Scientific Explanation & Scientific Realism

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Time & Place

Branden Fitelson
Office: 132 Moses Hall
Hours: Tu 4–6 & F 2–4
Tel: 642–0666

234 Moses Hall (Dennes)
Tuesdays, 6–8pm

TOC: [Synopsis] [ Texts ] [ Requirements ] [ Website ] [ Tentative Schedule ]

The seminar will break (roughly) into two parts. Part One of the seminar (about 7 weeks) will involve the careful examination of several contemporary accounts of scientific explanation. These will include:

Some of the key questions in Part One will be:

In Part Two, we will think about the relationship between scientific explanation and scientific realism in contemporary philosophy of science. We will be reading about various forms of scientific realism. And, we will focus our attention on the role that explanation plays in arguments for various forms of scientific realism. Some key questions arising here are:

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All texts for the course will be made available in electronic format on this page – either in HTML or Adobe PDF format. In order to read/print/search, etc. our PDF files (note: all the PDF files available here are fully searchable), you will need Adobe Reader 6 (or another reader that can read PDF version 6 files). I recommend that you download the latest version of Adobe Reader asap (it's free). See the tentative schedule, below, for all readings (both required and supplementary).

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Current course information can be found on the course web site, at:

The home page of our website is reserved mainly for announcements. The purpose of the other pages on our website should be self–explanatory. You should keep an eye on the course website, as it will be updated regularly with various content and announcements pertaining to the course. The only two computer applications you will need to view/print, etc. the content on our website are: (i) your favorite web browser, and (ii) Adobe Reader (version 6 or later, or – if you prefer – another program that can read Acrobat PDF version 6 files).

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Tentative Schedule (subject to change – so stay tuned)

Week 1 : The Deductive–Nomological (D–N) Account of Scientific Explanation

Week 2: Controversies Surrounding the D–N Account

Week 3: Inductive-Statistical (I–S) and Statistical Relevance (S–R) Accounts

Week 4: Two Other (Broadly) Probabalistic Accounts of Explanation

Week 7: Causal Accounts of Explanation

Week 8: Pragmatic and Erotetic Accounts of Explanation

Week 9: Explanation and Unification

Week 10: Inference to the Best Explanation (a.k.a, Abduction) and its Critics

Week 11: Explanation & Scientific Realism 1: Overviews of "Explanationism" and Scientific Realism

Week 12: Explanation & Scientific Realism 2: Explanatoriness, Truth, and Scientific Realism

Week 13: Explanation & Scientific Realism 3: Scientific Realism, Empiricism, and Scientific Progess 1

Week 14: Explanation & Scientific Realism 4: Scientific Realism, Empiricism, and Scientific Progess 2

Week 15: Explanation & Scientific Realism 5: "Closeness to Truth" (Verisimilitude, Truthlikeness)

Week 16: Beer at a Local Pub (on Me)

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