- Phil. 2900H: Freshman/Sophomore Proseminar
Scientific Controversies: An Introduction to the History and Philosophy of Science
In this course we will consider how science has changed over time and investigate the significance of these changes for our understanding of contemporary science. The history of science has involved considerable controversy over the nature of science and what its goals should be. We will review six of these debates, starting with the "scientific revolution" of the seventeenth century and culminating in debates about quantum mechanics in the middle of the twentieth century.
Whenever possible, readings will focus on what scientists such as Newton, Darwin and Einstein wrote when defending their innovations. No prior background in science is assumed.
Textbook: Peter Dear, The Intelligibility of Nature: How Science Makes Sense of the World, University of Chicago Press, 2006. Paperback. ISBN 978-0-226-13949-4.
- Phil. 3250: Nineteenth Century Philosophy
This course examines four of the most significant figures of nineteenth century philosophy: Hegel (1770-1831), Comte (1798-1857), Mill (1806-1873) and Nietzsche (1844-1900). We begin with a brief examination of Kant's ambitious enlightenment program for advancing human knowledge. This allows us to see Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit as both an extension of Kant's program and a criticism of some of its core assumptions. Hegel emphasizes the process of coming to genuine knowledge in a way that Kant did not, and this places history at the center of much of nineteenth century philosophy. A stark contrast with Hegel is offered by the positivism and empiricism of Comte and Mill. They too value a historical understanding of human knowledge, but suppose that this understanding is best achieved via scientific methods. Finally, Nietzsche's genealogical critique of morality shows yet another conception of how our history is related to what we take ourselves to know.
Prerequisites: Phil. 3230 or Phil. 3240 recommended. (Not open to students with credit for 305.)
Note: This course fulfills the GE requirement for Lit and Diversity Global Studies.
- Phil. 1520: Probability, Data and Decision Making
In the eighteenth century Bishop Butler wrote "For us, probability is the very guide of life." This claim applies even more to people living in the twenty-first century. We are surrounded with information that we must sort through and evaluate as we decide what to believe and how to live our lives. In this class we will introduce the central concepts of the theory of probability and explain how reflecting on probability can lead to more rational decisions. Among the questions that we will consider are: (i) How should these probabilities be calculated given our limited information? (ii) How should these probabilities inform our decisions about how to act? (iii) How do probabilities relate to our beliefs and the events that happen in the world? The class will conclude with an investigation of how the probabilities of individual events give rise to the statistical properties of whole collections of events. This will introduce some of the most important concepts of statistics and enable us to critically evaluate and use the statistical claims that we find in our everyday lives.Textbook: Ian Hacking, An Introduction to Probability and Inductive Logic, Cambridge University Press, 2001. ISBN: 978-0-521-77501-4 (paperback).
- Phil. 8650: Seminar in Philosophy of Science: Scientific Evidence
When scientists decide which theory to believe, they aim to make their decision based on the evidence available. Philosophers of science raise a number of questions about scientific evidence. First, how should the scientist's evidence be isolated from other factors that may influence their choice of theory? Second, can the correct choice of theory ever be determined by one's evidence? If not, then what non-evidential considerations are consistent with a permissible choice? Finally, what is the relationship between a scientist's evidence and the scientific knowledge that they may possess? In this seminar, we will consider this family of questions through a close reading of two books: Peter Achinstein's Book of Evidence (Oxford, 2001) and Sherrilyn Roush's Tracking Truth: Knowledge, Evidence, and Science (Oxford, 2005). These core readings will be supplemented by articles that link these debates in the philosophy of science to formal and more traditional epistemology.
- Phil. 3650: Philosophy of Science
We will consider some of the difficult but important questions about science that often go unexplored in science classes and by scientists. To start, how should science be distinguished from other areas of knowledge and from disciplines like astrology that fail to generate knowledge? One answer to this question claims that science works by special methods and advances in a cumulative, rigorous fashion. However, the history of science suggests that there is no single method or objective set of values that determines the scientific theory that should be believed. So we will also consider how objective science can be over time and the appropriate role for values in scientific progress. Then we will turn to a consideration of how scientific evidence works: how exactly do experiments support or undermine a proposed hypothesis? The course will conclude with a review of more recent debates about the nature of scientific explanation and the scope of scientific knowledge. While scientific realists claim that science can provide knowledge of unobservable entities like electrons and the Big Bang, other anti-realists argue that at best our theories tell us only what the observable world is like.
Textbook: M. Curd, J. Cover & C. Pincock (eds.), Philosophy of Science: The Central Issues, Second edition, Norton, 2012.
- Phil. 5250: Studies in Nineteenth Century Philosophy: Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit
This class will involve a close and careful reading of the most important sections of Hegel's challenging Phenomenology of Spirit (1807). We will consider Hegel's project in the Phenomenology as a successor to Kant's critical philosophy. Kant took his central question to be how a priori knowledge is possible and, as a result, is forced to take certain claims to knowledge for granted. Hegel complains that Kant and others fail to be sufficiently critical of these claims and what their truth involves. The alternative project of the Phenomenology is to trace "the path of the natural consciousness which presses forward to true knowledge" (section 77). If successful, this Hegelian project would offer significant answers to pressing philosophical questions about knowledge and the nature of reality. Our reading of Hegel will be primarily informed by Pippin's influential Hegel's Idealism. Additional secondary literature that we will consider will include writings by Hyppolite, Houlgate, Brandom and McDowell.
