PHIL 750.001 – Advanced Studies in Philosophy of Science

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

This course will concern the metaphysics of chances, laws of nature, and scientific explanations in two sciences that are concerned with explaining macroscopic phenomena involving large populations: statistical physics and evolutionary biology. Although I will be responsible for lecturing through some part of the material, I hope that there will be some lively student presentations and class discussions as well. The course presupposes no background in the philosophy of science in particular.

The readings for the course will be (time permitting) Albert’s “Time and Chance” (large portions thereof) and papers by Elga, Loewer, Frisch, Winsberg, Maxwell (yes, James Clerk), Thomson (Kelvin), Sklar, Price, Callender, Mills and Beatty, Sober, Neander, Millstein, Lewens, Schaffer, Glynn, and Ismael.

The topics will (time permitting) include time-reversal invariance, reversibility and the past hypothesis, statistical mechanics and the asymmetry of counterfactuals, Maxwell’s Demon and entropy, explaining the low-entropy past, Darwinian fitness and selection-for causal explanations, drift, can chances in stat mech and evolutionary theory be reconciled with microdeterminism, and the explanatory contributions of special sciences. Time will affect how many of these topics we discuss.