PHIL 467W/804 Seminar II/Selected Topics in Philosophy of Science: Explanation

Fall Semester 2011| DAY

INSTRUCTOR  Holly Andersen, WMX 4610



  • There is no text. Assigned readings will be available on WebCT in PDF format, or for download through the SFU library website.



This course will involve the examination of three main kinds of explanation and the relationships between them, using a combination of classic texts on each subject as well as some very recent material. We will first look at scientific explanation: what do explanations in the sciences look like? In particular, we will examine the issue of causal versus nomological explanation in the sciences. The second type of explanation will be historical explanation, which is often distinguished from scientific explanation by focusing on singular or unique events, rather than types of recurring events. The third type of explanation is action explanation: what does it mean to explain an action, rather than mere behavior? Do explanations in psychology comprise both action and scientific explanation? After looking at each of three kinds of explanations separately, we will conclude the semester by considering how they relate to one another, especially the question of how action explanation is similar to or different than either historical or scientific explanation.



  • Final term paper - 80%
  • Participation (primarily precis of readings) - 20%


Note: Prerequisites: at least two 300 division PHIL courses.Writing.