Foundations of the Philosophy of Science
This course will study recent as well as traditional philosophical analyses of probability and of causality, as well as the connections between them. Probabilities and probabilistic analysis play a central role in almost all modern sciences, often in theoretical as well as experimental or observational contexts. So it is a curious fact that there is no more basic agreement on what probabilities are (what probability claims mean, their truth conditions, how they can be tested, and so forth) now than there was 50 or 100 years ago. Similar remarks could be made about causality. We will study the traditional theories of probability and of causation, to get an overview of their strengths and weaknesses and how well they accord with our uses of these notions in everyday life and in the sciences. With the logical terrain under control, we will go on to look at newer issues and analyses by authors such as Alan Hájek, David Lewis, Elliott Sober, Michael Strevens and others.
Language: lectures, class discussion and readings will be in English. Students wishing to supplement their readings with works in Spanish, Catalan or other languages should consult the instructor first.
- Introduction to Probability; history of probability and chance; Probability calculus. Hacking, chapters 3 -6 (4-6 online); Gillies, ch. 1
- Probability theory continued; conditional vs unconditional probability.
- Epistemic interpretations: Classical, logical, subjectivist
- Objectivist interpretations 1: Frequentism
- Objectivist interpretations 2: Propensity theories
- Causation: skepticism vs realism (Russell vs Anscombe)
- Causation: Regularity account : Mackie
- Causation: Counterfactual account : Lewis
- Probabilistic causation: Cartwright, Schaffer
- Humeanism about chance
- Dispositionalism about probability & causality
- Moderate skeptical anti-realism: Price on causal time-symmetry
This course will be evaluated on the basis of class attendance & participation (50%) and on the basis of written work that may include short-essay homework assignments and/or a final paper.
Ian Hacking, An Introduction to Probability and Inductive Logic (Cambridge University Press, 2001). (Background text)
Donald Gillies, Philosophical Theories of Probability (Routledge, 2000).
Alan Hájek, “Interpretations of Probability”, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/probability-interpret/)
M. Tooley and E. Sosa (eds), Causation (Oxford University Press, 1993)
Further readings will be distributed in class or via electronic access (.pdf).