PhD Course on Conceptual Development

The course will discuss the nature of conceptual development in general, and specific instances from various domains (science, social/political, and formal disciplines), with an ambition to inform philosophical methodology. Core topics include purposes, aims and mechanisms for developing/revising/engineering concepts, and development of causal concepts as an illustration.

Semester: Autumn 2016

Date and place: 29.08-31.08 2016, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway. 9:15 to 16:00, room 652, Georg Morgenstiernes hus. Lunch 11.00-12.00 will be provided for participants that have signed up (master students not taking the course for credits can also sign up by emailing Anders). 

Credits: 4 ETCS

Instructors: Herman Cappelen, Øystein Linnebo, Gry Oftedal, Bjørn Ramberg and Anders Strand

Language: English

Requirements:Attendance (eight sessions of 2x45 minutes over three days). 5000 word essay (essay topic to be agreed between student and instructors). Essay deadline: October 17th 2016.

Sign up: Send an email to anders.strand@ifikk.uio.no with “PhD course” in the subject line.

Pdf: Information including literature is collected in a pdf file and available here.

Course content
The course will discuss the nature of conceptual development in general, and specific instances from various domains (science, social/political, and formal disciplines), with an ambition to inform philosophical methodology. Core topics include purposes, aims and mechanisms for developing/revising/engineering concepts, and development of causal concepts as an illustration.

Schedule with readings and literature suggestions
Readings are texts that will be central in the sessions. Literature suggestions are texts that provide background or are relevant further readings.

Readings are texts that will be central in the sessions. Literature suggestions are texts that provide background or are relevant further readings.

 

Monday 29.08.

11:15-12.00 Welcome and lunch

12.15-14.00 What is conceptual engineering? (Cappelen)

Various reasons for developing, engineering and/or replacing concepts; defect concepts, morally, socially or politically problematic concepts, concepts that lead to paradox (e.g. unrestricted predicative notion of set), to facilitate communication, understanding, knowledge, information and data management, fertility for various inquiries (enable new questions and perspectives).

Readings:

Cappelen, Herman (forthcoming) Fixing Language, chapter 1 & 2.

Burgess and Plunkett Conceptual Ethics I and II (Phil Compass:

 

14:15-16.00 Conceptual development in mathematics (Linnebo)

The concepts of SET and INFINITY have seen huge developments throughout history. Both have been plagued by paradoxes (e.g. Russell’s paradox and Galileo’s paradox). We shall discuss and critically assess the developments of the two concepts but also touch on the potential for further changes and improvements in the future.

Readings:

Linnebo,  Øystein “What is the Infinite?”, Philosophers’ Magazine, 2nd Quarter (2013), 42-47

Moore, A.W. The Infinite (Routledge, 2001), 2nd edn., Introduction and chapters 2, 8, and 10

 

Tuesday 30.08.

9:15-11.00 Conceptual development in life sciences: the GENE concept (Oftedal)

Readings:

Charbel Niño El-Hani (2007) “Between the cross and the sword: the crisis of the gene concept” Genetics and Molecular Biology, 30, 2, 297-307

http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1415-47572007000300001

The following literature suggestions are historical and recent biology papers exemplifying one central trajectory of the development of the gene concept.

Johannsen, Wilhelm (1911), The Genotype Conception of Heredity, The American Naturalist 45 (531): 129-159 http://isites.harvard.edu/fs/docs/icb.topic97823.files/V/November_6/johannsen_-_genotype_conception.pdf

Morgan, Thomas (1934), The Relation of Genetics to Physiology and Medicine, Nobel Lecture http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/1933/morgan-lecture.pdf

Watson, James D. and Francis H.C. Crick (1953), Molecular Structure of Nucleic Acids, Nature 171: 737-738 http://www.nature.com/nature/dna50/watsoncrick.pdf

Crick, F.H.C. (1958), On protein synthesis https://profiles.nlm.nih.gov/ps/access/SCBBZY.pdf

Friedlander, T. et al (2016), Intrinsic limits to gene regulation by global crosstalk, Nature Communications 7: doi:10.1038/ncomms12307

http://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms12307

11.00 Lunch

12:15-14.00 Conceptual change in comparative psychology (Ramberg)

