Winter semester

UV / VO+UE The nature of judgement (Johannes Brandl)
In this course we will look at the nature of judgments about truth and falsehood, such as the judgment that in the year 2050 there will be more than ten billion people on earth. Such judgments seem very similar to assertions. However, how literally this comparison can be taken is controversial. Are the contents of judgments considered true in the same way that sentences are claimed to be true? Philosophers who take a "content-first" view answer this question in the affirmative, while an "act-first" view draws attention to the differences between mental acts and linguistic assertions. The course begins with the pioneers of the "content-first" view (Frege, Bolzano, Reinach), then turns to the pioneers of the "act-first" view (Brentano, Twardowski, Geach), and ends with a look at the new representatives of the "act-first" view (Moltmann, Fiengo, Reiland).

UV / VO + UE Higher-Order Evidence (Brett Topey)
Suppose I am highly confident that I'll soon get a promotion at work; I then gain some evidence indicating that I'm prone to wishful thinking in career-related matters. What effect should this evidence have on my confidence that I'll soon get a promotion? Intuitively, it should make me less confident. But this evidence works in an unusual way. It doesn't bear directly on how likely I am to get a promotion -- instead, it is higher-order evidence, evidence that suggests that my own reasoning has up to this point been rationally subpar. Higher-order evidence, it turns out, has a number of features that are puzzling from the perspective of standard models of rational belief revision, and so the assessment of this evidence has been a much-discussed topic in the recent epistemological literature. This course will introduce students to this relatively new area of epistemology and, along the way, will provide an accessible entry point into formal methods widely used by epistemologists.

SE Philosophy of Scientific and Epistemic Tools (Rawad El Skaf)
It is usually claimed that natural science in general, and physics in particular is a successful human enterprise, mainly because its theories are based on and/or tested against observations and experiments. However, in addition to theories, observations and experiments, a scientist’s toolbox contains several tools such as Scientific Models, Computer Simulations, Analogical Reasoning/Experiments, Thought Experiments. These tools play many roles in science and the aim of this course is to get introduced to the many philosophical and epistemic questions they raise, such as: can we learn something new about nature and/or our theories with these tools, that is without performing real direct experiments and obtaining new empirical data about our target system? If so, then what is the nature of the cognitive/epistemic good they aim at providing, e.g. knowledge, understanding, explanatory power, consistency, prediction, application of theories, etc.? Most importantly, are they reliable modes of inquiry for their intended purposes? If so, then how do they justify their outcomes? In addressing these questions, we will tackle topics in general history and philosophy of science such as empiricism/rationalism, confirmation/disconfirmation, inconsistencies in science, representation, surrogative reasoning, idealizations, abstractions, the role of fiction and imagination in science. The approach undertaken during this course will take scientific practice seriously: we will analyze the different philosophical/epistemic accounts of these tools found in the ‘recent’ literature and assess them in light of historically/scientifically analyzed case studies.

SE Efficiency of Democracies (Alexander Hieke)  


Summer semester

SE Philosophy of Imagination (Christopher Gauker)

Philosophy of Imagination:  Imaginative thinking is fundamental to problem-solving, both in science and in everyday life.  But it does not conform to the familiar models of rationality deriving from logic and scientific methodology.  In some ways imagining is free from the constraint of representing reality, but in other ways imagining must conform to reality in order to be useful.  The topic of this course is the nature of imagination in its practical applications.  We will consider both propositional imagination and sensory imagination. Texts will be drawn from psychology as well as from contemporary philosophy.

SE Philosophy of Climate Science (Charlotte Werndl)
This seminar will provide an introduction into the philosophy of climate science. Topics will include:
- Values in science and climate science
- confirmation and simulation in climate science
- definitions of climate and climate change
- detection and attribution of climate change

SE Emergence and Reduction in Science (Patricia Palacios)
The topic of emergence and reduction is nowadays one of the liveliest areas of research in both science and philosophy. The reason for this is related with recent developments in a number of successful research programs within physics, biology, chemistry and social sciences. These developments have encouraged us to rethink the relationship between complex entities and their parts as well as the relationship between different theories and, in this way, to revise claims about reduction and emergence in science. In this course we will address issues concerning this topic from an inter-disciplinary perspective. We will begin with the study of contemporary classics that will allow us to grasp the concept of emergence and reduction, then move forward to analyse potential examples of emergence in physics, continue with the discussion of potential examples of emergence in biology, and lastly, consider possible examples of reduction in economics. The main goal of this course is to introduce students to recent discussions in emergence and reduction in dif- ferent sciences. Since technicalities will be kept to a minimum, scientific background is not required.

UV / VO+UE Truth and Paradox (Julien Murzi)
A paradox is an apparently valid reasoning that leads from premises that seem obviously true to a conclusion that is contradictory or in some other way unacceptable. In this seminar, we will focus on the so-called semantic paradoxes, of which the Liar Paradox is perhaps the most famous example. Consider a sentence which says of itself that it is lying, i.e. that what it says is not true. Then, it is easy to see that, if what the sentence says is true, then it is not true; and that if it is not true, then it is true. Contradiction! The paradox only involves apparently harmless assumptions: a tiny bit of logic, self-reference, and some highly plausible principles about truth. As it turns out, all three assumptions are extremely basic, if not essential, to our way of thinking; and yet, they have all been — and (arguably) at least one of them must ultimately be — questioned.   A lot of work has been done on the semantic paradoxes, both in mediaeval times (mostly in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries), and over the last seventy years. Far from being a catalogue of failure, the history of promising ideas coming to grief under the pressure of argument and counterexample is indicative of great progress and fuels the expectation that we are now on the verge of a satisfactory solution.   The first part of the course will provide some minimal, but necessary, technical and philosophical background, and review the main existing solutions to the Liar and cognate paradoxes and the main difficulties they face. We will then focus on some exciting new developments, involving the phenomenon of revenge (as we'll see, semantic paradoxes are particularly resilient), so-called much-discussed substructural approaches, and the role of context in paradoxical reasoning. Since different metaphysical conceptions of truth lead to radically different approaches to semantic paradox, the course will also serve as an introduction to some key contemporary approaches to truth, such as Tarski-style correspondence theory and deflationism.   Throughout the semester, we will read a mix of classic and more recent articles, alongside a book, Truth and Paradox in Context, cowritten by Julien Murzi & Lorenzo Rossi, and forthcoming with Oxford University Press.

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