2533 / PHIL 2533 Descartes
Machamer, Peter & McGuire, James
Descartes' works are often treated as a unified, unchanging whole. We shall examine in detail some of the major Descartes’ texts (and Letters) that show how the philosopher's views, particularly in natural philosophy, actually change radically between his early and later works--and that any interpretation of Descartes must take account of these changes. No changes in Descartes’ thought are more significant than those that occur between the major works The World (1633) and Principles of Philosophy (1644). Often seen as two versions of the same natural philosophy, these works are in fact profoundly different, containing distinct conceptions of causality and epistemology. We will trace the implications of these changes and others that follow from them, including Descartes' rejection of the method of abstraction as a means of acquiring knowledge, his insistence on the infinitude of God's power, and his claim that human knowledge is limited to that which enables us to grasp the workings of the world and develop scientific theories. The readings will be mainly original Cartesian texts and letters, but will relate to our newly published book, Descartes’ Changing Mind (Princeton UP, 2009) as well as other recent work.
2547 Aristotle’s Philosophy of Science: Aristotle on Methods of Investigation
Lennox, James G.
The first book of Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics (APo) discusses conditions that must be satisfied before one can claim to possess unqualified, demonstrative knowledge, while the second book discusses related forms of search or inquiry that purport to lead to such knowledge. In the case of APo II the discussion is highly abstract and the examples more often perplexing than illuminating. In this seminar I am proposing that we turn to a variety of texts throughout the corpus, all of which reflect on the question of how an inquiry or an investigation ought to be carried out. The guiding hypothesis is that Aristotle thinks that the answer to that question will vary from one investigation to the next, partly owing to differences in objects we are seeking to know and partly owing to differences in our epistemic access to those objects. If that is so, then significant progress might be made on understanding how Aristotle views the inductive aspects of science by comparing these ‘on the ground’ reflections with more abstract discussions such as Posterior Analytics II.
2565 The Gene: The Transformation and Fragmentation of a Concept
Schaffner, Kenneth F.
The gene has enjoyed the status of a fundamental unit, a concept with a privileged status in biology. But just as its centrality in modern biology became recognized, the unity of its conceptual status began to erode, so that today there are many different definitions of the concept. But the gene concept persists in diverse forms. We plot this checkered career of the gene historically from hypothetical construct to indivisible particle and on to divisible segment of a long chain molecule, paying attention to the distinction often discussed by philosophers between the so-called classical gene and the molecular gene. In addition, we briefly examine the origins of population genetics and of quantitative genetics. We also review the development of the "human genome project" in the context of the so-called privileged status of the gene, the generality of the principles of molecular biology, and the difficulties associated with medical and psychiatric genetics, including recent genome-wide association studies (GWAS). If time permits, we will also consider the pre-genetic world and the origin of life. The course will additionally discuss various approaches to the historiography of the biological sciences, including the role of oral history and the use of various document sources. Readings will be both from original genetic sources and from secondary historical and philosophical sources. This course should be of special interest to any graduate student potentially planning work in the philosophy of biology, as well as being of general interest.
2587 / ANTH 2613 Evolutionary Theory II
This will be a continuation in the Fall Term 2101, of ANTH 2612 (HPS 2585), which covered readings from Darwin to Goldschmidt. In this course, readings will begin with the 2nd edition of Dobzhansky's Genetics and the Origin of Species and proceed onto works by Mayr, Simpson, Schindewolf, Lovtrup, Alberch, GC Williams, and Eldredge and Gould. Added to this list (in the appropriate order) will be publications on development by Waddington, J. Huxley, L. Wolpert, A. Lumsden, R. Raff, S. Carroll, G. Wagner et al (from his recent edited volume on the character concept). In order to bring up to pace students taking this course who were not in the first seminar, we will spend the first 1-2 weeks reviewing the main points of the works of Darwin et al. The theme of this course will be the same as the other: to identify the assumptions, things taken as given without foundation, motivations-to explore how different scholars can take the same observations (say, gaps in the fossil record) as "fact" in arriving at totally different conclusions/interpretations,how/why Darwinism emerged as dominant from a field of alternatives, how/why current discoveries in developmental genetics lend themselves to a revival of some of these alternatives, and how/why we need not continue to view the disagreements between "Darwinians" and "non-Darwinians" in the context of an either/or situation (where there is only one question, therefore only one correct answer) but rather elements of a hierarchical biological world. As we proceed to the more recent articles and books we will explore the implications of developmental genetics (or developmental evolutionary biology as the new field is being identified) for systematics. Graduate standing in anthropology, history and philosophy of science, biology, or geology, or permission of the instructor. Students will be evaluated on their class participation, their annotated bibliographies, and final paper.
