Archive for the ‘Class matters’ Category


Simplicity Discussion

In Class matters on May 4, 2010 by Jenny

While Forster’s “The New Science of Simplicity” is a nice introduction into using Akaike’s information criterion and Bayesian information criterion for adjudicating the trade-off between parsimony and goodness of fit in model selection, it won’t be the primary focus of tomorrow’s discussion.  For tomorrow, I want us to look really closely at Sober’s main argument in “Let’s Razor Ockham’s Razor.”  There’s a lot of good stuff in there.


Contingency Readings

In Class matters on April 21, 2010 by Joshua Smart

Gentle Fellow PhilSciers,

The readings folder for next week contains three required readings. The primary one is John Beatty’s formulation of the evolutionary contingency thesis (ECT) which states that there are no distinctive laws of biology. For Sober’s response you can ignore the parts about Rosenberg. We’ll just be concerned with the first five page, where he is directly interacting with Beatty. Finally, Brandon provides a third view of the relationship between laws and biology, arguing on a rather different tack than Beatty or Sober.

There is one reading in the recommended folder–a recent piece by Morgan supposedly providing a counterexample to Beatty. It’s worth skimming to think about the ways in which we might learn that Beatty is wrong.


Readings for this week (Optimality)

In Class matters on February 27, 2010 by collinrice

Hello all.  Just wanted to clarify my plan for the readings for next week.  The Seger & Stubblefield Chapter and the Handout I made over maynard smith are meant to introduce the topic of optimality modeling in evolutionary biology.  That is, only read them until you’ve got the general idea of how the models are supposed to work.  The main readings are (1) Orzack & Sober “How to formulate and test adaptationism,” (2) Brandon & Rausher’s response to Orzack & Sober, and (3) Angela Potochnik “Optimality modeling and explanatory generality.”  I’m planning on discussing those three in class (unless anyone has clarification questions about the others).  Since it is a short week, I just wanted to let everyone know what to focus on in more detail.  Thanks for reading.  I’m looking forward to our discussion.




Reminder: class today, February 25, at 572 Life Sciences at 4pm.

In Class matters on February 25, 2010 by ariew

See you there!


Dinner on Thursday, Feb 25

In Class matters on February 22, 2010 by ariew

After Michael Weinberg’s seminar on Thursday, Feb. 25 (from 4-6:30pm at 572 Life Science Center) we’ll be going out to dinner at Taj Mahal restaurant (19 N. 5th St).  All participants are invited to come.  The dinner is sponsored by the Department of Philosophy, Kline and McQuinn Endowments.


Order of importance for readings on Tuesday

In Class matters on February 14, 2010 by ariew

While I hope to cover all the readings, I will be focussing on the Sober and Waters in my presentation on reductionism.  I reserve the right to apply the arguments to other realms including my own pet projects!


email I sent to class members, re: amendment to class requirements

In Class matters on February 7, 2010 by ariew

Dear PHIL SCIers,
My course is geared towards a rigorous engagement of central issues in evolutionary theory specifically, and philosophy of science in general.  I am not requiring a term paper.What does “engagement” mean?  And, how do I assess your level of engagement?  Answer: by requiring weekly written and oral expression.  That is, requiring you to write and speak about the issues we cover in class.
There are two components of this assessment:
A. weekly summaries of the reading.  I’m looking at these every week, commenting on some of your work at random.
B. this is new: weekly participation.  I want to know each week that you are engaging in the topic.  I require you to–every week–either speak in class and/or contribute to the blog.  (Some of you, and you know who you are, have been altogether silent.)
Assessment is based on effort (mistakes are allowed and even encouraged) and satisfactory progress will be determined on a case-by-case basis.  There are two ways to determine how well you are doing at any given time, to ask me (over email), or to take an informal test: ask yourself “have I demonstrated to Andre that I have engaged in the material for the week?”.  If the answer is “no”, then, expect a corresponding grade.
It is important to distinguish “engagement” from “mastering”.  To engage in the material means to actively grapple with it.  For me, a blabbermouth, I grapple with material by talking it through.  I make lots of mistakes.  But, I learn from those.  Others are more contemplative: they write and speak less but with even with less they demonstrate an equal level of engagement with the material.
If you have any questions about this clarification/amendment please feel free to email me.
One last piece of encouragement.  Philosophy of biology is, in its modern form, a brand new field.  We are looking at issues of which relatively few philosophers have thought about (which might account for why we are reading multiple work by few authors, Sober, is a big example).  So, if you feel like you are really struggling, you are not alone.  Not alone in the class. not alone in the philosophical world.