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180218 PS Philosophy of the Special Sciences (Selected Topics) (2019W)

4.00 ECTS (2.00 SWS), SPL 18 - Philosophie
Continuous assessment of course work


Note: The time of your registration within the registration period has no effect on the allocation of places (no first come, first serve).


max. 45 participants
Language: English


Classes (iCal) - next class is marked with N

Wednesday 09.10. 11:30 - 13:00 Hörsaal 3B NIG 3.Stock
Wednesday 16.10. 11:30 - 13:00 Hörsaal 3B NIG 3.Stock
Wednesday 23.10. 11:30 - 13:00 Hörsaal 3B NIG 3.Stock
Wednesday 30.10. 11:30 - 13:00 Hörsaal 3B NIG 3.Stock
Wednesday 06.11. 11:30 - 13:00 Hörsaal 3B NIG 3.Stock
Wednesday 13.11. 11:30 - 13:00 Hörsaal 3B NIG 3.Stock
Wednesday 20.11. 11:30 - 13:00 Hörsaal 3B NIG 3.Stock
Wednesday 27.11. 11:30 - 13:00 Hörsaal 3B NIG 3.Stock
Wednesday 04.12. 11:30 - 13:00 Hörsaal 3B NIG 3.Stock
Wednesday 11.12. 11:30 - 13:00 Hörsaal 3B NIG 3.Stock
Wednesday 08.01. 11:30 - 13:00 Hörsaal 3B NIG 3.Stock
Wednesday 15.01. 11:30 - 13:00 Hörsaal 3B NIG 3.Stock
Wednesday 22.01. 11:30 - 13:00 Hörsaal 3B NIG 3.Stock
Wednesday 29.01. 11:30 - 13:00 Hörsaal 3B NIG 3.Stock


Aims, contents and method of the course

Aims: The aim of this seminar is to bring together students of philosophy, HPS, philosophy and economics, and special sciences (especially biology, mathematics, and economics) to engage in an interdisciplinary discourse on some core issues concerning the philosophical significance of scientific concepts. The respective benefits will be: (1) Students of the philosophy of science will make their first steps towards mastering difficult scientific concepts that are indispensable for a sophisticated philosophical engagement with modern science. (2) Students of the sciences will learn key philosophical tools and gain insight into how these tools could be relevant for their own fields of research. Thus, the ideology of this course is adamantly particularist. This approach supplements the curricula of both the sciences (due to the recently revived interests in theoretical biology, philosophy of economics, and foundational questions in mathematics) and of philosophy (as acquaintance with core scientific concepts is indispensable to contribute to contemporary debates in the philosophy of science).

Content: The proposed structure of the seminar consists of two parts (assuming thirteen sessions in total): (1) Two consolidating sessions to cover mandatory “core issues” in the philosophy of science. This should aid the students in acquiring the necessary conceptual and terminological methods to adequately address the more specialized topics later on. (2) Eleven sessions of discussion of “special topics” in the philosophy of biology, economy and mathematics. Sessions are organized in a way that specific problems are investigated and assessed for their bearing on biology, economy and mathematics. Emphases on the the topics and the sciences can be shifted depending on the interests and backgrounds of the students. The specific topics may include:
*Reductionism and Scientific Imperialism (3-4 sessions) (introduction; scientific imperialism; microfoundations; logicism)
Reductionism within the special sciences: levels of organization? Reductionism between the sciences: what does it mean to say something is “fundamental”? Does sociology reduce to psychology reduce to biology reduce to chemistry reduce to physics?
*Scientific Pluralism (4-5 sessions: introduction; pluralism in biology; pluralism in economics; logical pluralism; values in science) What are the aims and goals of scientific pluralism? What is the relation of scientific pluralism and epistemic relativism? Does scientific pluralism apply to all areas of research? What are the limits of scientific pluralism? Epistemological vs. metaphysical pluralism. Values in science and values in theory choice.
*Mechanisms and Causal Processes (at least 2 sessions: introduction; examples from biology and economics)
What is a mechanism and how do mechanisms explain? Are there alternatives to mechanistic explanations? What is the role of mechanisms in the scientific disciplines? How do mechanisms and scientific laws relate?
*Formal Methods and Mathematization (at least 2 sessions: introduction; examples from biology and economics)
What is the role of formal methods in science? What are arguments for and against the use of formal methods? Is there a difference between natural sciences, social sciences, and the humanities? What about formal methods in philosophy of science?

Methods: Students will give short presentations (approx. 5-10 minutes) on various topics; additionally, students will be required to hand in short written commentaries (usually 300-400 words) on the literature before each session. The main part of the seminar will consist of discussion. At the end of the semester, students are required to hand in a short essay (1000-1500 words) on one of the key topics discussed.

Assessment and permitted materials

Grades will be dependent on: written commentaries (40%); presentation (10%); contributions to discussion (40%); concluding essay (10%).

Minimum requirements and assessment criteria

Minimal requirements: Students must participate in the sessions on a regular basis and hand in the written commentaries for each session.

By registering for this course you accepts that your submitted texts will be assessed for plagiarism by the automated software TurnitIn.

Examination topics

Reading list

Primary and optional literature will be provided via Moodle.

Association in the course directory

Last modified: Mo 07.09.2020 15:21