Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri

030054 Defenses of Philosophy from Plato to the 21st century (Steinkrüger)
10-12 030007 Epistemology (Brössel) 030091 Tell Me Why: Exploring Scientific Explanation (Poth/Rebol)
030094 Special Topics in Philosophy of Science (Baedke) 030108 Zombies (Schlicht)

000000 Reasons First? (Schmidt)
030068 Research seminar on contradictory logics (Wansing) 030093 The Role of Imagery in Science (Baedke/Prieto) 030127 Forschungskolloquium:
"Belief in Conspiracy Theories and Rationality" (Schlicht/Poth) ONLINE
030105 Logic and Artificial Intelligence (Straßer) [14:00-15:30]
030088 Humor and Irony: Perspectives from Philosophy and Cognitive Science (Werning) 030003 General Philosophy of Science (Baedke) 030106 Logic and Artificial Intelligence, Exercises (Straßer) [15:30-17:00]
030118 Interdisciplinary Reading Club: Recent Debates on Situated Cognition (Newen/Coninx)
16-18 030084 Theories of Self Consciousness (Newen/Crone) ONLINE
030099 Is consciousness an illusion? (Kammerer) 030089 Compositionality in Language, Mind, and Brain (Werning)
030098 G. Piccinini: Neurocognitive Mechanisms (Wiese)
030102 Introduction to Inferentialism (Vonlanthen)
000000 Feminist Philosophy of Science (Trächtler)
000000 Thought and Language (Rogenmoser)

Blockseminar: 030097 Methods in Philosophy of Science (Baedke) 26.-29.09.22, 10-16 Uhr
Blockseminar: 030086 Verification, Falsification and empirical Negation. Developments of Themes from the Work of Michael Dummett (Omori/Kürbis), 23.4., 15.5., 18.06., 09.07., 09-18 Uhr

Please note: The courses are color coded: WM IIIa 1 (Epistemology, Action, and Methods in Philosophy and Science), WM IIIa 2 (Logic, Language, and Metaphysics), WM IIIc 3 (Mind and Cognition); VM IIIa 1 (Epistemology, Action, and Methods in Philosophy and Science), VM IIIa 2 (Logic, Language, and Metaphysics), VM IIIc 3 (Mind and Cognition);

Course descriptions


General Philosophy of Science

Baedke, J.

Philosophy of science reflects on the foundations, methods and aims of science. General philosophy of science includes further subjects like patterns of the historical development and the social structure of science. In the closer sense, it can be retraced continuously from the ancient world until present. Several disciplinary terms (such as “philosophy of mathematics” or later “philosophy of physics” and “philosophy of biology”) have been developed not until the 18th century and reflect the increasing significance of specific scientific knowledge for modern philosophy. The lecture gives an overview over the present status of general philosophy of science. It deals, on the one hand, with problems of methods and certain key concepts (such as “explanation” and “understanding”); on the other hand, it examines questions that focus on the significance of the historicity of scientific knowledge for the present sciences.

The lecture is initially addressed to students of philosophy in general and of the master program HPS+ in particular. It is open for interested students of other subjects with (at least) basic knowledge in theoretical philosophy, which is possible to gain in the module “Introduction to theoretical philosophy” (SE1). Parallel to the lecture an accompanying seminar will be offered which serves to deepen and to complement the topics of the lecture. Participation in the seminar is recommended, but only for students of HPS+ it is a requirement in order to complete the “basic module 1”. The language of the lecture will be English. You will be informed about modalities concerning credits in the first session of the lecture.

Methods in Philosophy of Science

Baedke, J.

This seminar addresses methodological issues in philosophy of science. This includes, among others, ways to conduct philosophy of science vs. philosophy for science, methods of integrated history and philosophy of science (HPS), argumentation theory as well as experimental and digital methods in philosophy of science. The seminar is obligatory for students of the master program HPS+.


Brössel, P.

