Postgraduate Course: Advanced Topics in Philosophy of Science MSc (PHIL11121)
|School||School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences
||College||College of Humanities and Social Science
|Credit level (Normal year taken)||SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate)
||Availability||Available to all students
|Summary||The course, consisting of lectures and seminars, will be structured around three core topics in contemporary philosophy of science. Natural kinds, causation, and laws of nature are deeply interconnected metaphysical notions. Are there natural kinds carving nature at its joints? Is causation an objective feature of nature? And, to what extent do our laws of nature express causal dispositions, and are read off from natural kinds? In the first part of this course, we focus on natural kinds. In the second part, we turn to causation and in part three, we explore laws of nature. For each theme, we explore a series of epistemological, metaphysical and semantic issues surrounding it.
Shared with undergraduate course Advanced Topics in Philosophy of Science PHIL10050.
For courses co-taught with undergraduate students and with no remaining undergraduate spaces left, a maximum of 8 MSc students can join the course. Priority will be given to MSc students who wish to take the course for credit on a first come first served basis after matriculation.
In the first part of this course, we focus on natural kinds, and a series of epistemological, metaphysical and semantic issues surrounding them. In the second part, we turn to causation with an emphasis on causal republicanism, causal realism, Humeanism and causal perspectivalism. Finally, in part three, we explore laws of nature with a focus on dispositional essentialism, non-governing conception of laws, and lawlessness.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
||Other requirements|| None
Information for Visiting Students
|High Demand Course?
Course Delivery Information
|Academic year 2016/17, Available to all students (SV1)
|Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info)
Lecture Hours 20,
Seminar/Tutorial Hours 12,
Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4,
Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours
|Assessment (Further Info)
|Additional Information (Assessment)
||One essay of 2,500 words at the end of semester (worth 100%)
Assignment deadline: Monday 17th April 2017 by 12 noon
Word limit: 2500 words maximum (excluding references)
Return deadline: Tuesday 9th May 2017
||- Course organiser is happy to meet after the deadline to discuss feedback provided in a dedicated meeting.
- Students have the opportunity to submit a formative essay by week 6 deadline on Turnitin via Learn. The essay cannot be draft of summative essay but it can be on the same topic.
Formative essay deadline: Thursday 2nd March 2017 by 12 noon
Return deadline: Friday 24th March 2017
|No Exam Information
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
- understand key topics in philosophy of science
- articulate reasons for and against a philosophical thesis
- justify the reasons for or against a philosophical thesis
- think of possible counterexamples
- develop her/his own critical view on some key issues in philosophy of science
|PART I: Natural Kinds|
Anti-essentialism about kinds
Quine, W. V. (1969) 'Natural kinds'. In Ontological Relativity and Other Essays. New York and London: Columbia University Press. Pp. 114-138.
Mellor, D. H. (1977) 'Natural Kinds'. In British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 28, 299-331.
Natural Kinds and Inductive Inferences. Boyd' homeostatic property cluster kinds
Boyd, R. (1991) 'Realism, anti-foundationalism, and the enthusiasm for natural kinds'. Philosophical Studies 61: 127-48.
Boyd, R. (2010) 'Realism, natural kinds, and Philosophical Method'. In H. Beebee and N. Sabbarton-Leary (eds.) The Semantics and Metaphysics of Natural Kinds, Routledge.
Nominalism and 'promiscuous realism' about kinds
Hacking, I. (1991) 'A Tradition of Natural Kinds'. Philosophical Studies 61: 109-126.
Dupré, J. (1981) 'Natural kinds and biological taxa'. Philosophical Review 90: 66-90.
Natural kind terms and meaning change
Joseph LaPorte (2004) Natural Kinds and Conceptual Change (CUP), ch. 2 and 4.
PART II: CAUSATION
Russell, B. (1913) 'On the Notion of Cause', Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 13, 1-26.
Hitchcock, C. 'What Russell got right', in Corry and Price (eds.) (2007) Causation, physics and the constitution of reality. Russell's Republic Revisited (OUP), 45-65.
Causal realism and causal processes
Chakravartty, A. (2007) 'Causal realism and causal processes', ch. 4 of Chakravartty A Metaphysics for Scientific Realism (Cambridge University Press), pp. 89-118.
Dowe, P. (2009) 'Causal process theories', in H. Beebee, C. Hitchcock, and P. Menzies (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Causation (OUP), ch. 10.
Humeanism about causation
Psillos, S. (2009) 'Regularity Theories', in H. Beebee, C. Hitchcock, and P. Menzies (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Causation (OUP), ch. 7.
Beebee, H. (2006) 'Does Anything Hold the Universe Together?', Synthese 149, 509-33.
Price, H. (2007) 'Causal perspectivalism', in Corry and Price (eds.) Causation, physics and the constitution of reality. Russell's Republic Revisited (OUP), 250-292.
Price, H. and Weslake, B. (2009) 'The time-asymmetry of causation', in H. Beebee, C. Hitchcock, and P. Menzies (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Causation (OUP), ch. 20.
PART III: LAWS OF NATURE
Dispositional essentialism and laws of nature
Chakravartty, A. (2007) 'Dispositions, property identity, and laws of nature', ch. 5 of Chakravartty A Metaphysics for Scientific Realism (Cambridge University Press), pp. 119-150.
Bird, A. (2007) 'Dispositional essentialism and the laws of nature', ch. 3 of A. Bird Nature's Metaphysics. Laws and Properties (Oxford University Press), pp. 43-65.
The non-governing conception of laws
Carroll, J. W. (1990) 'The Humean Tradition', Philosophical Review 99, 185-219.
Beebee, H. (2000) 'The non-governing conception of laws of nature', Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 62, 571-94.
Mumford, S. (2004) Laws in Nature (Routledge), chapters 8 and 9 (pp. 127-159).
Mumford, S. (2005) 'Laws and lawlessness', Synthese 144, 397-413.
||Please see Learn page
|Graduate Attributes and Skills
||1. Critical thinking
2. Articulating reasons pro and con
3. Effective writing
|Additional Class Delivery Information
||The course will be taught by Dr Michela Massimi
|Keywords||Natural kinds,laws of nature,causation
|Course organiser||Dr Michela Massimi
Tel: (0131 6)50 3662
|Course secretary||Miss Lynsey Buchanan
Tel: (0131 6)51 5002
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