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Philosophy for Science 2: The Language and Logic of Science

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Philosophy for Science 2: The Language and Logic of Science

<p>Science is a ‘methodology’ - a particular way of observing, describing and explaining – a way of addressing the one BIG question: “What must the world be like, that it produce the phenomena we

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Science is a ‘methodology’ - a particular way of observing, describing and explaining – a way of addressing the one BIG question: “What must the world be like, that it produce the phenomena we observe?” At first blush, this question seems simple enough; but it turns out to be fiendishly difficult to answer. This 3 part course is an attempt to construct a clearer, more coherent conceptual framework for making sense of the physical world.

  • Part 1 - What the World Must Be Like: We identify/specify what the world must be ‘like’ to be at all describable.
  • Part 2 – The Language and Logic of Science: We specify the ‘structure’ of the physical world, investigate the business of observation; identify its scope and limitations; and develop a vocabulary in terms of which to describe what we might find.
  • Part 3 – Making Sense of it All: We distil from our observations of worldly affairs the fundamental elements of ‘reality’; develop a theory of ‘ways of knowing’; and construct a ‘reasonable’ model for making sense of the physical world.


COURSE REQUIREMENTS
Though rigorous and intellectually demanding, this series is designed for a lay audience and no prior knowledge of philosophy, mathematics or physics is assumed. However, it is a series, and later meetings draw extensively on concepts and terminology presented in earlier ones. Students are strongly encouraged to start at the beginning, rather than joining the series part-way through. This course is Part 2 of a 3-part series, and its content relies at least in part on familiarity with material already covered in Part 1: “What the World Must Be Like”. Before joining this course, therefore, students are encouraged to read at least some of the following, perhaps in the following order:

  • Ayer, A. J.: Language, Truth and Logic (Penguin, 1990)
  • Briggs, J. P. and Peat, F. D.: Looking Glass Universe – The Emerging Science of Wholeness (London: Fontana, 1985)
  • Burton, Robert A.: On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You’re Not (New York: St Martin’s Griffin, 2008)
  • Gladwell, Malcolm: The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference (London: Little, Brown & Co., 2000)
  • Gleick, James: Chaos (London: Macdonald & Co., 1987)
  • Hobbes, Thomas: "Of Identity and Difference", in De Corpore (1655)
  • Hume, David: A Treatise of Human Nature (1739-40)
  • Ladyman, James & Ross, Don: Every Thing Must Go: Metaphysics Naturalized (Oxford University Press, 2009)
  • Lewin, Robert: Complexity: Life at the Edge of Chaos (J. M. Dent, 1993)
  • Kant, Immanuel (1787): Critique of Pure Reason, 2nd ed’n, tr. Norman Kemp Smith (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007)
  • Maddox, John: What Remains to be Discovered (London: Macmillan, 1998)
  • Monod, Jacques: Chance and Necessity: An Essay on the Natural Philosophy of Modern Biology (Vintage, 1972)
  • Popper, Karl: The Logic of Scientific Discovery (London and NY: Routledge, 2002)
  • Prigogine, Ilya; and Stengers, Isabelle: Order out of Chaos (London: Flamingo, 1988)
  • Russell, Bertrand (1940): An Inquiry into Meaning and Truth (Allen & Unwin, 1956)
  • Seidel, Markus: Epistemic Relativism: A Constructive Critique (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014)
  • Waldrop, M. Mitchell: Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos (Penguin, 1994)
  • Wolfram, Stephen: A New Kind of Science (Wolfram Media, 2002)


COURSE OUTLINE

  • How the world is Constructed – Supervenience, emergence, complexity, chaos, holism
  • How we might Observe it – Detection, observation, observability, the strobe effect, infinity
  • How we might Describe it – Theories of existence, identity, representation, reference


PLANNED LEARNING OUTCOMES
By the end of this course, participants will be conversant with:

  1. the theories of complex emergence, causal reductionism, and 'chaos'
  2. the epiphenomenal nature of what is observable
  3. the difference between indeterminacy, indeterminability, and unpredictability
  4. the nature of detection vs the nature of observation
  5. the limits to observability, and the difference between ‘observables’ and ‘beables’
  6. the difference between what there is, what we know, and what we can know!