This lecture is dedicated to classic topics of epistemology. What should I believe? What are justificatory reasons? What is knowledge? Can I trust the testimonies of others? How should I revise my credences in the face of disagreement with a peer or an expert? The lecture is dedicated exclusively to contemporary proposals to answer these questions and is, therefore, aimed at advanced students. The course also requires a certain familiarity with these epistemological questions from a historical and systematic perspective.

The Role of Imagery in Science: Visual Representation from Theory to Practice

Baedke, J.

In this seminar, we intend to study (substantial parts of) the book “Core Logic” by Neil Tennant, OUP, 2017. This book can be seen as Tennant’s opus magnum. It deals with a system of intuitionistic relevant logic Tennant refers to as “core logic”. According to the book cover, “Core Logic is the first system that ensures both relevance and adequacy for the formalization of all scientific

Philosophers of science have traditionally regarded science as a language-driven enterprise. Instead, visual representations have long been understudied in the field. This situation has changed in the last decades. In face of the ubiquity and prominence of visual tools in scientific reasoning (ranging from illustrations, to diagrams and visual metaphors), we see an increasing interest in the roles imagery plays in contemporary scientific practices and throughout the history of science. Visual representations are routinely featured in specialized publications as well as in science teaching and popularization. Their roles often go beyond the merely aesthetic or ornamental, as they can have crucial and irreplaceable epistemic functions in research and science communication. In research contexts, they, among others, foster creativity, organize ideas and methodologies, and spot hidden assumptions and conceptual or empirical gaps in knowledge. In science communication, they are used, for example, to depict idealized structures or imaginary settings and to convey a better understanding of abstract entities and ideas across disciplinary boundaries or to the public.

This seminar offers an introduction to central philosophical debates about visual representations in science. It will analyze the various roles of the visual and their relation to scientific practice along three topics: (1) the types and nature of visual representations and their relations and differences to other forms of representation in science, like theories and models; (2) the epistemic and heuristic roles of imagery in the context of research; and (3) the aesthetic and pedagogical roles of visual representations in communication, teaching, and popularization of science. These issues will be discussed in consideration of case studies from the natural sciences and the history of philosophy of science. To pass the course, students must participate in the first meeting, actively partake in the discussions, and conduct a presentation (or take other course activities).

Feminist Philosophy of Science

Trächtler, J.

Feminist philosophy of science is concerned with the question of how gender, but also race, class and other contingent and contextual factors, influence our conceptions of knowledge, knowers, science and scientific or epistemological practices. The background of feminist philosophy of science is the fact that women – as well as other discriminated groups of people – are disadvantaged both as objects and subjects of knowledge, e.g., when they are not taken into account in economic or medical studies; when they are denied access to education or when they are not taken seriously as knowers. Feminist philosophy of science aims at identifying and undermining those prejudices that shape, codetermine and evaluate our epistemic practices.

In the seminar, we will deal with different positions and questions of feminist philosophy of science based on the relevant literature (e.g. by Miranda Fricker, Sandra Harding, Donna Haraway, Helen Longino and others).

The seminar texts and the seminar language will be in English. However, exams and single questions may also be in German. In addition to the content-related goals, the seminar will also be about practising reading and discussing in English, i.e., also students who find their English somewhat ‘rusty’ are very welcome.

Tell Me Why: Exploring Scientific Explanation

Poth, N. & Rebel, N.

What makes a good scientific explanation, and what makes a bad one? How are scientific explanations different from our every-day explanations of events? How do scientific explanations stand towards knowledge and understanding of the world? This course introduces some of the major views of explanation in the philosophy of science. In particular, we will explore topics such as law-like, probabilistic, causal, mechanistic and unifying explanations, with case studies from physics, psychology and neuroscience. Participants will learn

  • the relevant concepts about scientific explanation,
  • to systematically analyse philosophical arguments and critically engage with philosophical texts, and
  • to develop and clearly present their own well-informed views about them.

