This course is co-taught with Baptiste Le Bihan.

Science produces knowledge by articulating hypotheses about the world, which are then empirically assessed through observations and experiments. However, these direct means of testing may not be the only way to gain scientific knowledge; in fact, several methods of non-direct theory assessment have been proposed. A first example of non-direct testing are computer simulations, which are centrally used e.g. in cosmology and in the climate sciences. But can we really learn something genuinely new about the world from running these simulations? If so, how should we understand the resulting form of knowledge? Should we think of computer simulations as inferences or experiments? Second, material analogue systems constitute a different way in which a system under study can be simulated. For instance, it has been claimed that we may learn something about black holes from studying water in motion in a tub. But how do we know that those material systems adequately represent relevant properties of black holes, i.e., that black holes really exhibit the kind of universal behaviour that is being emulated in these distinct physical systems? Third, can we test a physical theory by checking its mathematical consistency as it has been claimed by some proponents of string theory? The seminar will address these questions and so aims at a better understanding of the nature and status of the non-direct testing of scientific hypotheses.

This seminar will be in English.

Course Requirements

If this seminar is taken for credit, please let us know. For credit in philosophy:

- travail écrit de recherche avec soutenance (env. 25 pages, 50'000 signes)

Contact one of us if you need credit in another programme.

Course Materials

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

Presentation materials:

The readings for this seminar will be from the following sources:

  • All reading materials will be made available on Moodle.

Schedule (Fall 2019)

This is the schedule for the seminar. It is subject to adjustment. Reading marked with an asterisk (*) are not mandatory.

Date Readings Presenter(s)
18.09. Introduction Baptiste Le Bihan and Christian Wüthrich
25.09. Dawid Salim Hirèche
02.10. Chall Tannaz Najafi
09.10. Batterman Saakshi Dulani
16.10. Dardashti et al. Alberto Corti
23.10. Crowther et al. Christian Wüthrich
30.10. Winsberg Luis Bordo
06.11. No seminar (semaine de lecture)
13.11. Parker Saakshi Dulani
20.11. Lam Guest seminar: Vincent Lam
27.11. Beisbart Alberto Corti
04.12. Boge Niels Linnemann
11.12. Gueguen Guest seminar: Marie Gueguen
18.12. Smeenk Tannaz Najafi