This course is co-taught with Michael Baumgartner and Marcel Weber.

In this seminar we shall treat several issues that are at the center of attention in contemporary philosophy of science. In the autumn semester, we shall focus on two sets of issues: First, the question of whether all phenomena are reducible to some more fundamental level or whether there are also emergent properties in nature. Second, we shall examine current accounts of scientific explanation, in particular the question of what constitutes a good mechanistic explanation. For the spring semester, we plan to discuss the epistemology of scientific models including in particular computational models or 'computer simulations' as well as the problem of theory confirmation.

Course Materials

Course materials such as lecture notes, handouts, etc may be made available as they will be used in class.

The following materials are strongly recommended for this course:

  • Mark A. Bedau and Paul Humphreys (eds.), Emergence: Contemporary Readings in Philosophy and Science, Cambridge Mass., MIT Press 2008.
  • Michael Weisberg, Simulation and Similarity: Using Models to Understand the World, Oxford: Oxford University Press 2013.
  • More materials will be made available on Chamilo.


This is the schedule for the seminar. It is subject to adjustment.

Date Readings Presenter(s)
16.09. Introduction: Emergence and mechanisms Christian Wüthrich, Marcel Weber
23.09. Ernest Nagel, 'Issues in the logic of reductive explanations', BH19 Michal Hladky
30.09. Jerry Fodor, 'Special sciences (or: the disunity of science as a working hypothesis)', BH22 Lorenzo Cocco
07.10. Jaegwon Kim, 'Making sense of emergence', BH7 Joshua Babic
14.10. Daniel Dennett, 'Real patterns', BH9 Daniele Cereghetti
21.10. Brian Mc Laughlin, 'Emergence and supervenience', BH4 Stephen Sanders
28.10. P W Anderson, 'More is different', BH10; Thomas Schelling, 'Sorting and mixing: race and sex', BH12 Pablo Carnino, Daniele Cereghetti
04.11. Semaine d'études
11.11. John Bickle (2006), Reducing mind to molecular pathways: explicating the reductionism implicit in current cellular and molecular neuroscience, Synthese 151: 411-434. Lami Damachi
18.11. Kenneth F. Schaffner, Reduction: the Cheshire cat problem and a return to roots, Synthese (2006) 151: 377-402. Michal Hladky
25.11. Bechtel, W. and A. Abrahamsen (2005). Explanation: A mechanist alternative. Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 36(2), 421-441. Lorenzo Cocco
02.12. Franklin-Hall, L. R. (forthcoming). New Mechanistic Explanation and the Need for Explanatory Constraints. In Ken Aizawa & Carl Gillett (eds.), Scientific Composition and Metaphysical Ground. Palgrave. Joshua Babic
09.12. Craver, C. (2007). Constitutive explanatory relevance. Journal for Philosophical Research 32, 3-20. Daniele Cereghetti
16.12. Leuridan, B. (2012). Three problems for the mutual manipulability account of constitutive relevance in mechanisms. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 63(2), 399-427. Pablo Carnino


  • BH: Mark A. Bedau and Paul Humphreys (eds.), Emergence: Contemporary Readings in Philosophy and Science, Cambridge Mass., MIT Press 2008.