A background in philosophy of science is recommended but not required.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, the seminar will presumably be located online. In that case, we use Moodle as a platform to share course materials, and Zoom to hold sessions. ECTS will be awarded based on forum contributions and either two short written assignments or an oral examination.

Defenses of Philosophy from Plato to the 21st century

Steinkrüger, Ph.

From the very beginning of philosophy in ancient Greece, philosophers felt the need to defend their enterprise either because of external criticism and ridicule (think of the famous story of Thales in the well) or of internal considerations regarding the usefulness of philosophical thinking. In this course we are going to study a selection of defenses of philosophy starting in antiquity and ending in contemporary times. Every session will address one particular defense, either regarding the value of philosophy in general, or the value of one of philosophy’s sub-branches (and here in particular, metaphysics).

This seminar is aimed at advanced B.A. as well as M.A. students.


Schlicht, T.

The Australian Philosopher David J. Chalmers made famous the notion of a philosophical Zombie. On his webpage, he writes: “Zombies are hypothetical creatures of the sort that philosophers have been known to cherish. A zombie is physically identical to a normal human being, but completely lacks conscious experience. Zombies look and behave like the conscious beings that we know and love, but “all is dark inside.” There is nothing it is like to be a zombie.“As such, Zombies pose problems for all varieties of the metaphysical position of physicalism, according to which all reality is physical reality and all phenomena can be explained in physical terms, if they can be explained at all. If Zombies are conceivable and metaphysically possible, then physicalism is false and some version of dualism of  the mental and the physical must be embraced.

In this seminar, we will study texts defending and questioning the possibility of Zombies, thereby touching on issues in modal logic, metaphysics, philosophy of mind, as well as psychology and cognitive science. If possible, we will also inlude virtual meeting on zoom with renowned guests whose texts we will discuss.


Mind is always und eCompositionality in Language, Mind, and Brain

Werning, M.

Compositionality is a key concept in linguistics, the philosophy of mind and language, and throughout the cognitive sciences. Understanding how it works is a central element of syntactic and semantic analysis, and a challenge for models of cognition. In this seminar, we will read papers on the state of the art in all aspects of the subject from every relevant field. They reveal the connections in different lines of research, and highlight its most challenging problems and opportunities. The force and justification of compositionality have long been contentious. First proposed by Frege as the notion that the meaning of an expression is syntax-dependently determined by the meaning of its parts, it has since been deployed as a constraint on the relation between theories of syntax and semantics, as a means of analysis, and, more recently, as underlying the structures of representational systems such as mental concepts, computer programs and neural architectures. This seminar explores these and many other dimensions of one of the most exciting fields in the study of language and cognition.

Aside from active participation, participants will be expected to give a presentation in English. Assistance regarding the English language will be provided.

Logic and Artificial Intelligence

Straßer, Ch.

Since the pioneering work of Mill, Frege and Russell, proper names are a central topic of (analytic) philosophy. These expressions seem to be, on the one hand, the paradigm example of a singular referring term and they, therefore, represent an important a

Ideally, the information on the basis of which we make an inference is both complete and consistent: it is conflict-free, and it contains everything that is relevant. In practice, it is often impossible to meet this standard. Decisions need to be made on the basis of the information at hand, and this set of information is often incomplete and/or inconsistent. The resulting inferences are defeasible: they are drawn tentatively, and are open to retraction in the light of further information. Examples of defeasible reasoning are numerous: inductive generalizations, inference to the best explanation, inferences on the basis of expert opinions, reasoning in the presence of inconsistencies, reasoning with priorities, etc. In our everyday practice, as in the practice of experts (e.g. medical diagnosis) or scientists, defeasible inferences are abundant.

Since the late 1970s we see a central interest in the discipline of Artificial Intelligence in logical models of defeasible inference. The field of non-monotonic logic covers a variety of formalisms devised to capture and represent defeasible reasoning patterns. Informally, a logic is non-monotonic if under the addition of new premises we may lose some of our previous consequences.

