Dispatches from Pittsburgh

Greetings from Pittsburgh, PA, somewhere on the border between the neighborhoods of Squirrel Hill and Greenfield. It is nearing the end of my first full day of a roughly 8 month adventure. I’m here for my sabbatical year and on a visiting fellowship at the Center for Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh, one of the most important institutions in the field still in operation. It’s an honor to be invited to be a visiting fellow. I’m planning to go in tomorrow morning to get acquainted with the Center, fill out paperwork, and properly start my visit.

Since arriving in Pittsburgh, I’ve done a significant amount of walking (and I hope to do a lot more). I have gone grocery shopping and to Target. I’ve figured out the transit system, more or less. I’ve cooked two meals in my rental apartment, which is seeming more homey by the hour.

My plan, while I am here, is to write a book on science & values. It is the area I’ve been working in most since I finished my dissertation, and one where I’ve slowly developed my ideas in bits and pieces in my philosophical articles over the last 7 years. I think I’m finally ready to put it all together, and I think it will take a book to do it. The book will also be informed by the work on ethical decision-making in engineering research and design that I’ve been engaged with for the past several years with my collaborators at UT Dallas.

The book is engaged primarily with the current debates about values in science, but it draws on two other influences. One is the pragmatism of John Dewey, particularly his views on the logic of inquiry, the nature of values, and the role of science in society. The other is the philosophy of science in practice, a tradition that includes (in my view) the early Thomas Kuhn, the later Paul Feyerabend, Norwood Russell Hanson, Nancy Cartwright, John Dupré, and Hasok Chang, and also closely connected with the work of, among others, Peter Galison and Bruno Latour.

The tentative title of the book is “Science and the Moral Imagination.” I’m sure I will post again about the content of the book. The basic ideas behind the project are (1) that the scientific quest for knowledge and the ethical quest for a good life and a just society are deeply interrelated pursuits, ultimately inextricable from one another; (2) that scientific inquiry involves a series of interlocking, contingent, and open choices, which can only be resolved intelligently and responsibly through a process of value judgment; and, (3) that “research ethics” or “responsible conduct of research” should be a process not merely of compliance with prior given principles or edicts, but should involve the creative projection of consequences (in the broadest sense), and evaluation of those consequences. It is this latter (clumsily expressed) point that I hope to capture with the phrase “moral imagination.” To put the point differently, I seek to explicate and defend an ideal for science according to which “seekers of knowledge” ought to “use their creativity to make the world a better place in which to live.”

What I’m reading this week: John Dewey & Moral Imagination: Pragmatism in Ethics by Steven Fesmire and Science, Values, and Democracy (Descartes Lecture Draft) by Heather Douglas.
What I’m writing: My commentary on Heather’s Lecture #1 on “Science and Values,” and my presentation for the Descartes Lectures Conference. (Why did I say I would do both??)
Other stuff I’m working on: Learning my way around Pittsburgh; establishing a routine; improving my diet and exercise; getting into the habit of blogging more.
What I’m doing for fun: Walking; reading The Waste Lands by Stephen King; meeting new people.

A question of authorship

I am trying to finish my paper on William Moulton Marston, and I am having significant difficulty deciding how to credit the scientific writings usually attributed to Marston alone. Here’s how I describe the problem in the paper:

Marston’s work and his personal relationships were deeply intertwined. Elizabeth Holloway held steady work most of her life, including a long editorial stint at Encyclopedia Britannica, supporting Marston when he was having trouble finding (and keeping) work. She was not only an inspiration and silent collaborator in much of Marston’s work; he often gave her credit. In Emotions of Normal People he reports on the results of experiments they had designed and performed together (370); elsewhere he reports that she “collaborated very largely” with him on the book (Lepore, 144). She is a credited co-author of the textbook Integrative Psychology. Olive Byrne received a master’s degree in psychology from Columbia, and she pursued but did not complete her PhD there (Lepore 124-5). Emotions of Normal People incorporated not only the research that Byrne had assisted Marston with at Tufts, but her entire master’s thesis on “The Evolution of the Theory and Research on Emotions” (Lepore 124-8). When it comes to authorship, Lepore points out:

[T]here is an extraordinary slipperiness.. in how Marston, Holloway, and Byrne credited authorship; there work is so closely tied together and their roles so overlapping that it is not difficult to determine who wrote what. This seems not to trouble any of them one bit. (ibid 127).

