Andrea I. Woody
Study of philosophical issues raised by theories in physics or chemistry, such as whether space (time) is a substance, how causation and locality are treated in quantum mechanics, temporal anistropy and time travel, the nature of a field of force, the reduction of chemistry to physics. Prerequisite: one PHIL course.
This course concerns philosophy of the physical sciences by focusing on the structure and function of experimentation in scientific practice. We begin with an investigation of the concept of the” observable" including consideration of how our senses, the source of observations, actually work. Our aim is to understand not only why observation is such a central concept in the sciences but also to recognize the difficulty of producing a clear, coherent explication of this concept. Of course in modern experimentation, more often than not, there are no simple observations but instead data generated through complex physical procedures. What are the epistemological consequences of moving from phenomena to data? What exactly are "data"? And what are the ramifications of data having little reliance on human sensory perception, and thus not being "observable" in any straightforward sense? Finally our discussion turns to experimentation itself: What types of scientific theories are open to investigation by experimentation? (Are there ones that are not?) Are significant distinctions between scientific domains revealed by differences in their experimental practices? Do we have the same sorts of reasons to believe in quarks as in tables (or the mechanisms of mitochondria)? What characteristics of experimentation foster objectivity? What do we mean by "experimental control"? Meets I&S or NW requirement. No Freshmen. PHIL majors only (Period 1). Prior course in Philosophy and some coursework in laboratory science highly recommended. TEXTS: Course Packet
Student learning goals
General method of instruction
Class assignments and grading