Required Books: Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, A. V. Miller (trans.), Oxford, 1976.
Robert B. Pippin, Hegel's Idealism: The Satisfactions of Self-Consciousness, Cambridge, 1989.
Recommended Book: Stephen Houlgate, Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit: A Reader's Guide, Bloomsbury, 2013.
- Phil. 3250: History of Nineteenth Century Philosophy
This course focuses on three of the most significant figures of nineteenth century philosophy: Hegel (1770-1831), Mill (1806-1873) and Nietzsche (1844-1900). We begin with an overview of Kant's way of drawing the distinction between appearance and reality. Then we will consider how Hegel, Mill and Nietzsche responded, in quite different ways, to this distinction. Roughly speaking, Hegel argues that reflecting on the self gives us special access to the nature of reality, while Mill recasts reality so that it must fit with what we can immediately experience. Nietzsche offers a third option through his genealogical method, which aims to uncover the hidden ways in which individuals have made their reality. While aspects of ethics and political philosophy will be included (especially with Nietzsche), our emphasis will be on metaphysics and epistemology.
- Phil. 1520: Probability, Data and Decision Making
Throughout our lives we are confronted with choices about how to act. In this course we will discuss some central questions about these decisions. What makes a decision rational? How should decisions be made with limited information? At the heart of these questions about "decision theory" are issues about probabilities and values. How should probabilities be determined, and what features of the outcomes of our actions determine their value? We will focus on the skills necessary to assemble and analyze the data that are critical for making rational decisions.
Course Textbook: M. Peterson, An Introduction to Decision Theory, Cambridge University Press, 2009.
- Phil. 8650: Philosophy of Science Seminar: Revolutions
In this seminar we will consider some of the ways that the history of science might affect the scope of scientific knowledge. We begin with a careful reading of Kuhn's classic Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) and some of the critical reaction it generated. Kuhn argues that the history of science is filled with non-rational revolutions. He concludes that we should reject a picture of scientific progress that involves the accumulation of genuine knowledge. Then we will turn to Kitcher's more optimistic Advancement of Science: Science Without Legend, Objectivity Without Illusions (1993). Kitcher develops a model of scientific progress that permits the discovery of new truths, but that also reserves an important role for historical change. Finally, we will consider Kyle Stanford's more recent Exceeding Our Grasp: Science, History and the Problem of Unconceived Alternatives (2006). Stanford uses revolutionary change to undermine our confidence in our current scientific theories. As there are always superior alternatives that we have yet to conceive, we should refrain from believing our best theories. Throughout the seminar we will explore the relationship between scientific knowledge and non-scientific knowledge, and seek to determine how historical change might affect knowledge quite generally.
- Phil. 3650: Philosophy of Science
Philosophical questions are raised by scientific theories and scientific practice is shaped by philosophical assumptions. In this class we will trace the interactions between philosophy and science with respect to the vexing notion of space. Space initially seems like one of the most familiar things: we experience it everyday as we look and move around. But philosophers and scientists have struggled to answer some basic questions about space: what kind of thing is space, how can we come to know anything about space and in what way do space and ordinary things interact? We will read discussions of these issues by philosophers like Plato and Kant as well as scientists like Newton and Mach. We will see how philosophical reflections on space paved the way for Einstein's revolutionary theories.
Note: No prior knowledge of mathematics or science is assumed in this class.
Text: Nick Huggett (ed.), Space from Zeno to Einstein: Classic Readings with a Contemporary Commentary, MIT Press, 1999. ISBN 978-0-262-58169-1.
- Phil. 1100H: Introduction to Philosophy
- Phil. 8650: Explanation and its Limits
- Phil. 9830: Philosophy of Science: Emergence, Reduction and Explanation
- Philosophy 3600: Twentieth Century Philosophy
- Russell Chronology
- Philosophy of Logical Atomism: Lectures 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.
- Williamson on Naturalism (New York Times, Sept. 4)
- First Assignment
- Carnap Chronology (with Neurath and Schlick)
- Rosenberg on Naturalism (New York Times, Sept. 17)
- Williamson's response to Rosenberg on Naturalism (New York Times, Sept. 28)
- Humpty Dumpty on the meanings of words (from Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass)
- Additional readings are available on Blackboard.
- Philosophy 4120/7120: Selected Topics in Logic
- 1200H: Logic and Reasoning
- 4005-2: Special Topics: Philosophy of Mathematics
Purdue Courses (2002-2010)
Syllabi available upon request.
672: Philosophy of Logic (Truth: Fall 2010, Identity: Spring 2007)
450: Symbolic Logic (Fall 2007, Fall 2005, Fall 2004)
150: Principles of Logic (Spring 2010, Fall 2006, Fall 2004)
545: Recent Analytic Philosophy (Fall 2006)
515: History of Analytic Philosophy II (Spring 2008, Spring 2006)
514: History of Analytic Philosophy I (Fall 2007, Fall 2005, Spring 2004)
Mathematics and Science
490: Philosophy of Mathematics (Spring 2005)
421: Philosophy of Science (Spring 2005, Spring 2003)
350: Inductive Logic and Probability (Spring 2007, Spring 2004, Spring 2003)
120: Critical Thinking (Fall 2002)
110: Introduction to Philosophy (Fall 2010, Spring 2006, Summer 2004, Fall 2002)