This course will focus on several of the key formalisms of non-monotonic logic (such as default logic, preferential semantics, logic programming and formal argumentation theory, see https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/logic-nonmonotonic/ for an overview). The course will be organized in different blocks, each devoted to one family of systems. Each block will consist of both theoretical units and exercises.

Students will have the opportunity to give presentations on research papers, to write an exam, and to submit essays. The exact timing of the blocks will be agreed upon in an initial meeting.

Logic and Artificial Intelligence, Exercises

Straßer, Ch.

This is the exercise unit for the course “Logic and Artificial Intelligence”. In the exercise unit we will discuss solutions to exercise sheets, you will have more opportunities to ask questions, etc. It is possible to subscribe to the seminar without subscribing to the exercise, but the learning experience will significantly improve with exercising the content of the course.


Theories of Self Consciousness

Newen, A. & Crone, K.

In this seminar, we will explore theories of self-consciousness. This includes a variety of phenomena which are part of or closely related to self-consciousness, namely the sense of agency, of ownership and the phenomenon of perspectivity as well as the role of an autobiographical self and its development. Especially concerning the latter we have to account for the role of memory for our autobiographical self.

This seminar is a research-oriented seminar which especially enables the participants to develop a project which leads into a BA-thesis or a master-thesis. It has a focus in philosophy but will involve some psychogical texts as well. The main topic is the discussion of modern theories of human self-consciousness. Self-consciousness can be defined as the ability to consciously represent one’s own states, especially (but not only) mental states, as one’s own (Newen, Vogeley 2003). Concerning self-consciousness, we can distinguish four central questions which allow us to illustrate the wide range of this central debate:

  • The epistemological question: Do we have a privileged access to our own mental phenomena such that only we can know with certainty which mental phenomena we have?
  • The ontological question: Is there a self as an ontologically irreducible entity?
  • The cognitive question: How can we investigate the natural basis of self-c. with the methods of empirical psychology and cognitive neuroscience?
  • The question about personal identity: What is the criterion of being a person and of remaining the same person? In the seminar we will discuss texts concerning all dimensions of human self-consciousness.

Furthermore, we will discuss the role of episodic memory for a self-model: how can we adequately describe the interaction of a narrative self, i.e. the autobiographical stories a person tells about herself, with her episodic memories? On the one hand, episodic memories are constructed in line with and thus constrained by a narrative self, on the other hand, the narrative self is at least partially constituted by the episodic memories a person has. How can we account for this interdependence and account for the narrative self and its development?

Details for receiving a certificate will be presented at the beginning of the seminar. Students of philosophy will receive 4 credit points for a determined package of work while students of cognitive science will receive 6 credit points for a higher workload. The workload involves the standard tools of oral presentations and essay writing. Presentations and discussions will be in English.

Start: first Monday of the semester

Thought and Language

Rogenmoser, K.

The claim that the way we talk influences the way we think has been hotly debated again in recent times. In this seminar, however, we do not want to focus on how particular expressions elicit certain associations and reactions, but approach the topic on a more basic level. What is the general relationship between thought and language? Does natural language just mirror the structure of a prior language of thought or is thought organized in a totally different way and language rather transforms our thinking and puts us on a whole new level of cognition? And if the latter is true, how could thought without language actually look like and what do we gain with language? We will try to find answers to these and related questions by reading both classical texts of the 20th century as well as contemporary contributions to the debate.

Is consciousness an illusion?

Kammerer, F.

Some researchers, philosophers and scientists, have claimed that consciousness might be nothing but an illusion. They think that consciousness does not really exist, although it might seem to us that it exists.

Consciousness – meaning here phenomenal consciousness – corresponds to mental states such that there is “something it’s like to be in them”: mental states which feel like something for the subject. Phenomenal consciousness is often thought to be a significant but mysterious feature of our mental lives. It plays a crucial role in our ethical conceptions: we often think that only creatures who are phenomenally conscious (“sentient”) possess a certain kind of moral status. This is why it seems so important to know which animals are conscious, whether computers and robots can be conscious, etc.

