2019 - 2020

  Scientific Explanation  
David KovacsGilman-humanities319Sun1600-2000 Sem  1
University credit hours:  4.0

Course description

What is a scientific explanation? A number of things could be meant by this question. One concerns the activity that scientists undertake when they try to explain something. Another s one concerns the conditions under which such activity succeeds at its purpose. A third question concerns the product of such an activity, and a fourth one the product of such an activity, provided it was succesful. Theories of scientific explanation are similarly variegated in what they attempt to achieve: a theory that captures scientific practice, a theory that tells us what scientific practice should look like, or something like a theory that describes what an ideal scientific explanation would look like. In this class we will survey foundational issues about scientific explanation as well as theories that have been  developed as answers to these  questions: the deductive-nomological model, the statistical relevance model, causal and unificationist theories, and pragmatic approaches to explanation. Other possible topics to be covered include relation between causation and scientific explanation, the role of understanding in explanation, and the difference between explanation and prediction.

Pre-requisites: Any class in metaphysics, philosophy of science, epistemology, philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, or history of analytic philosophy. If you didn’t take any such class, consult me.

Requirements: final paper, occasional reading responses, mandatory attenance

Assessment: a final paper

Grade components: 60% final paper, 30% reading responses, 10% attendance and participation


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