PHIL 450.001 – Philosophy of Natural Sciences

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Instructor: Marc Lange. This course meets T 1:00 – 3:30 p.m. in CW 213.

This course will survey several core topics in the philosophy of science and will feature some classic readings on these topics. Although i will be responsible for lecturing through a good part of the material, I hope that there will be some lively class discussions as well. The course presupposes no background in the philosophy of science in particular, though undergraduates must have already completed at least two previous philosophy courses. Topics to be discussed include logical empiricism, the logic underlying the way in which scientific theories are confirmed by evidence, the nature of scientific explanations, causal relations, laws of nature, objective chances, scientific realism and anti-realism, and the unity of science. Readings will include classic pieces by Hempel, Hume, Goodman, Reichenbach, Duhem, Salmon, Earman, Sober, van Fraassen, Lewis, Dretske, Cartwright, Sellars, and Fodor. Both undergraduates and graduate students will have to take the final exam. In addition, undergraduates will be assigned after each class a question concerning the material that we discussed in that class. The question is to be answered (in 1-2 pages) before the next week’s class. The question will not require knowledge beyond what we already discussed in class; it is intended to test for basic comprehension. Graduate students will have three short writing exercises over the course of the semester.