Phil 204
Philosophy of Science: Core Course
Fall 2006, Tues. 12:00-2:50 pm

Professor: William Bechtel Office Hours: Thursday 2:00-3:30
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. But since the goal is for 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 19, November 9, and December 4--these dates do not correspond to class days). These papers should be in the range of 1,200 to 1,800 words and 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

Most of the reading assignments can be found on the web. Those that cannot be posted to the web will be sent by email attachment to those on the class email list. See the schedule of classes and readings below. Items with asterisks are items that are required. Others provide useful backgound and alternative perspectives, and are useful for preparing papers.

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

The list of readings is tentative and may be adjusted up to a week before the scheduled class. Items that are required reading for everyone will be marked with asterisks (again, the designations will appear up to a week before the scheduled class). Other items will be useful for providing perspective, etc.

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 26: Explanation: D-N Model

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

Hempel, C. (1965). Aspects of scientific explanation. In Aspects of Bcientific Explanation and Other Essays in the Philosophy of Science, New York: Free Press, pp. 331-496.

Uebel, T. (2006). Vienna circle. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

*Woodward, J. (2003). Scientific Explanation. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

*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.

October 3: Explanation: Causal Accounts

Scriven, M. (1975). Causation as explanation. Nous, 9, 3-10.

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

Cartwright, N. (2003). Causality: One word, many things. Causality: Metaphysics and Methods, Technical Report, CTR 07-03, CPNSS, LSE

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

*Dowe, P. (2004). Causal processes. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

*Woodward, J. (2001). Causation and manipulability. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

October 10: Explanation: Mechanistic Accounts

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

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

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

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

October 17: Reasoning: Confirmation and Falsification

*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 24: 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.

October 31: Experimentation

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

Bechtel, W. (2002). Aligning multiple research techniques in cognitive neuroscience: Why is it important?Philosophy of Science, 69, S48-S58.

*Franklin, A (2002). 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.

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

November 7: Reduction and Unity of Science

*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.

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

*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.

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

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

Craver, C. F. (2005). Beyond reduction: mechanisms, multifield integration and the unity of neuroscience. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 36, 373-395

November 14: 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

Kuhn, T. S. (1982). Commensurability, Comparability, Communicability. PSA 1982, Volume 2, pp. 669-688

Bechtel, W. (1988). Philosophy of science. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. Chapter 4: Postpositivist philosophy of science.

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

*Niniluoto, I. (2002). Scientific progress. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

November 21: 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.

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

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

November 28: Pictorial representation-diagrams

*Wimsatt, W. C. (1991). Taming the dimensions--Visualization in science. PSA 1990, vol. 2, pp. 111-135.

*Ruse, M. (1991). Are pictures really necessary? The case of Sewell Wright's "adaptive landscapes" PSA 1990, vol. 2, pp. 63-77.

*Perini, L. (2005). Visual representation. In S. Sarkar and J. Pfeifer (eds.), Philosophy of Science: An Encyclopedia. London: Routledge, Vol. 2, pp. 863-870.

Hegarty, M. (1992). Mental animation: Inferring motion from static displays of mechanical systems. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 18, 1084-1102.