Andrea I. Woody
Study of one or more current topics in philosophy of science such as scientific realism, explanation, confirmation, causation. Prerequisite: one PHIL course; recommended: PHIL 120; PHIL 160.
In this course, we will conduct a close reading of Daniel Dennett’s book Darwin’s Dangerous Idea to gain an introduction to both philosophy of evolutionary theory and general philosophy of science. This National Book Award finalist offers a provocative and searching analysis of evolutionary theory. We will discuss the conceptual structure and evidential basis for Darwinian evolution as well as the implications this work has for a wide range of issues including philosophy of mind, the nature of language, and the origins of morality. Each week we will read 2 chapters of Dennett’s book, supplemented with additional readings as needed. The course will focus on development of general philosophical skills including close reading, identifying primary theses and summarizing content, constructing explicit arguments, developing lines of criticism, articulating consequences of positions, and providing constructive feedback to others. With this general aim, the course will require short exercises and written commentary throughout the term.
Class time will include introductory lectures to clarify content, discussion among all class participants, periodic presentations by students, and time for working on required exercises. Regular attendance and participation will be necessary for making good progress.
Basic familiarity with the central tenets of evolutionary theory (such as would be gained in a college level introductory biology course) will be helpful and is recommended.
TEXT: Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life; Daniel C. Dennett.
Student learning goals
General method of instruction
Class assignments and grading
This course will stress basic philosophical skills: careful reading, explicit reasoning, and clear writing. There will be several short, highly structured writing assignments throughout the term.