Philosophy 160


ASSIGNMENT LOG:                                                   

VTM assignment

deduction worksheet:

Frist Exam Review

Second Exam Review

Third Exam Review

Chapter 7 assignment

Sokal Hoax assignment,

Chapter 9 assignment

Final Review





Final Review


COURSE NOTES:_____________________   ______ 

Some questions from the introduction

It will be helpful to get acquainted with the contributions of some figures from the scientific revolution. Cases from the history of science will be used to illustrate philosophical points and views throughout the course. Here is a short list of people whose contributions you might want to get familiar with:


Chapter 2: Logic plus Empiricism

The major figures in British empiricism include John Locke, George Berkeley and David Hume. John Locke offers an epistemologically confident version of empiricism. But subsequent figures in the British empiricist movement show how empiricism can lead to a variety of more skeptical views. Berkeley doubts the existence of substance underlying our perceptions of the world. He takes empiricism to lead to the view that ordinary things like tables and chairs are nothing more than bundles of perceptions. Berkeley's idealism is often regarded as a variety of phenomalism, though the classic formulation of the later is usually taken to be John Stuart Mill's view. David Hume embraces the skepticism of Berkeley and Mill and further raises doubts the rationality of induction (Hume's problem of induction will get lots of attention later in the course).

Some questions about the British empiricist movement:

The Vienna Circle was a group of philosophers and scientists in turn of the (20th) century Vienna. These thinkers were the founder of the broader empiricist movement known as logical positivism (later known as logical empiricism). As the title of this chapter suggests, the Logical Positivists' approach the the philosophy of science involved combining empiricism with the advances in Logic achieved by Bertrand Russell and Alfred North Whitehead (this was a formulation of first order predicate logic with quantifiers which is taught here in PHIL 106). Central to the logical positivists program was the verificationist theory of meaning, influenced by the views of Wittgenstein and recent scientific developments, especially Einstein's physics.

See my notes on Logical Positivism and Problems for Postivism in addition to Godfrey-Smith's chapter on the positivists. Based on my notes you should also be able to answer the following

Godfrey-Smith's critique of logical positivism focuses on Willard Van Orman Quine's paper "Two Dogmas of Empiricism". In this classic paper, Quine challenges the analytic/synthetic distinction and the "reductionist" thesis that all meaningful language, including the theoretical terms of science, could be defined in terms of logic and purely observational vocabulary.

The verificationist theory of meaning tells us roughly that a claim about the way the world  is (a synthetic claim) is meaningful only if there are possible empirical tests that could confirm the claim as true or lead to its rejection as false. Here is a rather embarrassing feature of the verificationist theory of meaning: The verificationist theory of meaning (VTM) is not itself meaningful according to its own criterion of meaning. For the VTM to be meaningful, we would have to provide empirical grounds for accepting or denying that all meaningful claims have empirical truth conditions. That would require that we have some independent grip on which claims are meaningful. But meaningfulness is not an observation term (if it were, we would not require a theory of meaning). And the VTM does not give us an empirical test for identifying meaningfulness. So it looks like the idea of meaning is exactly the sort of murky obscure concept that the Logical Positivists want to banish from rigorous scientific and philosophical discourse. And this is just the lesson that Quine intends to teach in Two Dogmas.

In the first part of this essay Quine attempts to chase down the content of the notion of analyticity. While he does identify a family of related concepts that might be used to clarify each other. We might, for instance characterize analytic claims as those that are true in virtue of meaning. But this just shifts our attention to the need to clarify the notion of meaning. Meaning might be clarified in terms of synonymy, but now we must ask what sameness of meaning consists in. Quine argues that none of these notions can be given independent empirically respectable content. And thus the whole family of concepts should be rejected as obscure and having no legitimate role to play in a rigorous logical empiricism. 

In the second part of "Two Dogmas", Quine attacks the logical positivists view that theoretical language can be reduced to observational language.


Chapter 3: Induction and Confirmation

In this chapter we will be concerned with epistemological problems concerning just how evidence supports scientific hypotheses and theories. We start with the problem of induction.


Chapter 4:

Karl Popper

Auxiliary Hypotheses



Chapters 5 and 6:

Thomas Kuhn





160 archive.htm

Quine: Two Dogmas of Empiricism:

Wikipedia on Two Dogmas:

Boghossian, Paul. "What the Sokal Hoax Ought to Teach us":

Bird, Alexander.  SEP entry on Thomas Kuhn:

Darwin, Charles.  The Origin of Species:

Darwin's Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection.  A Primer courtesy of the University of Michigan:

Einstein, Albert. "Relativity, the Special and General Theory":

Gould, Steven J., "Evolution as Fact and Theory":

Hardcastle, Gary.  "Themes in Contemporary Analytic Philosophy as Reflected in the Work of Monty Python::

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2001 report:

Elizabeth Kolbert: The Climate of Man:

Kuhn notes:

Outline of Structure of Scientific Revolutions:

Payne, W. Russ, "What a Law of Nature is": of Nature.htm

Payne, W. Russ, "Diversity and the Socratic Method":

Pierce, Charles Sanders, "The Fixation of Belief":

Popper, Karl.  SEP entry by Stephen Thornton:

Popper, Karl. "Science as Falsification":

Sokal, Alan. Links to reading on the Sokal hoax:

Russell, Bertrand: Russell, from Problems of Philosophy

Slater, Matthew:

Astronomy notes:

Orders of magnitude:


Old assignments and notes:

Problem of Induction assignment

Popper assignment

Philosophy of Science notes