HPS 2682       Theories of Confirmation        Fall 2010
Phil 2690

Schedule
Topics and Readings
Class Photos
Results of Ballot
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Access this site at http://www.pitt.edu/~jdnorton/teaching/2682_confirmation/general.html

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.

Instructor
John D. Norton, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, Room 817 CL, 412 624 1051 jdnorton@pitt.edu
Place
Room G28 CL
Time
Monday 3:00-5:30 pm

Your Part

Term paper
To be submitted Friday December 17 in hard copy by noon in 1017CL; or e-versions 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 (Monday December 13) 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 to us by Monday November 22. 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 advance!

Small project
Each of you will find an interesting evidential claim in science made by scientists and describe it briefly (5 minutes) in our September 13 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.