History and Philosophy of Science, Fall 2012

Jump to: Required Texts | Course Schedule | Assignments | Late Work and Attendance

Office Hours

Time TBA, office JO 4.120. You can also schedule an appointment.

Course Updates

You can find updates about the course by reading the course blog (via RSS). You can also check for short updates on Twitter using the hashtag #HPS3328.

Course Description

Science plays an enormously influential role in our society. As a social institution, it commands enormous respect and social influence, as well as vast sums of funding. It produces results that are greatly sought after, for both good and ill. At the same time, science generates great controversy when it collides with various religious, economic, and educational agendas. The adjective “scientific” garners almost immediate respectability to whatever it is applied, and, in some circles, it is a prerequisite for being taken seriously. Yet to many it also bespeaks alienation, abstraction, and a void of meaning, useless in our attempt to understand values. Some even deride science as mere ideology and power-mongering, as sexist, racist, or elitist.

Science is open to interpretation and critique; as a result, it stands in need of explanation, elaboration, justification, limitation, or change. History and philosophy of science attempts to understand how and why science works, to explain its successes and occasionally uncover its failures, to interpret its results, and to discover, what, if any, are its limits. Historians and philosophers of science also try to situate science in the broader scheme of human activities and social institutions, and to understand the way in which our particular cognitive, social, political, and moral situation impacts its development.

In this course, we will try to better understand what counts as science and explore whether we can demarcate science from non-science or pseudo-science. We will ask what the aim of science is, what it is trying to produce. We will explore a variety of challenges to our common ways of understand how and why science works, as well as challenges to whether science works as we believe that it does. We will explore the too-often ignored connections between the scientific process and our ethical and political values, attempting to determine whether and to what extend such human values play a role in science, and to what extent such a role is legitimate and compatible with the objectivity or reliability of scientific knowledge.

Student Learning Objectives

  1. Students will analyze and interpret a significant body of primary works in philosophy of science.
  2. Students will develop their ability to read, analyze, and write about complex texts.
  3. Students will demonstrate knowledge of the major questions and traditions in the philosophy of science.
  4. Students will be able to critically analyze and discuss the nature of, value of, and challenges to science as an intellectual and cultural institution.

Required Texts

Books are on order at Off Campus Books (561 West Campbell Road near Fuzzy’s)

Schedule of Topics and Readings

Require readings are listed for each class period, and you are expected to complete them before class. Some classes include additional readings that clarify or extend the required readings. These readings can help you better understand the readings for that class period or provide useful starting-points for research on that topic. Note: online readings on JSTOR can only be accessed from on campus, via the library website, or by running the VPN.

0. Introductions

M 8/27

  • What is Philosophy of Science? History of Science?
  • Why Do We Want a Theory of Science?
  • Why History and Philosophy of Science?
    • PGS 1.1-1.4
  • Syllabus Review

I. What is science?

In this class, we will consider some very basic ideas about the nature and history of science, as well as the attempt by philosophers and others to explain the difference between science and non-science or pseudo-science.

W 8/29

W 9/5

M 9/10

W 9/12

  • Demarcating Science – Philosophical
    • Karl Popper, “Science: Conjectures and Refutations” [C&C]
    • Imre Lakatos, “Science and Pseudoscience” [C&C]
    • PGS 4, 7.2
    • For the Perplexed: Sven Ove Hansson, “Science and Pseudo-Science” [online]
    • Going Further: Paul Thagard, “Why Astrology Is a Pseudoscience” [C&C]; Thomas Kuhn, Logic of Discovery or Psychology of Research? [C&C]; Paul Churchland, “How Parapsychology Could Become a Science” [online]

M 9/17

II. The Aims of Science

Part of understanding what science is involves understanding what it aims at, what its distinctive goals are. In this unit, we consider a variety of proposals for the what science aims at.

