PhD course

PhD course: Causation and Reductionism in Biology and Beyond

17.-21. Oktober 2011, Norwegian University of Life Sciences (UMB)

The course is 5 days in total (approx. 40 hours), plus preparations.

Students are expected to follow all three days of the international symposium as well as the two course days. The work-load of the essay is estimated to 3 full weeks and will be evaluated accordingly.

Participation at all days of the course and symposium, plus essay writing, amounts to 10 credits.

There will be no credits given if these requirements are not met. 

An essay must be handed in no later than 5 December (approx. 15 pages). The topic of the essay must be related to the central themes of the symposium, such as causation, dispositions, philosophy of biology, reductionism, emergence, causal complexity or context-sensitivity. If possible, relate your essay to your own research.

Background reading for the essay includes the list of mandatory reading plus a selection from the optional reading list (about 600 pages in total). The mandatory reading list should be read before the course.

Participants: maximum 30

The course will be given in English. There is no course fee, but the participants must cover their own expenses (travel, accommodation, food). Registration is open for as long as there are available spaces to More information is found on our webpage:

All information about how to get to UMB, Ås is found here. On Monday morning you can get the train towards Moss at 8:43 from Nationalteatret, 8:48 from Oslo S, or 9:11 from Ski. Elias Núñez will meet those of you who arrive with this train in the café at Ås station.

One can also get the bus 906 towards Dyrløkke and get off at the stop called Universitetet i Ås. The bus leaves 27 and 57 past every hour from Ås train station. The Bioteknologi building is the biggest and most modern-looking building to the right when you get to the main university entrance. There is a parking lot in front of it. How to find the Bioteknologi building on your own (in pictures).

See map over campus here. The Bioteknologi building is number 44 on the map.


Monday 17 October: Introduction lectures

Morning session:

Place: Bioteknologibygningen, 3rd floor, room 3.A.11

10-12: Terje Kvilhaug: Dispositions: historical overview, justification, scope


Afternoon session:

Place: Tårnbygningen, 1st floor, room 131

13-15: Frode Kjosavik: Reductionism and its alternatives

15-17: Rani Lill Anjum: Causation and tendencies


Tuesday 18 to Thursday 20 October: International symposium

See CauBio progam

Place: TF bygningen, entrance through the fence, building to the right, 1st floor, room TF102


Friday 21 October: Lectures and discussion sessions

Place: same as the CauBio symposium (TF building)

10-12: Stephen Mumford: Introduction lecture and discussion

13-15: John Dupré: Introduction lecture and discussion

15-16: Essay preparation

Place: Same as for the symposium

Mandatory course reading

  • F. J. Ayala & R. Arp (eds) Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Biology, Wiley-Blackwell 2010. Part I ‘Is it possible to reduce biological explanations to explanations in chemistry and/or physics?’ (papers by Evelyn Fox Keller and John Dupré).
  • Mumford ‘Dispositions’ [expanded version], in Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  • Mumford ‘Causal Powers and Capacities’, in Oxford Handbook of Causation, H. Beebee, C. Hitchcock and P. Menzies (eds), Oxford: Oxford University Press: 265-78.


Optional essay reading

  • John Dupré: Darwin's Legacy - What Evolution Means Today, Oxford 2003
    Particular relevance: ch. 6: Human Nature and ch. 8: Conclusion
  • Alexander Powell and John Dupré (2009) 'From molecules to systems: the importance of looking both ways', Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 40: 54–64
  • Elliott Sober and David Sloan Wilson (2003) Unto Others: The evolution and psychology of unselfish behaviour, Harvard University Press
  • Richard Lewontin (2000) The Triple Helix – Gene, organism and environment, Harvard University Press
  • Alexander Rosenberg (2006) Darwinian Reductionism Or, How to Stop Worrying and Love Molecular Biology, The University of Chicago Press.
  • Stephen Mumford (1998) Dispositions, Oxford University Press.
  • George Molnar (2003) Powers, Oxford University Press
  • R. Harré and E. H. Madden (1975) Causal Powers: A Theory of Natural Necessity, Blackwell.
  • Nancy Cartwright (1999) The Dappled World – A study of the boundaries of science, Cambridge



The course is organised by CauSci and UMB School of Economics and Business.


Published 16. June 2014 - 14:25 - Updated 23. May 2017 - 19:39