Phil 204A
Philosophy of Science: Core Course
Fall 2009, Mon. 6:00-8:50 pm

Professor: William Bechtel Office Hours: Tuesdays 2:00-3:30 pm and by appointment
Office: HSS 8076 Email:
Telephone: 822-4461 Webpage:

1. Course Description

This course aims to provide a broad background to the current discussions and debates in philosophy of science. Since many of the current debates are shaped by the dominate traditions in philosophy of science in the 20th century, such as logical positivism and the historicist movement stemming from Kuhn, we will spend some time on both of these. However, so as to students to appreciate and understand contemporary discussions, the time spent on the traditional material will necessarily be abbreviated. The course will not focus on any given science, but will strive to be inclusive. Students are strongly encouraged to bring to the discussion material from sciences in which they have background.

2. Course Requirements

Students are expected to do the assigned reading and to attend all the class sessions. By 11 am prior to each class session each student should submit a one-paragraph comment or question to the course email list. These may either seek clarification about or raise objections to major points in the reading. The contributions should reflect an effort to understand the assigned material and should provide the context for the issue raised. There are also be three papers assigned during the quarter (due dates are October 22, November 12, and December 7--these dates do not correspond to class days). These papers should be in the range of 1,200 to 1,500 words. Suggested topics for the papers will be provided nd will be based largely on the material we are covering in class (i.e., they are not research papers). They should be submitted electronically in Word to

3. Texts

The reading assignments can be found on the web. See the schedule of classes and readings below.

4. Email List

There is an email list for this seminar: It is required that you subscribe to this list. Do it IMMEDIATELY. You can always unsubscribe later if you drop the course. The purpose of the list is twofold--to enable me to communicate information about upcoming seminar sessions and to allow members of the seminar to raise questions or engage in discussion outside of the seminar. Initially the list will be unmoderated, which will enable all (but only) subscribers to send email to the list. (You will need to send email from the address you use to register for the list.) If this is abused, we will need to move to a moderated list.

To subscribe, you simply need to send an email message to the following address: After you send the subscribe request, you will receive a reply from that will ask you to confirm your request. Follow the directions in this message to confirm your subscription. If you later want to remove yourself from this list, send email to

5. Schedule of Classes and Readings

Note: many of the links will only work when within the UCSD domain (or when using a VPN connection through UCSD) or within the domain of an institution that has a subscription to the relevant provider. If you are affiliated with UCSD you are entitled to a VPN connection. Click here to find out more about setting up VPN at UCSD.

September 28: Explanation: D-N Model

Bechtel, W. (1988). Philosophy of Science. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. Chapters 2: Logical positivism: The received view in philosophy of science and 3: Challenges to logical positivism.

Hempel, C. G. and Oppenheim, P. (1948). Studies in the logic of explanation. Philosophy of Science, 15, 135-175.

Woodward, J. (2009). Scientific Explanation. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Parts 1, 2, and 5

October 5: Explanation: Causal Accounts

Salmon, W. (2004). Causality without counterfactuals. Philosophy of Science, 61, 297-312

Dowe, P. (2007). Causal processes. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Woodward, J. (2009). Scientific Explanation. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Parts 3 and 4

Cartwright, N. (2003). From causation to explanation and back. Causality: Metaphysics and Methods Technical Report CTR 09-03, CPNSS, LSE

Woodward, J. (2008). Causation and manipulability. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

October 12: Explanation: Mechanistic Accounts

Machamer, P., Darden, L., Craver, C. F. (2000). Thinking about mechanisms. Philosophy of Science, 67, 1-25.

Bechtel, W. and Abrahamsen, A. (2005). Explanation: A mechanistic alternative. Studies in History and Philosophy of the Biological and Biomedical Sciences , 36, 421-441.

Glennan, S. (2002). Rethinking mechanistic explanation. Philosopy of Science, 69, S342 -S353.

Bechtel, W. and Richardson, R. C. (1993). Discovering complexity. Princeton: Princeton University Press, Chapter 2.

October 20: Reasoning: Confirmation and Falsification (Note: Tuesday, not Monday this week)

Hempel, C. G. (1945). Studies in the logic of confirmation. Mind, 54, 1-26

Popper, K. (1962). Science: Conjectures and refutations. In K. Popper, Conjectures and refutations: The growth of scientific Knowledge. New York: Basic Books, pp. 33-65.