W 9/19

  • The Aim of Science is Explanation
    • Carl G. Hempel, “Two Basic Types of Scientific Explanation” [C&C]
    • PGS 13.1-13-2
    • For the Perplexed: Rudolf Carnap, “The Value of Laws: Explanation and Prediction” [C&C]
    • Going Further: Carl G. Hempel, “The Thesis of Structural Identity”; Carl G. Hempel, “Inductive-Statistical Explanation”; Peter Railton, “A Deductive-Nomological Model of Probabilistic Explanation”; David-Hillel Ruben, “Arguments, Laws, and Explanation” [All in C&C]

M 9/24

W 9/26

  • Library Day
    • Hit the books, work on paper proposals

M 10/1

  • The Aim of Science is to Discover the Laws of Nature
    • A. J. Ayer, “What Is a Law of Nature?” [C&C]
    • PGS 13.4
    • For the perplexed: “Laws of Nature: Introduction” [C&C], “Commentary” pp. 879-885 [C&C]
    • Going Further: John Carroll “Laws of Nature,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Fred Dretske, “Laws of Nature” [C&C], D.H. Mellor, “Necessities and Universals in Natural Laws” [C&C], “Commentary” pp. 885-896 [C&C]

W 10/3

M 10/8

III. Challenging Science

In this unit, we will discuss a variety of historical, philosophical, and sociological challenges to science. Some are legitimate challenges to the authority of science itself, but most attempt to leave that unchanged while challenging our understanding of why science is successful or authoritative. We will examine the following provocative challenges to science or our theories of science.

W 10/10

M 10/15

  • Theory is Underdetermined by Evidence
    • Pierre Duhem, “Physical Theory and Experiment” [C&C]
    • For the Perplexed: Underdetermination of Scientific Theory [online]; “The Duhem-Quine Thesis and Underdetermination: Introduction” [C&C]; “Commentary” pp. 354-365 [C&C]
    • Going Further: Quine, “Two Dogmas of Empiricism” [C&C]; Gillies, “The Duhem Thesis and the Quine Thesis” [C&C]; Laudan, “Demystifying Underdetermination” [C&C]; Commentary pp. 365-411 [C&C]

W 10/17

M 10/22

W 10/24

  • Scientific Revolutions are Revisionary
    • Kuhn [SSR] Ch VI-IX
    • PGS 6.1-6.2
    • For the Perplexed:Ian Hacking, Introductory Essay [SSR]
    • Going Further: Larry Laudan, “Dissecting the Holist Picture of Scientific Change” [C&C]

M 10/29

  • Science Does Not Progress Towards the Best Theory
    • Kuhn [SSR] Ch X-XIII & Postscript
    • PGS 6.3-6.5
    • For the Perplexed:Ian Hacking, Introductory Essay [SSR]
    • Going Further: Ernan McMullin, “Rationality and Paradigm Change in Science” [C&C]

W 10/31

  • Science Has No Method
    • Paul Feyerabend, from Against Method [Part I; Part II] (Make sure you get through Part II – It’s where a lot of the pay-off is at.)
    • PGS 7.4-7.5
    • For the Perplexed: Ian Hacking, “Introduction to the Fourth Edition”
    • Halloween! Come dressed up, in honor of epistemological anarchism!

M 11/5

W 11/7

M 11/12

W 11/14

  • Science is Sexist
    • Kathleen Okruhlik, “Gender and the Biological Sciences” [C&C]
    • PGS 9

M 11/19-11/21

  • Fall Break! 

IV. Values in Science

M 11/26

W 11/28

M 12/3

  • Science is Insulated from Non-Epistemic Value-Judgments
    • Thomas S. Kuhn, “Objectivity, Value Judgment, and Theory Choice” [C&C]
    • Ernan McMullin, “Values in Science” [online]

W 12/5

M 12/10

W 12/12

Grading

Assignments

  1. Class Participation (9 pts) – Class attendance, quality of contributions to the life of the class. 5pts + Participation (4.0 scale) – Absences – (1/2) * Tardies
  2. Homework and In-class Assignments (5)
  3. Midterm Exam (8)
  4. Peer-Mark Assignments (5) – Several times during the semester, students will provide feedback on early stages of their research papers.
  5. Research Paper (18) – Grade includes not only final paper but work throughout the semester. Details here.