This philosophy of mind seminar will explore the following questions: How can we make sense of the claim that consciousness is an illusion? Is this claim coherent, or does it contradict itself? How should it be interpreted? Could cognitive science really show that consciousness is an illusion, and how? Do we currently have good reasons to think that consciousness is indeed an illusion? If consciousness is an illusion, what are the consequences in ethics, or epistemology? Does that mean that nothing matters? Does that mean that we cannot know anything?


Special Topics in Philosophy of Science

Baedke, J.

Can machines be conscious and how could we find out? Understanding consciousness in human and non-human animals is hard, but understanding machine consciousness seems even harder. At the same time, rapid advances in AI and growing ethical concerns about the creation of machine consciousness demand an answer to the question under what conditions consciousness should be ascribed to artificial entities.
The seminar has a systematic focus on contemporary philosophy of consciousness and machine ethics. We will first discuss theories and general problems of consciousness. We will then apply these to the question under what conditions machines can Besides logic, epistemology and philosophy of language, philosophy of science is one of the core disciplines of theoretical philosophy. This seminar belongs to the lecture “General Philosophy of Science”; further information on the subjects are given there. The seminar extends and deepens special topics the lecture deals with. Therefore, attending makes only sense when you also visit the lecture. It is obligatory for starters of the master program HPS+. Depending on the attendees the language of the course will be German and/or English.

Reasons First

Schmidt, E.

Mark Schroeder’s work on reasons for action and reasons for belief has been highly influential in the theory of normativity. In his book Slaves of the Passions (2007), he defends a desire-based theory of reasons. In his latest book, Reasons First (2021), he transfers his insights from metaethics to epistemology. He argues that normative reasons explain all other normative phenomena, both regarding action and regarding belief.

In this seminar, we will read chapters from both books, with the aim of understanding and assessing Schroeder’s views on reasons and their relevance for normativity.

Mark Schroeder (2007). Slaves of the Passions. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Mark Schroeder (2021). Reasons First. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Forschungskolloquium: “Belief in Conspiracy Theories and Rationality”

Poth, N. & Schlicht, T.

One of the leading hypotheses in cognitive science is the claim that cognitive processes are aimed at optimal results prescribed by the norms of Bayesian decision theory. However, this view faces the problem of explaining how people arrive at irrational beliefs, such as conspiracy theories about cellular 5G networks being the cause of the Covid-19 virus, despite abundant evi­dence against their plausibility. In this colloquium, we will discuss recent literature on rationality, gullibility, and conspiracy theories, accompanied by guest talks from renowned scholars from philosophy, psychology and related fields to investigate the question why people believe weird things.


Verification, Falsification and empirical Negation. Developments of Themes from the Work of Michael Dummett

Omori, N. & Kürbis, H.


Research seminar on contradictory logics

Wansing, H.

This seminar is related to the ERC-Advanced Grant project ConLog, Contradictory Logics: A Radical Challenge to Logical Orthodoxy, and contributes to the idea of research-based learning. The seminar is open to M.A. students with an interest in philosophical logic, the philosophy of logic, and the philosophies of language and of science.

In the 20th century, many systems of non-classical logic have been developed, including inconsistency-tolerant logics, which are typically all subsystems of classical logic. There are, however, logical systems that are radically different from classical logic insofar as they are non-trivial but contradictory. These logics are in glaring conflict with logical orthodoxy since Aristotle, who called the Principle of Non-Contradiction the firmest of all principles. Non-trivial contradictory logics not only permit inconsistencies in theories, but contain provable contradictions.

