Academic year
Carl Hoefer and Alexander Krauss
Department of Philosophy
Universitat de Barcelona
Master courses
Module 7. Issues in Contemporary Theoretical and Practical Philosophy
2020-02-11 - 2020-05-12
Tuesdays: 09:30 - 12:00
412 - Facultat de Filosofia UB


The goal of this course is to introduce students to contemporary philosophical debates in philosophy of science, and to build the analytical and critical skills needed to contribute to those debates. This year the topics we will focus on are causation and probability. In addition to being intrinsically philosophically interesting (and problematic), these two notions are both crucially involved in most scientific testing and inference. So we will explore some contemporary controversies in the philosophy of scientific methods related to causation and probability (e.g., statistical biases and causal inference; reproducibility of experimental results in psychology and medicine).  

No special mathematics or scientific knowledge is presupposed, other than high-school level mathematics.

Structure and contents:

  1. Introduction: the idea of necessity in nature. 
  2. History of laws, cause, determinism, and probability: 17th – 20th centuries
  3. Causal fundamentalism: pro and con
  4. The two faces of probability (subjective/epistemic; objective/chance). Classic accounts.
  5. Recent theories of objective probability and chance
  6. Probability in scientific testing - applied issues
  7. Causal inference - applied issues
  8. Is there causation in fundamental physics?


Classes in the first 4 or 5 weeks will be organized as lectures with time for discussion and practice with some exercises.  In those weeks, students will be given a homework assignment, due the following class, intended to complement the lectures and solidify understanding of the basic concepts.

In the remaining sessions, students will be required to read one or more contemporary text before each class, and submit to the instructors a substantive question or comment on the reading, for discussion during class, the day before class.  This will ensure that students prepare adequately for classes and will ensure discussion in class that is both stimulating and helpful in advancing students’ understanding.

Students will also be expected to complete two examinations during the course (format to be determined later).


Re-evaluation (1-15 September): Students who fail to pass this course in June have the right to re-evaluation in September. Re-evaluation will consist of a timed exam to be administered in person or through the Campus Virtual, which will be worth 100% of the final grade.