What are appropriate concepts for understanding the psychology of non-human animals? Morgan’s Canon (1894, from Conway Lloyd Morgan, “the father of comparative psychology") says: “In no case may we interpret an action as the outcome of the exercise of a higher psychical faculty, if it can be interpreted as the outcome of one which stands lower in the psychological scale." Efforts to interpret and assess this central methodological principle continue up to the present, and such methodologically oriented discussion is a focal point of the conceptual tensions and changes characteristic of the history of comparative psychology. Can we sort the stakes in these discussions into empirical and conceptual matters?  If so, how do they bear on each other?  How, in particular, are conceptual tensions and conflicts resolved?  What is the scope for rational deliberation and epistemic agency in shaping conceptual development?  What non-epistemic factors might be involved in such change?  We explore these questions drawing on some recent contributions.

Readings:

Karin-D’Arcy, M. Rosalyn (2005)“The Modern Role of Morgan’s Canon in Comparative Psychology,” International Journal of Comparative Psychology, 18(3). http://escholarship.org/uc/item/3vx8250v

Starzak, Tobias (2016) “Interpretations without justification: A general argument against Morgan’s Canon.” Synthese, First online: 13 January 2016.

Mercado III, Eduardo (2016), “Commentary: Interpretations without justification…,” Frontiers in Psychology, GENERAL COMMENTARY published: 30March2016 doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00452 DOI

Literature suggestions:

Fitzpatrick, Simon (2008) “Doing Away with Morgan’s Canon,” Mind and Language, 23(2). Version of Record online: 12 MAR 2008, Version of Record online: 12 MAR 2008 DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-0017.2007.00338.x

Roskies, Adina (2015) “Davidson on Believers:  Can non-linguistic creatures have propositional attitudes?” In T. Metzinger & J. M. Windt (Eds). Open MIND: 33(T). Frankfurt am Main: MIND Group. doi: 10.15502/9783958570337

14:15-16.00 Development of causal concepts (Strand)

Can we make aims, values and methods explicit in ways that create common ground for conceptual development in this area of philosophy?

Literature suggestions:

Woodward, James (2014) “A functional account of causation, or: a defense of the legitimacy of causal

thinking by reference to the only standard that matters – usefulness (as opposed to metaphysics or agreement with intuitive judgment)” Philosophy of Science 81(5)

http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/10.1086/678313

Sobel, D.M. and C.H. Legare (2014) “Causal learning in children” WIREs Cognitive Science 5:413-427

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/wcs.1291/abstract

 

Wednesday 31.08.

9:15-11.00 What is conceptual improvement? Can it be done without concepts? (Cappelen)

Readings:

Cappelen, Herman (forthcoming) Fixing Language, chapter 3 & 4.

11.00 Lunch

12.15-13.00 Philosophy as conceptual development/engineering (Cappelen)

How does conceptual engineering differ from more traditional critical approaches in philosophy? Are there norms or methods that should guide conceptual development and engineering in philosophy? What are these norms, and are they relatively stable or do they vary with the concepts in question and the aims and values pursued?

13:15-16.00 Discussion sessions: Looking ahead (Everyone)

Philosophy as conceptual development continued.

What can philosophy contribute to conceptual development in science (including mathematics)?

Conceptual development vs development of other representational devices (words, models, graphical representations). Conceptual development vs revision of beliefs, metaphors, connotations etc. Mechanisms and aims for conceptual development. Other issues.

Literature suggestion:

Chandrasekharan, Sanjay and Nancy J. Nersessian (2011) “Building Cognition: The Construction of External Representations for Discovery” Proceedings of the Cognitive Science Society 33 http://www.cc.gatech.edu/aimosaic/faculty/nersessian/papers/Building%20Cognition.pdf 

Organizer

Anders Strand, Gry Oftedal, Herman Cappelen, Øystein Linnebo and Bjørn Ramberg
Published Oct. 29, 2015 10:39 AM - Last modified Oct. 30, 2017 3:08 PM