Campus adds philosophy of science emphasis
April 15, 2009 -- The addition of two philosophers of science has broadened the scope of the Philosophy Department and is making the campus a hub for exploration in the field.
Classes led by Professor Bas van Fraassen and Assistant Professor Isabelle Peschard address how researchers in scientific and mathematical fields understand and demonstrate their findings. They focus on the value and effectiveness of models ranging from modern economic forecasts and the double helix, to Galileo's vision of the solar system.
"Philosophy of science is a very, very alive field of study," van Fraassen said. "Scientists keep running into paradoxes and that's what gets philosophers into it." A Fellow of the British Academy and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he previously taught at Princeton University.
Peschard, who earned doctorates in physics and philosophy from the Sorbonne in France, left physics to pursue philosophy. She maintains that her new career allows her to study the factors and methods that go into an analysis and eventually become data. "Philosophy of physics is more involving than physics," she said. "I am interested in a broader perspective on science."
In addition to teaching, Peschard and van Fraassen are convening gatherings of philosophers from Northern California universities as well as workshops open to scholars and students from all disciplines. A March workshop, titled "The Experimental Side of Modeling," attracted scholars, scientists and philosophers from universities on three continents plus students and faculty from other SF State colleges.
"This work is exciting and at the cutting edge of the field of philosophy of science," said Anita Silvers, professor and chair of philosophy. "Our undergraduate students who take Dr. Peschard's general education course in Philosophy of Science gain a level of sophistication when learning from someone with both scientific and philosophical perspectives."
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