael Tooley (eds.): Causation. Oxford 1993, 33-55.
Reiss, Julian (2004): Causality: Between Metaphysics and Methods. Manuscript available at LSE.
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Over the last twenty-five years there was an ever-growing trend towards philosophies of special sciences, such as philosophy of physics, philosophy of biology and philosophy of cognitive science, to mention just a few. Even within these disciplines further specialisations have emerged; within the philosophy of physics, for instance, we find the philosophy of quantum mechanics, the philosophy of space and time, etc. In this unit we discuss the philosophy of space-time theories. The purpose of this is to convey the main idea of what the philosophy of a special science is. Question that will be addressed include the following. What are space and time? Are they absolute or constructions out of objects and events? In what ways does modern physics (especially Relativity Theory) require us to change our conceptions of space and time?
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