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Social and Behavioral Sciences Interest Group

Meeting time: Selected Tuesday afternoons, 3:30 - 4:30 (by announcement)
Meeting place: Philosophy Department Library Lounge, 837 Heller Hall.

The Social and Behavioral Sciences Interest Group (SoBIG) reads and discusses works of mutual interest in the philosophy of the social sciences, and in moral and prudential psychology in philosophy or the social sciences.  We select readings for a variety of reasons: to keep up on the most exciting developments in the field, to help participants examine literature relevant to their research projects, to provide feedback on works in progress being written by SoBIG participants, to revisit classic articles in the literature, and sometimes just to have fun discussing a topic related to the social sciences.

Our meetings are informal and some participants need to arrive late or leave early because of scheduling conflicts. All faculty from the University of Minnesota and area colleges and universities and graduate students are welcome to attend whenever they would like (without invitation) and without giving advanced notice. Undergraduates are included by invitation. (If you know of an undergraduate who is well-suited and possibly interested, please contact Valerie Tiberius so an invitation can be extended.)

Spring 2017

January 24: Chapters 1 and 2 from Schaffner, Kenneth F. 2016. Behaving: What's Genetic, What's Not, and Why Should We Care? Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN: 9780195171402.

February 21: Shafto, Patrick, et al. 2012. "Epistemic trust: Modeling children’s reasoning about others’ knowledge and intent." Developmental Science 15.3: 436-447.
Marusic, Berislav . 2015. "Trusting Against the Evidence", Chapter 7, in Evidence and Agency: Norms of Belief for Promising and Resolving (OUP).

March 28:
***NOTE*** the meeting will begin at 3:30pm
Chapters 6 and 8 from Schaffner, Kenneth F. 2016. Behaving: What's Genetic, What's Not, and Why Should We Care? Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN: 9780195171402. (pdf)

April 25:
***NOTE*** the meeting will begin at 3:30pm
Chapter 4 from Sinnott-Armstrong, Walter and Miller, Christian B. 2017 Moral Psychology, volume 5, Cambridge, Mass.:MIT Press. pp 196–236. (pdf)

Fall 2016

September 13: Valerie Tiberius. (2015) "Moral Psychology: A Contemporary Introduction" Chapter 1 "Moral Psychology and Moral Philosophy" and Chapter 2 "What are Philosophers Doing Here?", pp. viii–x, 1–27. NewYork: Routledge.

October 11: Michael Loughlin & Andrew Miles. (2015). “Psychiatry, objectivity, and realism about value”

We sketch the outline of an approach to [psychiatric] validation, but it is one that converts questions about psychiatric validation into questions of a primarily moral nature, and our concluding comments make reference to the sort of epistemic and ethical virtues we need to develop via the education of practitioners, rather than suggestions for the development of formal guidelines, criteria, and unified processes. This is because we think that, before psychiatry can progress, we need to understand fully the underlying conceptual problems that led to what is sometimes termed the “crisis” in psychiatry (Loughlin et al. 2013b). Underlying assumptions, by no means exclusive to psychiatry, about the relationship between science and value generated quite specific problems for this area of practice. For psychiatry to defend and develop its intellectual framework we need to bring these assumptions out in the open, subject them to critical scrutiny, and, we argue, reject them.

November 8: Dominic Murphy. (2014). “Natural kinds in folk psychology and in psychiatry” in Classifying Psychopathology: Mental Kinds and Natural Kinds by Harold Kincaid. Cambrisge: MIT Press.
Abstract: In this chapter, using delusions as my chief example, I will argue that our attribution of mental illness relies on a conception of psychiatric kinds as fundamentally psychological categories with distinctive if unknown causal signatures—characteristic ways of producing similar effects across different people. This aligns psychiatric thought, as well as the folk psychology of psychiatry, with established practices of scientific discovery and explanation that assume that mental illnesses are natural kinds. I shall follow other recent writers in assuming that the relevant conception of natural kind for psychiatry is Richard Boyd’s. However, the ways in which folk psychology groups patients together may not match the ways in which nature does it. Our folk thought may be a poor guide to natural kinds in psychiatry.

December 13: Ron Amundson (2000) “Against Normal FunctionStud. Hist. Phil. Biol. & Biomed. Sci. 31(1): 33–53.
Abstract: The concept of normality has been the target of criticism in recent years. Social critics claim that the term carries ideological baggage. Describing individuals or groups as ‘abnormal’ is seen as marginalizing them by use of a falsely objective criterion. This paper will continue that tradition. It will examine the concept of normal function, said by many philosophers to be objectively grounded in the practice of biological and biomedical science. This concept is used in discussions of health care policy, quality-of-life assessments, and even radical ‘treatments’ such as assisted suicide. The core of this paper will be an examination of the biological legitimacy of the concept of functional normality. Social concerns aside, does current biology imply a concept of functional normality, and a distinction between normal and abnormal function? I will argue that it does not. In the last sections of the paper I will introduce the social context of this issue, emphasizing the disadvantages experienced by people whose function is assessed as abnormal. I will distinguish between the level of an individual’s functional performance and the mode or style by which that performance is achieved. This distinction will help reveal that the doctrine of biological normality is itself one aspect of a social prejudice against certain functional modes or styles. The disadvantages experienced by people who are assessed as ‘abnormal’ derive not from biology, but from implicit social judgments about the acceptability of certain kinds of biological variation.

Previous SoBIG discussion topics

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