Essay Questions


What is the best account of scientific explanation? Why?

Readings

A good overview of the issues can be found in:

For the rest:

In particular, you might want to think about some (or all if you have the time) of the following models of explanation:

  1. The deductive-nomological (or covering law) model of explanation (Hempel, C. G. (1965): Aspects of Scientific Explanation, New York: Free Press.)
  2. The causal relevance model of explanation (Glymour, C. 1982, Causal Inference and Causal Explanation, in What? Where? When? Why? ed. R. McLaughlin, Dordrecht: Reidel, 179-91)
  3. Explanation by identification (Ruben, D. -H, 1990, Explaining Explanation, London: Routledge)
  4. Explanation by analogies (Hesse, M. B. 1988, Theories, Family Resemblances and Analogy, in Analogical Reasoning, ed, D. H. Helman, Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 317-40)
  5. Explanation by unification (Salmon, W. C. (1984): Explanation and the Causal Structure of the World Princeton: Princeton University Press.)
  6. Pragmatic accounts of explanation (Van Fraassen, B. (1980): The Scientific Image, Oxford: Oxford University Press.)

For a critique of Van Fraassen's (1980) you might want to look at Kitcher, P. and Salmon, W. C. 1987, Van Frasen on Explanation, 'Journal of Philosophy, 84, 315-30.

Van Fraassen's 1989, Laws and Symmetry, Oxford: Clarendon Press is also especially relevant.


Compare Humean, sufficiency, necessity, and probabilisitic accounts of causation. Which, if any, is best? Why?

Readings

A good overview of the issues can be found in the following entries:

For the rest:


What is the best account of Inference to the Best Explanation?

Readings

A good overview of the issues can be found in:

For the rest:


What is the best account of scientific progress? Why?

You might like to think about whether or not the best account should centre on truth, simplicity, coherence, or explanatory power (where these last three don't _necessarily_ imply truth).

You might also want to think about whether your answer is intended to be normative or descriptive.

Readings:

A good overview of the issues can be found in:

For the rest:

For a critique of Van Frasen's (1980) you might want to look at Kitcher, P. and Salmon, W. C. 1987, Van Frasen on Explanation, 'Journal of Philosophy, 84, 315-30.

Van Frasen's 1989, Laws and Symmetry, Oxford: Clarendon Press is also especially relevant.


Expound the debate between realists and intrumentalists (anti-realists). Do you think we _should_ be realists of some sort? Why?

Readings

A good overview of the issues can be found in:

For the rest:


Can naturalism provide a normative account of how it is that science should be done?

Readings

A good overview of the issues can be found in:

For the rest:


How might we account for inductive inference in light of grue?

Readings

A good overview of the issues can be found in:

For the rest:


Are scientific theories incommensurable?

Readings


Should we take the thesis of the Strong Underdetermination of Theories seriously?

Readings


Why have philosopher's of science wanted a theory of verisimilitude? Do _we_ want one? Why? Expound several attempts to develop such a theory and any criticisms of said attempts.

Readings

Contact details

Department of Philosophy
Main Quadrangle A14
University of Sydney
NSW 2006
Australia

email: sebastian.sequoiah.grayson {at} sydney.edu.au