philosophy of the special sciences

course description

Philosophy of science often focuses on metaphysical issues—such as unity, reduction, and explanation—in the abstract.  In this course, we will rather study these questions as they arise from within the “special sciences”, such as biology, neuroscience, and psychology.  In this course, we will review five debates surrounding central posits in the special sciences—in particular species, concepts, heuristics, emotions, and cognition.  Central questions will involve the following:

  • 1) Which disagreements are genuine and which are merely rhetorical or terminological?
  • 2) How can we distinguish ontological disagreements from methodological or epistemological ones?
  • 3) How can or should such disagreements be resolved?
  • 4) Should findings from other sciences be deemed relevant to answering these questions—and if so, in what way?

Note that in this course we will get our hands dirty with details from the sciences.  Background readings on basic texts in these areas are available on request.