Graduate Courses (Click on a title for course materials)
2501 Philosophy of Science Core
Cross-listed with PHIL 2600/11188
This course will consider philosophical questions pertaining to or provoked
by the natural sciences, questions such as: What's the point of scientific
theorizing? What is it to believe a scientific theory? (When) is such
belief rational? Sometimes working scientists, or philosophers concerned
with the foundations of a particular scientific theory, or philosophers
who are not consciously philosophers of science, have a stake in such
questions. Some attempt will be made to identify these stakes. Authors
to be read may include Carnap, Hempel, Kuhn, Lewis, Longino, Railton,
Reichenbach, Sellars, and van Fraassen.
2503 History of Science Core
As a single term survey of approximately five centuries intellectual history,
this seminar cannot hope to be comprehensive. Rather, our aim will be
to learn some of the skills of reading, analyzing and interpreting historical
texts by studying a selection of important achievements in natural inquiry
from the late Renaissance to the twentieth century. Throughout, it should
be kept in mind that a major goal of this course is the development of
the skills and techniques of the historian.
2537 Historiography of Science
This seminar will examine series of recent texts in 17th Century (mostly)
history of science. The texts are chosen because they attempt to represent
"big pictures" of where science fits into more general culture.
Each carries a different picture of history and so exemplifies a different
historiographic perspective. We shall look carefully at these different
historical approaches with the goal of trying to make sense of what the
nature of history is and ought to be. The seminar will conclude by examining
some writings about historiography.
2628 Evolution and Cognition
Psychology has recently undergone a paradigm shift: Evolutionary considerations
are increasingly brought to bear on the study of cognition. This approach
is supposed to provide new methods as well as new research questions.
Philosophers of psychology and biology have paid considerable attention
to this new line of research. This seminar is designed as a survey of
the recent developments in this growing field. We will first examine the
alternative approaches in this field: mainstream evolutionary psychology,
dual-inheritance theories, evolutionary anthropology, human behavioral
ecology etc. We will emphasize the diversity of this field as well as
its recent developments. Moreover, philosophers of biology and psychology
(Buller, Lloyd, etc.) have recently mounted book-length criticisms of
this field. In the second part of the semester, we will read and discuss
these books in detail.
2656 Aristotle on the Metaphysics and Modality of Change
Ted McGuire and
Cross-listed with PHIL 2626
1. This seminar will discuss recent topics in philosophy of physics, drawing
on suitable issues in quantum, relativistic and statistical physics, according
to the interests of the participants.
2. Prerequisites: Graduate standing or permission of the instructor.
3. Recitations: None.
4. Expected size class: 15 students.
5. This course is not offered on a regular basis.
2668 Topics in Philosophy of Biology
In this seminar we will investigate implications of the study of biological
complexity for understanding types of complexity, emergence, modularity,
scientific law, and causal inference from experimental interventions.
In addition we will look at the problems of translating the scientific
knowledge of complex systems into science policy. We will read materials
from contemporary debates on these subjects.
2675 Philosophy of Space and Time
This seminar will concentrate on problems of time, including tensed and
tenseless theories of time; McTaggart's argument for the unreality of
time; presentism (the view that only the present time exist); the direction
of time; time travel and backwards causation. You must be of graduate
standing or must get permission of the instructor.
Undergraduate Courses (Click on a title for course materials)
0427 Myth and Science
Cross-listed with CLASS 0330
How can we understand our world? In western culture, science dominates
all our answers to this question. But there are other ways. They can be
found in the mythologies of ancient and modern peoples. This course will
compare the scientific and mythological ways of seeing the world and their
more subtle connections. In particular, we will turn to the remarkable
events in Ancient Greece of 800-400 B.C. and discover how the scientific
approach actually grew slowly out of mythological thought itself.
0430 Galileo & the Creation of Modern Science
The Italian physicist and astronomer Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) was the
decisive figure in the rise of modern science. First, he ushered in a
new era in astronomy when he aimed a 30-powered telescope at the sky in
1610. Second, he revolutionized the concept of science when he argued
that the book of nature is written in the language of mathematics. Finally,
he astounded the theologians, who eventually condemned him to life imprisonment,
when he claimed that the scientist’s search for the truth cannot
be constrained by religious authority. This course will study Galileo
in the broader intellectual, social, and religious context of early modern
0515 Magic, Medicine and Science
J. E. McGuire
Cross-listed with HIST 0089
This course is a survey of some important patterns in Western intellectual
history. Beginning with ancient Greek speculations in cosmology, philosophy,
and medicine, we will look at some significant later developments in these
areas stressing the ways in which they were influenced by Greek tradition.