Thus, when examining the work of “William Moulton Marston,” it is crucial to keep in mind that said work is likely a collaborative production of (at least) Marston with Holloway or Byrne, if not both. It is tempting, then, to refer to “Marston, Holloway, and Byrne” or “Marston et al.” or “the Marstons” when describing “Marston’s” psychological contributions.

After this point, and throughout the paper, I have to discuss Marston’s record of publications, his psychological theories, his experiments, and so on. Currently, I refer to “Marston” in discussing works which list him as sole author, as well as the ideas cited in those works, and “Marston et al.” only in his one major co-authored publication (co-authored with Elizabeth Holloway Marston and C. Daly King). I’m unhappy with this approach, but also feel that doing one of the other things suggested above would be rather cumbersome.

Perhaps the fact that Marston, Holloway, and Byrne didn’t care much about it means I shouldn’t care much either. But what was expedient in their time is much more blatantly sexist in ours. Obviously, the citations in the bibliography should remain as they are, but the discussions in the text are a different story.

Duck Genitals and Feminist Science Studies

Featured

Spring 2013 saw another round of misguided right-wing attacks on basic scientific research in the U.S. Congress, a political tactic that purports to demonstrate the wastefulness of the federal government by showing off the price tag (often small in terms of scientific research budgets) for obscure research that can be described in ways that make it sound goofy or idiotic. This time around, it peaked my interest a good bit more, because it brought national media attention to one of my favorite bits of biological research: Patricia Brennan’s work on duck genitalia. (Brennan wrote a wonderful defense of her research for Slate. Even the Union of Concerned Scientists weighed in.)

Why do I love this research so much? The biology is interesting, yes (more on that in a minute), but also, as a philosopher of science with a long-standing interest in feminist science studies, I see it as following the exact structure of some of the classic cases from that literature. That is, Brennan’s work exemplifies the pattern of research of women entering a field of research dominated by men, revolutionizing and improving the methods and theories in that field. It is thus similar to the earlier cases of primatology as described by Donna Haraway—where scientists hadn’t paid much attention to the behavior if female primates and ended up with theories where their roles were entirely passive—and reproductive cell biology as described by (inter alia) Emily Martin—where the “Prince Charming/Sleeping Beauty” theory of sperm/egg fertilization was a going idea, I kid you not.

To get the basics, let’s start with this “True Facts” video by Ze Frank:

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Reminder about Readings

Aside

Every class session you are expected to come to class having read the assigned readings for the day (“For the Perplexed” and “Going Further” readings are optional). You must also bring the texts for that class period with you as well. Both of these things are necessary for us to have rich and meaningful discussions of the readings. I’ve clarified the syllabus on this point.

Three Direct Roles for Values in Science: A Sketch of a Sketch

Heather Douglas (2000, 2009) has argued that inductive risk requires that scientists make value judgments in the “internal” processes of scientific reasoning, e.g., data characterization and interpretation and judging whether the evidence supports a hypothesis, but that the role for value judgments must be limited to an indirect role. There has been some controversy about just what the direct/indirect roles distinction amounts to (Elliott, Steele), but the basic idea is easy enough to understand: something plays a direct role in a decision if it acts as a reason for deciding one way or the other; it plays an indirect role if it instead helps determines second-order questions about the uptake of reasons, e.g., about what counts as a reason or about determining the necessary weight of reasons before deciding.
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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.