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Pittsburgh Summer Program 1: July 2017


Bayesian Explanations in Cognitive Science
David Danks
Course description TBA.


Confirmation Theory
Dmitri Gallow
Course description TBA.


Experimental Philosophy of Science
Edouard Machery
This seminar will focus on the use of experimental methods to make contributions to the philosophy of science as well as some metaphilosophical debates about the use of such methods.


Why is Biology different from Physics?
Sandra Mitchell
J J C Smart claimed, “Physics and chemistry have their laws… Biology, it seems to me, does not contain any laws in the strict sense.” (Philosophy and Scientific Realism 1963: p. 53)  Many philosophers of science have agreed.  I have proposed that the strict, dichotomous approach to scientific laws is not conceptually rich enough to explain the similarities and differences between knowledge of physics and knowledge of biology.  For that, we need a pragmatic account of laws.


Thought Experiments in Science
John D. Norton
Thought experiments in science are remarkable, or at least they appear so. Through them, we can learn about the world, not by conducting a real experiment, but merely by imagining such experiments. This poses the problem that will be the focus of our meeting:

The epistemological problem of thought experiments in science:
How can merely experimenting in thought provide new knowledge of the natural world?

In advance of the meeting, please think about this problem and develop a view.
Course materials here.


Gene Therapy and Enhancement: Ethical Issues and Opportunities
Lisa S. Parker

This seminar will consider problems and opportunities associated with the use of genetic technologies to correct genetic variations associated with disease and disability that may also be used to enhance performance at various levels (e.g., cellular, whole organism). The focus will not be on the technologies or biological mechanisms, but on the ethical implications of the availability of the technologies and their use. Two sets of issues will be considered. One set, presented in the article by Dena Davis, centers around parents' choices to use technologies and the effect of those choices: parental autonomy, children's autonomy and well-being, and notions of culture, disability, and state interests. The second set, raised in my article, includes questions of justice and agency.


Race and Medicine
Quayshawn Spencer
Course description TBA.


Psychiatry and Natural Kinds
Serife Tekin
Although there has long been a close link between philosophy and psychiatry, it is only in the past few decades that philosophy of psychiatry has emerged as a field on its own right, with its specific set of questions and themes generating interest from both traditional philosophers, and mental health professionals, including psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers. In addition, recent advances in neuroscience, genetics, psychopharmacology, coupled with the publication of the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which offers the standard criteria for the classification of mental disorder and used widely in North America and around the world, as well as the National Institute of Mental Health’s subsequent initiation of the Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) which offers a new criteria for research by redefining the basic dimensions of functioning (such as fear circuitry or working memory) to be studied across multiple units of analysis, from genes to neural circuits to behaviors, have generated many metaphysical and epistemological questions about the definition of mental disorders, the validity and reliability of scientific categories of mental disorders, cross-cultural differences in the properties of mental disorders, responsiveness of the mental disorder criteria to the experience of people with mental disorders, as well as the ethics of psychiatric diagnoses and treatment, and the nature of psychiatric research as a scientific enterprise. 

Our focus in this seminar will be one of the fundamental metaphysical and epistemological questions in philosophy of psychiatry, namely, whether mental disorders are natural kinds. For many philosophers, attributing natural kind status to mental disorders is appealing because of the conceived utility of natural kinds in scientific generalizations. Opponents of this view, on the other hand, object to this argument pointing out the complexity of mental disorders as well as the obscurity of the notion of natural kind in philosophy. In this seminar, we will discuss these arguments through a close reading of the pivotal texts in this debate.


Social Epistemology of Science
Kevin Zollman and Liam Kofi Bright
Science is a social enterprise, and understanding it as such can reveal interesting insights about scientific progress.  The social perspective makes us consider "scientific rationality" in a different light: some behaviors that might seem irrational from the perspective of an individual scientist are productive when analyzed from a social perspective.  In this seminar we will look at two papers that argue for this conclusion from a historical and mathematical perspective.



Revised 7/5/17 - Copyright 2006