Harman, G. (1965). The inference to the best explanation. Philosophical Review, 74, 88-95

October 26: Reasoning: Discovery

Klahr, D. and Simon, H. A. (1999). Studies of scientific discovery: Complementary approaches and convergent findings. Psychological Bulletin, 125, 524-543

Dunbar, K. (1995). How scientists really reason: Scientific reasoning in real-world laboratories. In R.J. Sternberg, & J. Davidson (Eds.). Mechanisms of insight. Cambridge MA: MIT press. pp 365-395

Darden, L. (2002). Strategies for Discovering Mechanisms: Schema Instantiation, Modular Subassembly, Forward/Backward Chaining. Philosophy of Science, 69, S354–S365.

Thagard, P. (2003). Pathways to biomedical discovery. Philosophy of Science, 70,235-254.

Novemer 2 : Experimentation

Franklin, A (2009). Experiments in physics. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Weber, M. (2002). Theory testing in experimental biology: the chemiosmotic mechanism of ATP synthesis. Studies in History and Philosophy of the Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 33, 29-52.

Hacking, Ian (1982). Experimentation and scientific realism. Philosophical Topics 13, 71-87.

Craver, C. F. (2002). Interlevel experiments and multilevel mechanisms in the neuroscience of memory. Philosophy of Science, 69, S83–S97.

Brown, J. R. (2006). Thought experiments. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

November 9: Reduction and Unity of Science

Oppenheim, P. and Putnam, H. (1958). Unity of science as a working hypothesis. In H. Feigl, M. Scriven, and G. Maxwell (eds.), Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science. Volume 2, pp. 3-36. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

Darden, L. and Maull, N. (1977). Interfield theories. Philosophy of Science, 44, 43-64.

Kitcher, P. (1981). Explanatory unification. Philosophy of Science, 48, 507-531

Fodor, J. A. (1974). Special sciences, or the disunity of science as a working hypothesis. Synthese, 28, 97-115.

Bechtel, W. and Hamilton, A. (in press). Reductionism, integration, and the unity of the sciences. T. Kuipers (ed.), Philosophy of Science: Focal Issues (Volume 1 of the Handbook of the Philosophy of Science). New York: Elsevier.

November 16: Dynamics, Emergence, and Higher Levels

Wimsatt, W. C. (1972). Complexity and organization. PSA 1972: East Lansing: Philosophy of Science Association, pp. 67-86.

Boogerd, F. C., Bruggeman, F. J., Richardson, R. C., Stephan, A., & Westerhoff, H. V. (2005). Emergence and its place in nature: A case study of biochemical networks. Synthese, 145, 131-164.

Bechtel, W. and Abrahsmen, A. (in press). Complex biological mechanisms: Cyclic, oscillatory, and autonomous. In C. A. Hooker (Ed.), Philosophy of complex systems. Handbook of the philosophy of science, Volume 10. New York: Elsevier.

Bechtel, W. and Richardson, R. C. (in press). Discovering complexity: Further Perspectives. In Bechtel, W. and Richardson, R. C., Discovering complexity: Decomposition and localization as strategies in scientific research. Second Edition. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Sections 3 and 4.

November 23: Scientific Change

Kuhn, T. S. (1962/1970). The structure of scientific revolutions. Chicago. University of Chicago Press. Chapter 3: The nature of normal science. Chapter 4: Normal science as puzzle solving. Chapter 9: The nature and necessity of scientific revolutions

Doppelt, G. (in press). Scientific revolutions. Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Nickles, T. (2009). Scientific Revoluions. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Niniluoto, I. (2007). Scientific progress. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

November 30: Scientific Realism

van Fraassen, B. C. (1976). To save the phenomena. The Journal of Philosophy, 73, 623-632

Boyd, Richard (1983). On the current status of scientific realism. Erkenntnis 19, 45-90.

Churchland, P. M. (1985). The ontological status of observables: In praise of superempirical virtues. In P. M. Churchland and Hooker, C. A.(Eds.), Images of science: Essays on realism and empiricism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp. 35-47.

Fine, Arthur (1984). The natural ontological attitude. In J. Leplin (Ed.). Scientific realism. Berkeley: University of California Press, pp. 83-107.

Boyd, R. (2002). Scientific realism. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.