Final Grades

Final grade will be calculated on a 4.0 scale by taking your points divided by ten. So, for example, a student with a 33 would have a 3.3 or a B+. 41+ points is an A+, 38+ points is an A, 35+ points is an A-, 32+ is a B+, 28+ is a B, 25+ is a B-, etc.

Grading Standards

  1. Indicates excellent work, going beyond the expectations of the course to display subtle and nuanced understanding, clear and effective presentation, and intellectual rigor, insight, creativity, and sophistication.
  2. Indicates good work, thoughtful and careful, clear and consistent, without major errors.
  3. Indicates adequate or average work that meets all basic course expectations, but may involve unclear writing, lack of sophisticated understanding, or unsupported or insufficiently developed ideas. Some serious errors may be present.

Work which deserves a grade less than C will display some of the following problems: it fails to show adequate understanding of the text; it fails to understand the assignment; it fails to articulate a coherent or adequate argument; it fails to reflect on the content of the course; it displays such pervasive grammatical errors as to be highly obscure in meaning.

Late Work / Make-Up Exams

No late work or make-up exams will be allowed without consent of the professor prior to the due/exam date, except in situations where University policy requires it.

Class Attendance Policy

While reading and writing are crucial parts of the course, the central philosophical activity is live discussion. While class will occasionally involve bits of lecture, this is merely an instrument to a more well-informed discussion and other structured activities. Attendance is thus considered mandatory. Missed classes will count against your participation grade, and egregious absenteeism will be grounds for an F in the course at the professor’s discretion. In-class assignments and activities likewise cannot be made up unless the professor agrees to it before the class is missed. Disruptive late arrivals or early departures are poor classroom citizenship and will also negatively impact your participation.

Classroom Expectations

You are expected to have read the assignments before class, and it would be to your benefit to also read them again after class. You are expected to bring all of the texts assigned for each day’s class, and have them available to refer to. You are expected to listen respectfully to the professor and your fellow students, and participate in class discussions and activities.

 

Further standard University policies can be found at http://go.utdallas.edu/syllabus-policies

The syllabus is a living document. These descriptions and timelines are subject to change at the discretion of the Professor.

American Pragmatism, Fall 2012

“Post-modernist skeptics and their few neopragmatist  admirers turn to the old pragmatists because they (correctly) see them as potential partners in a struggle against ‘strong’, that is, absolutist and ‘totalizing’, conceptions of truth. But what they neglect is the old pragmatists’ conviction… that once they had overcome absolutism, they could then resume traveling down the road of inquiry in a more fuel-efficient vehicle than Reason toward a more modest destination than Truth.” — Robert Westbrook

Course Description

This course will focus on America’s only original philosophical tradition: Pragmatism. American pragmatism is a diverse tradition, united by a common interest in a robust account of human experience, the fallibility of our knowledge, truth as a human phenomenon, and the relation of theory to practice. We will focus on several of the classical pragmatists and neo-pragmatists, including Charles S. Peirce, William James, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., John Dewey, Jane Addams, Alain Locke, Richard Rorty, and Cornel West.

Student Learning Objectives/Outcomes

  • Students will demonstrate knowledge of several major figures in the American
    philosophical tradition of Pragmatism, their lives, relationships to one another, and
    their major philosophical ideas.
  • Students will analyze and interpret a significant body of primary works in the
    American pragmatist tradition.
  • Students will engage with a variety of secondary sources on the period and figures
    of study.
  • Students will develop their skills of critical analysis and philosophical argumentation.

