HPS 2501/Phil 2600     Philosophy of Science     Fall 2014


Paper Topics

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(a) You are required to submit the warm up exercise and then your choice of THREE only of the short papers described below.
(b) Optional additional assignment: you can, if you wish, submit one additional short paper. The paper grade will be determined from the four best papers submitted, including the warm up exercise.
(c) The short papers are intended to be short--500 to 1000 words--but rich in content. In counting the words, footnotes are included, but not the list of references.
(d) The papers are due one week after the last paper of the relevant section has been read in class. (Dealines listed below.)
(e) Papers will be graded according to how well they state clearly a thesis in philosophy of science and argue cogently for it. See policies on papers.
(f) Remember also my policies late submission. (Don't.)
(g) Send the paper to me in email (jdnorton@pitt.edu) in an editable file, that is, not a pdf. I find Microsoft "doc" files and rtf = "rich text format" the most flexible and generated by most word processors.

1. Warm up Exercise (MUST DO), Due September 3, before class (500-1000 word maximum)

The hospitality of our world to life depends upon certain fundamental physical parameters taking values in quite narrow ranges. Standard physics gives no deeper reason for why many of these fundamental parameters have just these values.

This circumstance is described as the "fine-tuning" of these parameters. It has become the focus of a public debate. Theists have found in this fine-tuning evidence for a fine-tunER, that is, god. Atheists have responded with a combination of arguments, including anthropic reasoning.

This debate places foundational issues in philosophy of science in the center of public debate.

The warm up exercise is to assert a non-trivial claim in philosophy of science concerning the issues in the debate and argue cogently for it.

Base your discussion on the two readings indicated in the Schedule. There is one reading from each camp.

The fine tuning discussion touches on some technical physics. However the philosophical issues seem not to depend upon any details in the technical physics and I do not expect you to deal with them. Keep your focus on the bigger questions of just what is the import of the fine tuning of parameters.

This is an exercise in the stating of a clear thesis and arguing cogently for it. This is not the place for rambling discussion. Get straight to business. State the thesis clearly and lay out the argument. Don't bury it in chatter. You have 500-1000 words. Use them well.

Here is my sample answer.


2., 3., 4. Choose THREE of:

Below is a list of the topics covered in this seminar. Choose any three. To prepare for the paper, reflect on the topic until you have arrived at a definite viewpoint concerning it. Your paper consists of the presentation of that viewpoint and the case for it.

Your task is to develop your own viewpoint and argue for it.

Your task is NOT to recapitulate what is found in the readings.
Since you are limited to 500-1000 words, you cannot waste words on unnecessary recapitulation of the readings.

Here is the list of topics and deadlines for submissions of the papers.

The Structure of Theories Sep. 17
Analogical Models Sep. 17
Idealizations Sep. 24
Representation Oct. 1
Inductive Inference Oct. 8
Bayesian Confirmation Theory Oct. 15
Problems of Induction Oct. 22
Explanation Oct. 29
Realism and AntiRealism Nov. 5
Causation Nov. 12
Reduction and Emergence No. 19
Experiment Nov. 26
Values in Science Dec. 10

Are you wondering where to start? Remember that the beginning of novel work in philosophy of science is the point of intractability. Once you have found it, merely advancing the discussion one millimeter forward is worthwhile.