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Philosophy of Science

Philosophy 418/520

Fall 2012, TuTh 1:15PM - 2:35PM. SS-133

Professor: P.D. Magnus

Office: HU-258B Office hours: M 11:00–noon, Tu 2:45–3:45, and by appointment


Causation & Explanation, Stathis Psillos [C&E] ISBN: 0773524681

Other readings will be available on E-Res.


three take-home Exams @ 25%

one Paper @ 25%

Undergraduates (registered for 418) will be required to write 5–8 pages on an assigned topic. Graduate students (registered for 520) will be required to write 10–12 pages on a topic of their choosing.

Participation: Participation in class discussion is strongly encourged. Exemplary participation in class discussion will add to your grade, up to two-thirds of a letter grade.

Late policy: Assignments must either be ready to hand in at the beginning of class on the day they are due or put in the instructor’s department mailbox before then. Anything after than point is considered late and will be penalized up to one letter grade per day.

Academic honesty: Students are encouraged to discuss issues from the course with each other and with others outside of class, but they are responsible for their own ideas. Cheating on exams will not be tolerated. Papers should include citations to any works cited or consulted, as well as acknowledgments of helpful interactions.

Absences: Students who will need to miss class for religious observance, away games, or for other scheduled reasons should discuss these issues with the professor at the beginning of the term. If an emergency results in absence, the student should contact the professor as soon as possible. Make-up exams will be given only for documented, excused absences.


This schedule is approximate. The topics for a given day may change as the term progresses.

Week 1 aug 28, 30


Constructive Empiricism [read van Fraassen]

Week 2 sep 4, 6

Constructive Empiricism, continued

Underdetermination [read Stanford]

Week 3 sep 11, 13

Realism [read Boyd]

Week 4 sep 20

— no class sep 18 —

Problems for realism [read Laudan]

Week 5 sep 25, 27

Structural realism [read Worrall]

How to break down debates about realism [read Saatsi]

FIRST EXAM: passed out sep 27, due oct 2

Week 6 oct 2, 4

A crash course on causation [read C&E 3–8]

Laws of nature as regularities [read C&E 137–158]

Week 7 oct 9, 11

Laws as necessities [read C&E 159–177]

More about laws [read C&E 179–211]

Week 8 oct 16, 18

Ceteris paribus laws [read Earman et al.]

The patchwork view of laws [read Cartwright]

Week 9 oct 23, 25

The DN model of explanation [read C&E 215–239]

Week 10 oct 30, nov 1

Statistical explanation [read C&E 241–262]

Week 11 nov 6, 8

Explanation of laws [read C&E 263–279]

Explanation and metaphysics [read C&E 281–293]

Week 12 nov 13


SECOND EXAM: passed out nov 13, due nov 20

— no class nov 15 —

Week 13 nov 20

Relations between sciences [read Kitcher]

— Thanksgiving: no class nov 22 —

Week 14 nov 27, 29

to be announced

Week 15 dec 4, 6

to be announced

Week 16 dec 11


PAPER DUE at final class meeting

THIRD EXAM: passed out dec 11, due by 10:30am dec 17