Theories of Confirmation
from HPS 2682, Fall 2010.
Topics and Readings
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Science is distinguished from other investigations of nature in that the
claims of mature sciences are strongly supported by empirical evidence.
Theories of confirmation provide accounts of this relation of inductive
support. We shall review the range of theories of 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.
- John D. Norton, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, Room
1017 CL, 412 624 5896 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Room G28 CL
- Thursday 9:30am - 12noon
- Term paper
- To be submitted Friday April 28 in hard copy by noon in 1017CL; or
e-versions (preferred) in email to me by 5pm.
My policy is NOT to issue incomplete grades, excepting in extraordinary
circumstances. I really do want your papers completed and submitted by
the end of term. We do not want them to linger on like an overdue dental
checkup, filling your lives with unnecessary worry and guilt.
In return for the rigidity of the deadline, the seminar will not meet in
the final week of term (Thursday April 27) to give you extra time to
complete the paper.
The paper may be on any subject of relevance to the seminar.
To assist you in commencing work, we ask you submit a paper proposal
by the seminar meeting Thursday March 30. It should be send in email
ahead of the class meeting or presented on paper in the meeting. The
proposal need only be brief. It should contain a short paragraph
describing the topic to be investigated and give a brief indication of
the sources you intend to use. Do talk to me about possible topics in
- Small project
- Each of you will find an interesting evidential claim in science made
by scientists and describe it briefly (5 minutes) in our Thursday
January 12 meeting. The natural choice is to note that item X is claimed
by scientists to be strong evidence for hypothesis Y in scientific
theory Z. In the course of the seminar, you will track how well the
different approaches to induction explicate the claim and give a short
report in one of the final two seminar meetings.
- Take your turn presenting material
- The seminar will be structured around presentations by seminar
members, including me. They are based on weekly readings drawn from the
topics and reading list; and a short report on the small project.
- In presenting a reading, you should presume
that the seminar has read the reading. You should spend a short amount
of time reviewing the principal claims and arguments of the reading.
This is not intended to replace the seminar's reading of the text, but
merely to provide a basis of common agreement on its content and upon
which subsequent discussion is erected. Your principal burden is to
provide a critical analysis and response to the reading. This analysis
can take many directions. Is the project of the paper clear? Are the
theses clear? Are the arguments cogent? How does the reading relate to
other readings and issues in the seminar? Are there plausible
counter-theses? What arguments support them?
- You should plan to present for at most 30
minutes and that will be followed by discussion of up to 15 minutes for
discussion. If discussion starts prematurely, the discussion time may be
interleaved with the full 45 minutes allocated. Many presenters provide
handouts so that few notes need to be taken. We encourage you stand at
the blackboard, make strong eye contact with the seminar and deliver the
material, writing as needed on the blackboard. This promotes a more
engaging presentation than when you sit at the table with your head
buried in your notes talking to them.
- Attendance and participation
- I look forward to seeing and hearing you each week in the seminar.