2645 / PHIL 2645 Topics in Philosophy of Biology:Moral Psychology
In this course, we will examine some recent issues discussed in the empirically informed moral psychology. We will focus on a limited number of topics, examining them in depth rather than surveying the whole field of moral psychology. The following topics are among those that might be considered: Does situationism invalidate virtue ethics? Did morality evolve? Is sentimentalism true? Are people altruistic or egoist? Does the research on moral intuitions justify some form of moral skepticism? Can psychology debunk morality? Authors will probably include Doris, Prinz, Haidt, Sinnott-Armstrong, Stich, Greene, and Joyce.
2660 / PHIL 2662 Causality
Glymour, Clark N.
This seminar has two options: Causality and physics, or Causality and he mind. If there is an overwhelming preference among students for one or the other, that's what we will do all semester. If, however, the class is substantially divided, we will do each option for 6 or 7 weeks, but participants will be obliged to take part in both halves.
Causality and Physics: The Causal Markov Condition has been extensively debated by philosophers while assumed without notice in the social sciences. How does it stand n physics, particularly in General Relativity and in Quantum theory? We will consider how the causal interpretation of signal boundaries in relativity fits with the Causal Markov Condition, where the condition determines a direction of time in general relativity, and whether it is a constraint on "physical" models of general relativity. We will consider what the Bello inequalities and their empirical confirmation say about the Condition.
Causality and the Mind: Since philosophers have been so much, for so long, concerned with the mind and causality, one place to look for a fruitful connection between philosophy and science is in studies of how the brain produces behavior. This seminar will trace the scientific and philosophical sources of a single contemporary paper: Joseph Ramsey, et al, "Six Problems for Causal Inference from fMRI," NeuroImage, in pres. The trail will lead through recent neuroscience, Bayesian statistics, machine learning, causality, and the "logic" of discovery, with asides on Searle, Simon, the Churchlands, mechanisms, etc.
2688 / PHIL 2675 Scientific Explanations
Wednesday 7:00p.m.-9:30p.m., (Room 1001 CL)
In his whimsical moments, Brigham Young would order members of his flock to “travel directly south two hundred miles and plant cotton.” When these exiled settlers encountered some easily skirted ravine or coulee, they would not deviate from their instructions but would painstakingly carve ruts and fastenings into the rock so that their wagon trains could be pulled across the obstacle at hand, obedient to their “travel directly southward” instructions. I fancy that on a blistering Utah afternoon some of these tortured souls may have entertained the impious thought, “Mightn’t we have gone around this canyon?”
Well, analogous situations often arise within scientific endeavor, where a direct, “bottom up” modeling of a physical situation will lead the enquirer into dreadful mathematical complexities which can be easily skirted by a brisk invocation of macroscopic data extracted from experiment . The basic project of this seminar is to investigate how such “mixed level” (that is, neither purely “bottom up” nor “top down”) explanations operate and the manner in which key concepts like “cause,” “law” and “possibility” shift their own meanings when they appear within these altered explanatory contexts. To begin this project, we will study first Leibniz’ great essays on physical methodology, which reveal a profound appreciation for “mixed level” explanatory structure. From there, we will examine a number of cases in modern metaphysics where significant misunderstandings about “reduction,” “possibility” and “law”seem to have arisen through a lack of appreciation for the varieties of explanatory structure in real life practice. We shall also examine the well known dispute between Bob Batterman and Gordon Belot over the status of “theories emeritus” in this light. Although we will discuss a range of scientific examples along the way, this is not intended as a technical course in any way (if the distinctions we draw don’t prove straightforwardly “commonsensical,” then we haven’t done our philosophical work properly). Students wishing to complete the course for a grade may elect to pursue individual projects along historical, metaphysical or philosophy of science contours.