Philosophy of the High Level Sciences
Fall 2009

The high level, or special sciences include biology, psychology, economics, sociology – perhaps everything but fundamental physics. Questions we will ask in this seminar include the following:

  1. Are there laws in the high level sciences? If so, need they be qualified by ceteris paribus hedges? What is the significance of such hedges?
  2. What is the relationship between the high level sciences and fundamental physics?
  3. What form does causality take in the high level sciences? How is it connected to scientific explanation in the various sciences?
  4. To what extent are the models and theories of the high level sciences idealized? What is the function of idealization?
  5. What is the role of explicitly statistical theories in the high level sciences? In particular, what work are physical probabilities doing in population genetics, in social science, in statistical mechanics?
  6. Are there fundamental differences between the methods of the high level sciences and the methods of fundamental physics? Particular attention will be given to the nature of causal discovery in the various sciences.

Class meets on Tuesdays from 11 to 1 in the second floor seminar room, 5 Washington Place

Syllabus (PDF)

Guide to Readings (PDF)