Course code PHI302

PHI302 Causation in Science

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Showing course contents for the educational year 2014 - 2015 .

Course responsible: Rani Lill Anjum
Teachers: Fredrik Andersen, Jorge Elias Saiden Nunez, Stephen Dean Mumford
ECTS credits: 5
Faculty: School of Economics and Business
Teaching language: EN
(NO=norsk, EN=Engelsk)
Limits of class size:
Teaching exam periods:
Spring parallel
Course frequency: Annually
First time: Study year 2012-2013
Preferential right:
Course contents:

Causation is essential for science. In our attempt to understand and influence the world around us, we need to know is what causes what. Once we understand the causal connections, we are in a position to explain what has gone before, predict what will come in the future, and intervene to produce the outcomes we require. While scientists deal with the concrete details, it is philosophers who consider in the abstract what it is for one thing to cause another. The aim of this course is to bring together that abstract philosophical approach to causation with a more concrete understanding of the work actually undertaken by the practitioners of the sciences.

Selected topics: What is causation? Causation as correlations. Causation as difference-making. Causation as tendencies. Reductionism and emergence. Finding causes. Predicting effects and explaining causes. Causal complexity. Free will and determinism. What is probability?

In this seminar we will read classic and contemporary texts which will be discussed in the group. The discussions will be backed up with empirical examples. Emphasis will be put on the nature of causation, the relation between our scientific methods and philosophical theories of causation and probability, and on how our scientific practice is influenced and shaped by philosophical assumptions that are part of our methods but rarely criticised or discussed.

Learning outcome:
This course will enable students to present the general outlines of the central philosophical theories of causation, to account for some strengths and weaknesses of these theories, to recognise which philosophical notion of causation is presupposed in certain scientific methods and to identify and critically discuss some shortcomings of a scientific method by using philosophical arguments. The students will also be able to relate some of this knowledge to their own discipline or research area. The student will be expected to demonstrate such understanding in a written essay of 10-15 pages or in 4 shorter assignments.
Learning activities:
Teaching material will be presented as short lectures with following discussion. Use of examples and group discussions will be a central part of the teaching. Students will also be encouraged to give short presentations in the group, either from the syllabus texts or in connection with the work on assignments or essays. To each class a handout will be distributed with detailed notes.
Teaching support:
The teacher will be available by appointment. Students who choose to write an essay will get two supervisions.
Texts and links will be available on Fronter. As preparation to the course, we recommend the book Causation - A very short introduction, Oxford University Press 2013, by Stephen Mumford and Rani Lill Anjum. This book briefly introduces most of the topics that will be discussed in the course.
Recommended prerequisites:
Examen philosophicum
Mandatory activity:
Students have to attend at least 65 % of the lectures/seminars.

4 mandatory written assignments over given topics during the semester


approved written essay (10-15 pages) over a topic selected together with the teacher

Nominal workload:
150 hours, including the work on mandatory assignments.
Entrance requirements:
Minimum requirements for entrance to higher education in Norway (generell studiekompetanse)
Reduction of credits:
Type of course:
28 hours of seminars
The course is open for bachelor-, master and Phd-students.
External examiner will be involved in the assessment of the essays.
Examination details: Continuous exam: Bestått / Ikke bestått