Philosophy 5330: Philosophy of science
Causation, Laws, and Explanation
Fall, 2013

Professor Joel Velasco

Class meets Mondays and Wednesdays, 3:00-4:20 in English and Philosophy 110

The topics for Phil 5330 vary by term. For this term we will look at a variety of views on three central topics in the philosophy of science - Causation, Laws, and Explanation - and the relationship between them. Questions to be addressed include: What are laws of nature? Are there laws other than those described by physics (for instance, are there laws of biology, meteorology, or economics?) Are there ceteris paribus laws (that is, laws which hold 'other things being equal')? What is the nature of causation and how does it relate to laws? What is a scientific explanation? Is it necessarily a causal one? Can we have scientific explanations that do not cite laws of nature?
Course Webpage:
All information about the course (such as this syllabus) as well as the reading assignments and links to papers can be found on the course website at
Office hours:
My office hours are Mon and Wed, 11:00-12:00, or by appointment, in 265G Philosophy.
Required Books:
There are no required books for this course. All class assignments will be found on this website. You should check this website reguarly for updates and bring copies of the assigned readings to class.

Evaluation: Grades will be determined on the basis of two papers of approximately 3,000 words each (the length of an APA submission) and upon class participation.

Class Participation:Philosophy is a communal enterprise: the ability to make valuable oral contributions to philosophical discussions can be as important as the ability to write well. Moreover, since the written assignments will force the students to think carefully about very specific topics, participation in class discussion is an important way for students to demonstrate a broader competence with the material than is possible in the papers alone. Evaluation will be based upon the quality, not the quantity, of comments made during class. Students are encouraged to continue class discussions after the class is over, by meeting with me in person, or continuing the discussion over e-mail with me. Of course discussion with each other outside of class is strongly encouraged as well. Students who for any reason have difficulty speaking up in class are especially encouraged to (and must!) pursue these options. It should go without saying that attendance is an absolutely essential component of class participation. Any student who has more than two absences from class will be required to do make-up work for the classes missed.

Electronic Devices: Students may have laptop computers, or other portable electronic devices, for the purpose of taking notes, and occasionally looking up material relevant to class discussion. However, there will be no internet-surfing, texting, tweeting, instant messaging, e-mailing, gaming, or other use of electronic devices not directly related to class. Also, please silence all phones before class starts.

Special Accommodations: If you have a disability or personal circumstance that will require special accommodation, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Academic Integrity:  Cheating and plagiarism are, of course, prohibited in this class just as they are in all university classes. They will be taken particularly seriously in this class, and any cases that may arise will be treated in a manner consistent with University policy. These two violations of academic integrity are each defined in the section of the Texas Tech online official publications titled “Academic Integrity.” Plagiarism is there described as follows:
“'Plagiarism' includes, but is not limited to, the appropriation of, buying, receiving as a gift, or obtaining by any means material that is attributable in whole or in part to another source, including words, ideas, illustrations, structure, computer code, other expression and media, and presenting that material as one’s own academic work being offered for credit.”  
            You can find excellent explanations of what specifically constitutes plagiarism as opposed to proper citation, and also tutorials on how to avoid plagiarism at the following websites:
Note:  If, at any time, you are at all unclear about what counts as plagiarism, or about whether you are properly citing sources in any of your written work, please just come by and ask me about it.  You do not want to be confused or careless about this serious matter.

This is a tentative schedule/reading list:

Week 1 - DN Model of Explanation

Week 2 - Causal Explanation

Week 3 - Mackie and Regularity Theory

Week 4 - Probabilistic theories of causation

Week 5 - Counterfactual Theories

Week 6 - Lewis's view

Week 7 - Upgrades and problems with Counterfactual accounts

**PAPER DUE** - First assignment due Friday, Oct 11th before noon.

Week 8 - Joel in Brazil-

Week 9 - Intro to Laws of Nature

Week 10 - More on Laws

Week 11 - Best System Account

Week 12 - Causal Explanation

Week 13 -

Week 14 -

Week 15 -