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Colloquia

Fall 2015

September 11, 2015, 275 Nicholson Hall

Opening meeting and welcome

September 18, 2015, 275 Nicholson Hall

"Descartes and Newton on Deducing True Laws of Nature"
Mary Domski
, Department of Philosophy, University of New Mexico
abstract

September 25, 2015, 275 Nicholson Hall

"A Different Descartes: The New Galen"
Harold J. Cook
,
Department of History, Brown University
Co-sponsored by the Program in History of Science, Technology, and Medicine

October 2, 2015, 275 Nicholson Hall

"Leibniz and Technology: What Automata, Mills, and Calculators Teach us about Cognition"
Christopher Noble,
Co-sponsored by the Program in History of Science, Technology, and Medicine

October 9, 2015, 275 Nicholson Hall

"The Revolution in Computational Causal Discovery"
Richard Scheines, Department of Philosophy, Carnegie Mellon University
abstract

October 16, 2015, 275 Nicholson Hall

"How to be a Patient: Patienthood and Medical Thinking in the Medieval Islamicate World"
Ahmed Ragab
, Harvard Divinity School
Co-sponsored by the Program in History of Science, Technology, and Medicine

October 23, 2015, 275 Nicholson Hall

"Origins of a Legitimation Crisis: Medical Science, Private Profit, and the Challenge of Big Pharma"
Joe Gabriel

Co-sponsored by the Program in History of Science, Technology, and Medicine

October 30, 2015, 275 Nicholson Hall

"Fictional Models and Models as Fictions: Disentangling the Difference"
Margaret Morrison, Department of Philosophy, University of Toronto
abstract

November 6, 2015, 275 Nicholson Hall

"Mountains and Minds: Verticality and the Rise of Science"
Michael Reidy, Department of History, Philosophy and Religious Studies, Montana State University
Co-sponsored by the Program in History of Science, Technology, and Medicine

November 13, 2015, 275 Nicholson Hall

"Michael Maier's Alchemical Emblem Book Atalanta fugiens (1618) and the Art of Secret Writing"
Donna Bilak, Department of History, Columbia Univeristy
Co-sponsored by the Program in History of Science, Technology, and Medicine

November 20, 2015, 275 Nicholson Hall

"Ecological Theory and the Niche"
James Justus, Department of Philosophy, Florida State University
abstract

November 27, 2015, 275 Nicholson Hall

No meeting, Thanksgiving

December 4, 2015, 275 Nicholson Hall

"Method and Morals in William Harvey's Philosophical Anatomy"
Peter Distelzweig, Department of Philosophy, University of St Thomas
Co-sponsored by the Program in History of Science, Technology, and Medicine

December 11, 2015, 275 Nicholson Hall

"Tanked: On Keeping Things Alive in Places They Shouldn't Be"
Nicholas Buchanan, History of Science, Technology, and Medicine, University of Minnesota
Co-sponsored by the Program in History of Science, Technology, and Medicine

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Abstracts for Fall 2015

"Descartes and Newton on Deducing True Laws of Nature"
Mary Domski, Department of Philosophy, University of New Mexico
Abstract: Descartes’s Principles of Philosophy (1644) and Newton’s Principia mathematica (1687) are two of the most important works of seventeenth century natural philosophy.  Yet, when put side by side, it is far easier to identify differences between the texts than it is to pin-point similarities.  Their laws of nature are a case in point.  Descartes deduces his three laws from our knowledge of God and claims these laws are true insofar as they capture the world as God actually created it.  Newton, in contrast, “deduces” his laws of motion “from the phenomena,” which suggests that these laws are true of the world as it is presented to our senses.  In this paper, I first clarify the epistemic significance of Descartes’s and Newton’s competing “deductions” and competing notions of truth. Based on that treatment, I then highlight a significant and frequently overlooked point of agreement:  Both Descartes and Newton adopt methods for establishing true laws of nature that allow us to know that bodies obey particular laws without a complete understanding of why they do, i.e., without requiring that we identify the natural processes and properties that explain the behaviors that the laws describe.

"The Revolution in Computational Causal Discovery"
Richard Scheines
, Department of Philosophy, Carnegie Mellon University
Abstract:  Social scientists have been pursuing causal knowledge from observational studies for well over 100 years, with limited success. In the last 25 years, however, the computational and statistical methods available for causal modeling and discovery have exploded.  I describe this revolution and illustrate it on some recent case studies in social and biomedical science.  I also describe the challenges that still remain, including conceptual problems of defining variables and inferential problems arising from trying to measure them. 
Bio: Richard Scheines is the Dean of the Mariana Brown Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University.  He is a Professor in the Philosophy Department at Carnegie Mellon University, with courtesy appointments in the Machine Learning Department and the Human-Computer Interaction Institute.  After receiving a PhD in History and Philosophy of Science from the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Scheines joined the faculty of Carnegie Mellon in 1990. Working at the interface of computer science, statistics, and philosophy, he has published several books and dozens of articles on statistical causal models and how to efficiently search for them from statistical evidence.  Having built an intelligent computer tutor for proof search in formal logic, applied causal search to computer tutor log data, and having developed and empirically tested several online courses, Dr. Scheines has also been a leader in educational technology research. For an online course on regression and causal inference, he and Steve Klepper received the 2013 Causality and Statistics Award (honorable mention). Dr. Scheines has served on several committees for the National Academies of Science, including the Institute of Medicine’s Food Marketing to Children and Youth: Threat or Opportunity, (2006), the IOM’s Improving the Presumptive Disability Decision-Making Process for Veteran’s (2007), and the National Research Council’s Committee to Review the EPA’s IRIS Process (2013-14).  

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"Fictional Models and Models as Fictions: Disentangling the Difference"
Margaret Morrison, Department of Philosophy, University of Toronto
Abstract: Because models often represent the world in unrealistic ways an increasingly popular view in the philosophical literature classifies models as fictions, aligning the way they convey information with strategies used in various forms of fictional writing.  While fictional models certainly play a role in science I want to resist the “models as fictions” view by arguing that it not only has the undesirable consequence of erasing an important distinction between different types of models and modelling practices, but it fails to enhance our understanding of the role that fictional models do play in the transmission of scientific knowledge.

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"Ecological Theory and the Niche"
James Justus, Department of Philosophy, Florida State University
Abstract: At least until Hubbell’s neutral theory emerged, no concept was thought more important to theorizing in ecology than the niche. Without it––and its highly abstract definition by Hutchinson in particular––technically sophisticated and well-regarded theories of character displacement, limiting similarity, and many others would seemingly never have been developed. The niche concept is also the centerpiece of perhaps the best candidate for a distinctively ecological law, the competitive exclusion principle. But the incongruous array of proposed definitions of the concept squares poorly with its apparent centrality. I argue this definitional diversity reflects a problematic conceptual imprecision that challenges its putative indispensability in ecological theory. Recent attempts to integrate these disparate definitions into a unified characterization fail to resolve the imprecision.

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Colloquia Information

Unless otherwise indicated, the lectures are held on Fridays, in conjunction with the Colloquium in Studies of Science and Technology, at 3:35 PM in Room 275 Nicholson Hall.

If you would like to be notified by email of upcoming Center colloquia, please email your request to mcps@umn.edu

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