Required Texts

Abbreviations in [brackets] are used to give page numbers for readings in the course schedulebelow.

Books are on order at Off Campus Books (561 West Campbell Road near Fuzzy’s).

Pragmatism Resources

  • Pragmatism Cybrary – The most systematic repository of research, information, and online resources.
  • The PastMasters Database, which includes the complete works and correspondence of John Dewey, the collected papers and published works of Peirce, and the works of Santayana.

Course Schedule (by week)

  1. Introduction and Background (8/27)
    • Menand, The Metaphysical Club, Preface + Part One [MC ix–70]
    • Menand, “An Introduction to Pragmatism,” [PR xi-xxxv]
    • Margolis, “Introduction: Pragmatism, Retrospective, and Prospective,” [CP 1–10]
  2. Labor Day Holiday (9/3)
  3. Charles S Peirce – Meaning, Truth, and Inquiry (9/10)
    • “Some Consequences of Four Incapacities” [PR 3–6]
    • “The Fixation of Belief” [PR 7–25]
    • “How to Make Our Ideas Clear” [PR 26–48]
    • “A Definition of Pragmatism” [PR 56–58]
    • Menand, The Metaphysical Club, Part Two [MC 71–148]
    • Colapietro, “C.S. Peirce” [CP 13–29]; Anderson, “Peirce and Cartesian
      Rationalism” [CP 154–165]
  4. Charles S Peirce – Continuity, Chance, and Evolution (9/17)
    • from “A Guess at the Riddle” [PR 49–51]
    • “The Doctrine of Necessity Examined” [online]
    • from “Evolutionary Love” [PR 52–55]
    • Haack, “Not Cynicism, but Synechism” [CP 141–53]
    • Metaphysical Club Part Three [MC 149-232]
  5. William James (9/24)
    • from The Principles of Psychology [PR 59–68]
    • “The Will to Believe” [PR 69–92]
    • “What Pragmatism Means” [PR 93–111]
    • “Pragmatism’s Conception of Truth” [PR 112–131]
    • Suckiel, “William James” [CP 30–43]
  6. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. – Pragmatism and the Law (10/1)
    • from “Lecture I: Early Forms of Liability,” in The Common Law (1881) [PR
      137-138]
    • from “Lecture III: Torts – Trespass and Negligence,” in The Common Law (1881)
      [PR 139-141]
    • “The Path of the Law” (1897) [PR 145-159]
    • from “Ideals and Doubts” (1915) [PR 170-172]
    • “Natural Law” (1918) [PR 173-177]
    • from Abrams v. United States (1919) [PR 178-181]
    • Posner, “Introduction” to The Essential Holmes [online]
    • Morton White, “Rule, Ruling, and Prediction in the Law: Hart v. Holmes”  from A Philosophy of Culture [online]
  7. John Dewey – The Reconstruction of Philosophy (10/8)
  8. John Dewey – Inquiry, Science, and Art (10/15)
    • from How We Think (1933) [online]
    • from Logic: the Theory of Inquiry [Part I, Part II, Bonus: Part III] [online]
    • “Experience, Nature, and Art” [PR 233–264]
    • from Art as Experience [Part I, Part II] [online]
    • Hickman, “Dewey’s Theory of Inquiry” [RD Ch. 9]
    • Alexander, “The Art of Life: Dewey’s Aesthetics” [RD Ch. 1]
  9. John Dewey – Moral and Political Philosophy (10/22)
  10. Jane Addams – Radical Pragmatism (10/29)
    • from “A Function of the Social Settlement” [PR 272–286]
    • Haddock Seigfried, “Introduction” [DS ix-xxxviii]
    • “Introduction” [DS 5–10]
    • “Charitable Effort” [DS 11–34]
    • “Filial Relations” [DS 35–47]
    • “Political Reform” [DS 98–120]
    • “Problems of Poverty” [online]
    • Fischer, “Jane Addams” [CP 79–86]
    • Hamington, “Jane Addams”
      http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/addams-jane/
  11. Alain LeRoy Locke (11/5)
  12. The Middle Period – Pragmatism and the Rise of Analytic Philosophy (11/12)
  13. Thanksgiving Holiday (11/19)
  14. Richard Rorty (11/26)
  15. Cornel West – Prophetic Pragmatism (12/3)
  16. Feminist Pragmatism (12/10)

