Philosophy 5330: Philosophy of Science
Fall, 2017

Professor Joel Velasco

Class meets Mondays and Wednesdays, 4:00-5:20 in English and Philosophy 264


In this seminar we will look at some central issues in “general philosophy of science” which have an epistemological flavor (rather than for example, metaphysics or ethics). Sample topics might include the demarcation problem, the problem of induction, theory choice and underdetermination and non-deductive reasoning more generally including, for example, bayesian confirmation theory, model selection theory, common cause reasoning, parsimony, and more. As an example that we will start with and then return to later, we will spend a significant amount of time focusing on the example of phylogenetic inference - that is, inferring the evolutionary history of a group of species.

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, 11:00-12:30, or by appointment, in 265G Philosophy.
Required Books:
There is one required book - Elliott Sober's Reconstructing the Past. The remainder of the readings will be articles that I will provide for you online. All class assignments and any other readings will be found on this website. You should check this website reguarly for updates and bring copies of the assigned readings to class.

Evaluation: Your grade in the class will be based on participation as well as written assignments. First, you must come to class prepared and participate throughout the term (described below). Second, there will be several short assignmnents due throughout the semester. There will also be at least one more substantial paper.

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.

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 - Phylogenetic Inference

Week 2 - The Scientific Method

Week 3 - The Problem of Induction

Week 4 - Underdetermination

Week 5 - Confirmation Theory

Week 6 - Probability and Causation

Week 7 - Historical Science

Week 8 - Popperian defenses of Cladistics

Week 9 - Parsimony methods again

Week 10 - Statistical Consistency

Week 11 -

Week 12 -

Week 13 -

Week 14 -

Week 15 -

Final papers due Dec 13