These include, (among other topics), the magical tradition which flourished
during the Renaissance. The latter half of the course will focus on those
profound intellectual transformations in the 17th century which constitute
what is often called "The Scientific Revolution". The great
scientific achievement of figures such as Descartes, Kepler, Galileo,
and Newton will be treated extensively as well as its indebtedness to
"non-scientific" elements of 17th century culture. This course
is meant to provide a broad picture of many important facets of the Western
intellectual tradition within the context of their historical development.
0630 The Nature of Emotions
This course will examine selected historically important theories and
portrayals of the human emotions or passions. The course will examine
different accounts of love, hate, desire, anger, jealousy, pride, grief,
etc., i.e. the affective dimension of human existence. It will look at
how these dimensions of experience relate to ideas of reason, control,
the will, decorum, and morality, and our knowledge of the "sciences"
of human beings. A number of questions will guide the readings and discussions.
Which emotions or passions are primitive? In what are the emotions grounded:
the body, the mind, the spirit? Can these even be usefully distinguished?
What is the structure of human emotions and how do they function? What
are the relations among emotions, personality types and behavior? Can
one learn to recognize emotions, control emotions, change the way emotions
affect behavior? How can one test or validate theories about emotions?
Expected enrollment for this class is 60.
0611 Principles of Scientific Reasoning
The course will provide students with elementary logic skills and an understanding
of scientific arguments. Ours is an increasingly scientific and technical
society. In both our personal life decisions and in our work we are daily
confronted by scientific results which influence what we do and how we
do it. Basic skills in analyzing the structure of arguments in terms of
truth and evidence are required to make this type of information accessible
and useful. We hear, for example, that drinking alcoholic beverages reduces
the chances of heart disease. We might well ask what sorts of tests were
done to reach this conclusion and do the tests really justify the claim?
We read that certain geographical configurations in South America "prove"
that this planet was visited by aliens from outer space. Does this argument
differ from other, accepted scientific arguments? This course is designed
to aid the student in making sense of a variety of elementary logic skills
in conjunction with the application of those skills to actual cases.
0613 Morality and Medicine
Ethical dilemmas in the practice of health care continue to proliferate
and receive increasing attention from members of the health care profession,
ethicists, policy makers, and the general public as health care consumers.
In this course we will examine a number of ethical issues that arise in
the context of contemporary medical practice and research by analyzing
articles and decision scenarios. Topics to be covered typically include
the physician-patient relationship; informed consent; medical experimentation;
termination of treatment; genetics; reproductive technologies; euthanasia;
resource allocation; and health care reform. Students who successfully
complete this course will be able to identify and analyze different philosophical
approaches to selected issues in medical ethics; have gained insight into
how to read and critically interpret philosophical arguments; and have
developed skills that will enable them to think clearly about ethical
questions as future or current health care providers, policy makers, and
This course is part of a core sequence leading to certification in the
Conceptual Foundations of Medicine Certificate Program, and is a companion
course to HPS 0612 (Mind and Medicine) but may be taken independently.
The course is of particular interest to pre-medical and pre-health care
0621 Problem Solving: How Science Works
A scientist announces that the sun contains a new, so-far unknown chemical
element, even though there is no hope of getting a sample. Another is
sure that a famous predecessor has faked his data, even though he has
seen nothing but the perfect, published results. Astonishingly, both claims
prove to be sober and sound. We will explore the approaches and methods
that make such miracles part of the routine of everyday science. This
course is intended for students with little or no background in science.
0630 Science and Pseudoscience
When we encounter news of bizarre and weird occurrences, how should we
think about the reported incidents? Why should we take an announcement
of a scientific discovery differently from another reported sighting of
Bigfoot? These questions will be explored while we examine popular controversial
claims, from the existence of extraterrestrials on this planet to the
effectiveness of the latest alternative medical theory. We will compare
the evidence and reasoning behind these frequently dismissed stories with
the evidence presented for new theories in areas of established science,
such as dinosaur extinction theories and global warming models. By exploring
the outlandish, the accepted, and the controversial, we will find ways
of approaching both science and its fringe.
1530 European Intellectual History 2 1870-1940
Cross-listed with HIST 1152/13764
This course will be conducted as a seminar. Through discussions and written
exposition, students will examine and analyze primary source material.
In this way, the class will explore topics in Europe’s main intellectual
trends from the age of liberalism to World War II and the emergence of
existentialism. Possible topics for study include the writings of John
Stuart Mill, Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Mannheim, Emile Durkheim, R.H.
Tawney, Max Web, Sigmund Freud, and Albert Camus.
1653 Introduction to Philosophy of Science
Cross-listed with PHIL 1610
This course explores the principal ways in which scientific knowledge
is attained in the natural sciences and in the behavioral/social sciences,
and it examines fundamental philosophical questions concerning the reliability
and limits of scientific understanding. The major topics of discussion
include: Explanation, confirmation, realism and the nature of theories,
the growth of scientific knowledge, space and time, and causality and