Grading

Graded Assignments

  1. Questions on the readings — Email the professor 2-3 questions about the primary texts at least 24 hours prior to class. Students are responsible for submitting questions at least 10 of the 13 weeks of substantive class meetings (not counting the introductory class). These questions will form the basis of in-class discussion. Questions can be of the following types:
    1. Interpretive questions – Questions about how to interpret particular concepts or arguments from the text. Must include reference to a specific passage or passages for close reading and proposed options or strategies of interpretation.
    2. Critical questions – Questions which critically analyze or challenge certain key ideas in the primary text. You must clearly explain the concept or argument being challenged.
    3. Historical questions – Questions that explore the larger historical context of the thinker being discussed. These questions should be specific and make reference to the content of a certain idea. You need to give us enough to have something to discuss: e.g., a question of influence between philosophers should point to passages of text and biographical details that at least give some reason to raise the question of influence.
    4. Application questions – As pragmatism is deeply concerned with the relation of theory and practice, it is apropos to ask how certain pragmatist ideas can be applied. A clear explanation of the concept or argument being questioned, along with the context of application to be explored. The application should raise some interesting philosophical point, such as providing a potential counter-example or illuminating some unappreciated feature of the idea.

    Do not skimp on explaining and elaborating the question.

  2. Participation in class discussion — A necessary part of developing ones scholarly
    skills, especially in philosophy. Based on class attendance, frequency and quality of
    contributions.
  3. Term paper — details TBA.

Evaluation Standards

The following is a clarification for the purposes of this course of UTD’s official policy with
respect to grading standards.

  • An A grade indicates excellent work. A work has something to say and says it well. It displays a subtle and nuanced understanding of the texts, develops arguments clearly and effectively, and reflects insightfully on the course material. It often rises above other work in terms of creativity and sophistication, or it may add something valuable to the discussion that goes beyond merely fulfilling the letter of the requirements. Only few, minor mistakes are present.
  • A B grade indicates good work, but with room for improvement. Such work displays a clear understanding of the text, develops arguments consistently with a clear aim, and is thoughtful and careful. The presence of serious errors must not impair the clarity of an argument or the overall understanding of a text. B work is in many ways successful, but lacks the sophistication or originality of A work.
  • A C grade indicates marginal work. It shows a basically adequate understanding of the key parts of the text. Arguments aim at a central claim, though they may rely on unsupported or insufficiently developed ideas. More serious errors may be present, so long as the central claims and basic understandings are not undermined.
  • Work which deserves a grade less than C is considered poor and will display some of the following problems: it fails to show adequate understanding of the text; it fails to understand the assignment; it fails to articulate a coherent or adequate argument; it fails to reflect on the content of the course; it displays such pervasive grammatical errors as to be highly obscure in meaning.

Course & Instructor Policies

Late Work / Make-up Exams

No late work or make-up exams will be allowed without consent of the professor prior to the due/exam date, except in situations where University policy requires it.

Class Attendance

While reading and writing are crucial parts of the course, the central philosophical activity is live discussion. While class will occasionally involve bits of lecture, this is merely an instrument to a more well-informed discussion. Attendance is thus considered mandatory.

Classroom expectations

You are expected to have read the assignments before class, and it would be to your benefit to also read them again after class. You are expected to bring all of the texts assigned for each day’s class, and have them available to refer to. You are expected to listen respectfully to the professor and your fellow students, and participate in class discussions and activities.

Further standard University policies can be found at http://go.utdallas.edu/syllabus-policies