Open notes on inference

The short version is that I’ve posted a short introduction to philosophical issues about scientific inference [link]. It’s written for an introductory class that I teach. It’s offered as OER under a CC license.

The long version is below the fold.

The long version

I released the first version of forall x in 2005. Creative Commons licenses were a relatively new thing. The term Open Education Resource had been coined a few years before but hadn’t gained currency yet.

I was mostly just writing it for my own class, but I was happy to share it with anyone who might be interested. I was motivated by my dissatisfaction with readily available textbooks, but logic texts are pretty well commodified. The difference between forall x and other books is in the details.

The other introductory course I teach, besides Logic, is called Understanding Science. I teach it as a kind of intro to Science Studies, with plenty of history and sociology alongside the philosophy of science. It is more about science and society than it is about purely internal questions like scientific realism.

So the texts for Understanding Science are a motley of primary and secondary readings. I’ve occasionally has students buy books for part of the course, but mostly I have put together course packets or put PDFs online.

Early on in the course, we spend a few days talking about scientific inference: deductive validity, the difference between deduction and ampliative inference, the problem of induction, and so on. I originally just handled these topics in class, but I found myself wanting something that I could give them to read. So I wrote up some notes on inference.

Those notes have been used many times now, polished a little bit each time. I haven’t fretted over the typesetting, but it should all be legible enough. They’re available under a Creative Commons license; link below.

link: Understanding Science: Scientific Inference

One reason I haven’t posted this earlier is, unlike logic, it does not fill a standard curricular need that everybody has. I recently shared it with a grad student who was teaching a bit of phil sci as part of an intro to philosophy, and he reports finding it useful. So maybe someone will be interested.

Another reason is that I keep thinking I should add more. I’ve already written some of this, from when I taught Understanding Science as an on-line course. Maybe I will take that tangled maze of web pages and turn it into linear prose.

Here are some topics that further writing would address:

  • Demarcation
  • Scientific observation and externality
  • Scientific realism

I am teaching the course again in the Fall, so we’ll see.

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