Philosophy 290-5

Spring 2004

Number Title Instructor Days/time Room
290-5 Scientific Explanation and Scientific Realism Fitelson TBA TBA

The first half (approximately) of this course will involve a historical and philosophical trace of 20th century thinking about scientific explanation. We will study (inter alia) deductive-nomological, inductive-statistical, causal, counterfactual, and pragmatic approaches to scientific explanation. In the second half (approximately) of the course, we will investigate the relationship between scientific explanation and scientific realism. Various arguments for scientific realism trade on various kinds of appeals to scientific explanation. We will look at several of these arguments, and some replies from empiricists and other non-realists about science. Time permitting: we will look at some alternative, non-realist (e.g., empiricist and instrumentalist) views of scientific progress and its relation to scientific explanation (as opposed to, e.g., prediction).

Required Texts (two of them): (1) Salmon, W. (1989) “Four Decades of Scientific Explanation”, U. Minnesota Press. (2) Leplin, J., ed., (1984) “Scientific Realism”, University of California Press. Recommended Texts (two of them) (1) Kukla, A. (1998) “Studies in Scientific Realism”, Oxford University Press. (2) Pitt, J. (ed.), 1988, Theories of Explanation. New York: Oxford University Press.
Other readings to be provided electronically on the course website.