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Time & Place

Branden Fitelson
Office: 132 Moses Hall
Hours: 3–4 MF
Tel: 642–0666

234 Moses Hall (Dennes)
Wednesdays, 4–6pm

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

This seminar has two parts. Part I, which will take up the vast bulk of the course (the first 11 weeks), will focus on the historical development of confirmation theory— qua logical/epistemological theory. Specifically, we will focus mainly on various historical approaches to (and problems/paradoxes involving) instantial confirmation. We will begin with some pre-history about induction up to (and including) Hume. Then, we will focus on literature from the 1920–1960-ish period, starting with parts of Keynes's (1921) A Treatise on Probability. The climax of Part I will involve a careful reading of Goodman's (1955) "New Riddle of Induction". The denouement of Part I will involve the subjective (Bayesian) turn in confirmation theory that happened after Goodman (in the 1960's), and which continues to be dominant today. Part II (the last 2 weeks) of the seminar will be concerned with some recent applications of confirmation theory to problems in cognitive science. Specifically, we will look at the Wason Selection Task and the Conjunction Fallacy from the point of view of confirmation theory (broadly construed).

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All readings for the course will be posted on the course website — specifically, right here on this syllabus page (see below). There will be both required and optional (further) readings each week. There are also some overviews and surveys included on the Notes, Handouts & Links page. I recommend reading the required readings very carefully, and then moving on to the further readings (which may typically be read a little less closely) as your schedule permits.

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The only requirement for this seminar will be a single 15-page term paper, which will be due at the end of the semester. NOTE: You should talk to me about possible paper topics well before the end of term.

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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 (preferably, the latest version).

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Tentative Schedule (subject to change – so stay tuned!)

Note: there will be no seminar meetings on October 3 or November 14.

Week 1 (8/29): Overview of The Course + Some Technical Background

Week 2 (9/5): Pre-History — Setting the Stage for Modern ("Inductive") Readings of Hume

Week 3 (9/12): History — Modern ("Inductive") Readings of Hume

Week 4 (9/19): Keynes

Week 5 (9/26): Nicod

Week 6 (10/10): Hempel I

Week 7 (10/17): Hempel II

Week 8 (10/24): Carnap I

Week 9 (10/31): Carnap II

Week 10 (11/7): Goodman I

Week 11 (11/21): Goodman II

Week 12 (11/28): Confirmation Theory and The Conjunction Fallacy

Week 13 (12/5): Confirmation Theory and The Wason Selection Task

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