Lipton -- Explanation, Causation and Law


Unless you have a better idea, try:
  1. Constant Conjunction accounts of causation and their refinements.
  2. Counterfactual accounts and their refinements.
  3. Causal realist accounts.
  4. Compare and contrast any two of the above.
Or answer the following question (which could fall under 1 or 4 above):

If the phone rings every time that I get into the bath, does that mean that getting into the bath causes the phone to ring?

Dr Lipton's lectures are highly recommended -- miss them at your peril. The reading list is very full, and any attempt to read everything on it is doomed to failure. My recommendations are given here, but feel free to read different things if you want. All the books listed below are on reserve in the Whipple Library.

Laws of Nature

Possible topics include:
  1. Universal regularity theories
  2. Mill-Ramsey-Lewis theories
  3. Subjective theories
  4. Realist theories
  5. Compare and contrast
Or (related to 2, 3 and 4):

Could our best possible scientific theories be wrong about the laws of nature?

Recommended reading:


Unless you have a better idea:
  1. Deductive and syntactic accounts of explanation (e.g. Deductive-Nomological)
  2. Causal Explanation
  3. Subjective accounts
  4. Compare and contrast two
Or (related to 2):

There is a difference between knowing that something happened, and knowing why something happened, but is there a difference between knowing why and knowing how?

Once again, the reading list below is only my recommendation: feel free to deviate from it.

Jennings -- Recent History of the Philosophy of Science


Either answer one of the questions below, or follow up some other aspect of Popper.

Does Popper give us an applicable method of distinguishing between science and non-science?

Is the problem of establishing 'basic statements' fatal to Popper's attempt to evade the problem of induction?


Logical Positivism

Can the verifiability principle do any useful work?

Are scientific laws verifiable in any sense? What are the consequences of your answer for the logical positivist project?



Are theories underdetermined by data in any significant way?

Can empirically equivalent theories be genuine rivals?

Lipton -- Problems of Induction

Justification of Induction

Possible Topics:
  1. Reliabilist justifications
  2. Pragmatic justifications
  3. The tenability of scepticism
Should we rely on induction?

Description of Induction

Possible Topics:
  1. The Raven Paradox
  2. The New Riddle of Induction
  3. Inference to the Best Explanation
How can a description of induction ensure that there are such things as irrelevant observations?

Scientific Realism and its Opponents

Possible Topics:
  1. Instrumentalism
  2. The Pessimistic Induction
  3. Moderate Realisms
Do you believe in electrons? If so, why?

Communitarian Epistemology

You should write about testimony for this course.

What is going on when you learn your supervision times from your partner? What is different when you learn them from your supervisor?

You should read at least the texts listed in bold from sections 5 and 6 in Dr Kusch's handout. The texts in bold from section 7 may be useful. You must also read part 1 of Dr Kusch's Communitarian Epistemology.