On a fairly conventional view, science exemplifies humankind’s rational inquiry into the true structure of the world. But what exactly is science? In what sense is it rational? Are scientific claims true or merely useful in predicting and controlling our environment? To answer these questions, we will examine scientific activities such as theory construction, explanation, confirmation, and experimentation, and their role in debates concerning the role of rationality and truth in scientic knowledge.
Course meeting times and places: Tuesday : 7:30-10:30, Twilight Hall, 201
Office hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday : 12:15PM-1:15PM Twilight Hall, 303A
Course policies are here.
Schedule of Readings and Assignments:
Links to readings below are available if you are connected via the Middlebury College Network. Copies for unlinked readings can be found on the “Readings” page. Password is: philsci
- Chakravartty, Anjan (2017). “Scientific realism”Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, E. Zalta (ed.) We will focus on §1, “What is Scientific Realism?,” but skim the entire article. [PPT][PPT] [HANDOUT]
- Nolt, John (1997). “Validity & Counterexamples.” In Logics. Belmont: McGraw-Hill.
- Khalifa, Kareem (2018). “Reconstructing Arguments” in The Art of Argument (open-access book, in progress.) [PPT] [HANDOUT]
I. Does the History of Science Favor Realism or Antirealism?
A. The No-Miracles Argument
2/19 (Ellie Martini, Cater Wang)
- Musgrave, Alan (2006), “The ‘miracle argument’ for scientific realism”, Rutherford Journal 2. [PPT] [HANDOUT]
- Frost-Arnold, Greg (2010), “The no-miracles argument for realism: inference to an unacceptable explanation“,Philosophy of Science77 (1): 35-58. [PPT] [HANDOUT]
B. The Pessimistic Induction & Selective Realism
2/26 (Sarah Yang, Alex Kovalick)
- Laudan, Larry (1981), “A confutation of convergent realism“, Philosophy of Science48 (1):19-49. [PPT] [HANDOUT]
- Worrall, John (1989), “Structural realism: the best of both worlds?“, Dialectica43 (1-2):99-124. [PPT] [HANDOUT]
3/5 (Jackson Sennett, Kristin Kimble)
- Psillos, Stathis (1996), “Scientific realism and the ‘pessimistic induction’”, Philosophy of Science 63: S306-S314. [PPT] [HANDOUT]
- Stanford, P. Kyle (2003), “No refuge for realism: selective confirmation and the history of science“,Philosophyof Science 70 (5): 913-925. [PPT] [HANDOUT]
II. Eliminativism, reduction, and realism
3/12 (Anna Zumwinkle)
- Assignment #1 Due
- Churchland, P. M. (1981), “Eliminative materialism and the propositional attitudes,” Journal of Philosophy78 (2): 67-90. [PPT] [HANDOUT]
- McCauley, Robert (1986), “Intertheoretic relations and the future of psychology,” Philosophy of Science53: 179-199. [PPT] [HANDOUT]
3/19 (Jenna Marotta, Rachael St. Clair, Katherine Jackson)
- Bickle, J. (2006). “Reducing mind to molecular pathways: explicating the reductionism implicit in current cellular and molecular neuroscience.” Synthese, 151(3): 411-434. [PPT] [HANDOUT]
- Sullivan, J. A. (2008). “The multiplicity of experimental protocols: a challenge to reductionist and non-reductionist models of the unity of neuroscience.” Synthese, 167(3): 511-531. [PPT] [HANDOUT]
III. Alternatives to realism
A. Social construction
4/2 (Greg Dray, Kyle Meredith)
- Kuhn, Thomas. (1970). “Revolutions as Changes in World View” in Structure of Scientific Revolutions. [PPT] [HANDOUT]
- Boghossian, Paul. (2001) “Constructing the facts” and “Relativizing the facts” in Fear of Knowledge. [PPT] [HANDOUT]
- (Both readings are on the Readings Page. Note the password at the top of this page.)
B. Feminist philosophy of science
4/9 (Thea Bean, Mika Morton) with Special Guest Lecture from Marion Boulicault (MIT) via Skype
- HOMEWORK: Come with at least one question about either the Martin or the Longino reading for our guest lecturer.
- Martin, Emily. (1991). “The Egg and the Sperm: How Science Has Constructed a Romance Based on Stereotypical Male-Female Roles.” Signs,16(3), 485-501.
- Longino, Helen. (1990). “Introduction: Good Science, Bad Science” in Science as Social Knowledge.
- Crasnow, Sharon L. (1993). “Can Science Be Objective? Longino’s Science as Social Knowledge.” Hypatia, 8: 194-201. [HANDOUT]
C. Constructive empiricism
4/16 (Eric McCord, Jeremy Barovick)
- Maxwell, Grover (1962), “The ontological status of theoretical entities“, in Herbert Feigl and Grover Maxwell (eds.), Scientific explanation, space, and time, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 3-27. [PPT] [HANDOUT]
- van Fraassen, B. C. (1980), “Arguments concerning scientific realism” in The scientific image. New York: Clarendon Press; reprinted in Curd, Martin, and J. A. Cover (1998), Philosophy of science: the central issues. 1st ed. New York: W.W. Norton. [PPT] [HANDOUT]
- Churchland, P. M. (1985), “The ontological status of observables: in praise of the superempirical virtues“, in P.M Churchland and C.A. Hooker (eds.), Images of Science: Essays on Realism and Empiricism, with a Reply from Bas C. Van Fraassen, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp. 35-47. Also read Van Fraassen’s reply (pp. 256-259). [PPT] [HANDOUT]
- We will continue our discussion of Sullivan from before spring break. Please review. (Suggested background reading: Craver, C. F. (2005). Beyond reduction: mechanisms, multifield integration and the unity of neuroscience. Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 36(2), 373-395.)
D. Entity realism
4/30 (Sidney Portner, Lin Han)
- Hacking, I. (1982), “Experimentation and scientific realism“, Philosophical topics13:71-88. [PPT] [HANDOUT]
- Resnik, David B (1994), “Hacking’s experimental realism“, Canadian Journal of Philosophy24 (3): 395-411. [PPT] [HANDOUT]
E. The natural ontological attitude
5/7 (Charlotte Massey, Omar AlSaeed)
- Fine, Arthur (1984), “The natural ontological attitude“, in Jarrett Leplin (ed.), Scientific Realism, Berkeley: University of California Press, 83-107. [PPT] [HANDOUT]
- Musgrave, Alan (1989), “NOA’s Ark–Fine for Realism“, Philosophical Quarterly39 (157): 383-398. [PPT] [HANDOUT]
5/15 Final Paper Due