A prerequisite for a successful attendance in the seminar is some knowledge of non-classical logic and modal logic, including familiarity with Gentzen-style proof systems and Kripke models. We will discuss ongoing research into non-trivial contradictory logics and their applications in the philosophy of logic, and will read research papers, old and new, dealing with the notions of contradictoriness, consistency, negation, triviality, and related concepts. These papers may range from rather informal to formal studies. Students can earn credits by presenting a paper and will get detailed feedback. The seminar will continue to run over several semesters. From the winter term 2022/23 onwards, experimental work on the endorsement or rejection of certain logical principles will be included that play a crucial role in obtaining non-trivial negation-inconsistent logics.

Introduction to Inferentialism

Vonlanthen, S.

Inferentialism is a contemporary and increasingly popular position in the philosophy of language. It tries to account for linguistic meaning by giving an expression’s role in inference pride of place in explaining what the expression means. As such, it forms a systematic attempt at formulating a use-theory of meaning. We will study the general upshots of inferentialism, both on the semantical and the metasemantical level, and consider some of its chief critics. In the second part, we will turn to a standard application of inferentialism in the realm of logic. Specifically, we will discuss the idea that rules of inference determine the meaning of logical constants, and how said meaning can also be identified with those rules of inference. This line of thought faces a standard challenge coming from constants with vicious rules of inference (“tonk”), thus we will also explore potential responses to the issue. The seminar will close with an outlook on inferentialist treatments of other philosophically contentious topics, such as moral and aesthetic discourse.


Interdisciplinary Reading Club: Recent Debates on Situated Cognition

Newen A. & Coninx, S.

The Interdisciplinary Reading Club offers a systematic engagement with the work of researchers central to the field of situated cognition, including aspects of social cognition, situated affectivity, child development, and comparisons between humans and animals. The Interdisciplinary Reading Club consists of two components. First, there will be presentations by external guests working in the field of situated cognition. Second, participants have the opportunity to present their own work and receive feedback from the group. The Reading Club has an interdisciplinary dimension such that perspectives from philosophy, psychology, neurosciences, biology, and cognitive science are interconnected with a focus on the situatedness of cognitive processes. The aim of the Interdisciplinary Reading Club is to offer a platform for discussion of ongoing research and to support the education of students, especially at a Master and PhD level.

Presentations and discussions will be in English. Master and PhD students as well as postdocs who are interested should write an email to Prof. Albert Newen (albert.newen@rub.de) & Dr. Sabrina Coninx (sabrina.coninx@rub.de ) and come to the first meeting.

Humor and Irony: Perspectives from Philosophy and Cognitive Science

Werning, M.

Humor and irony are ubiquitous phenomena in our mental lives: we often refer to situations, persons, or states of affairs in humorous or ironical ways using language, drawings, gestures, and other modes of expression. From a philosophical and scientific perspective, humor and irony are an interesting interface of cognitive and emotional processes. Yet despite the importance and relevance of humor and irony, research in empirically informed philosophy and the cognitive sciences has only begun to understand these phenomena.

In the seminar we will provide an overview of the recent theoretical and empirical literature and discuss the following questions: first, what is humor and how can it be understood from a cognitive science perspective? Second, how can irony be captured theoretically and how can it be studied empirically? Finally, how can we describe the relation between humor and irony?

In addition to active participation and careful preparation of the assigned readings, participants will be expected to give a presentation in English. Assistance regarding the English language will be provided.

Gualtiero Piccinini: Neurocognitive Mechanisms

Wiese, W.

According to the computational theory of cognition (CTC), cognitive processes are computations. The classical CTC holds that no details about how the brain implements computations are required to explain biological cognition. In his book Neurocognitive Mechanisms, Gualtiero Piccinini argues that complete computational explanations must also identify the neural mechanisms underpinning cognitive phenomena. Such mechanisms span multiple levels and perform the causal roles constituting cognitive capacities. The resulting version of CTC defended by Piccinini comprises an account of neural computation. It is a version of functionalism, according to which the mind is the functional organization of the brain.

In this seminar, we will read and discuss Piccinini’s book chapter by chapter. In doing so, we will familiarize ourselves with his and alternative accounts of mechanistic models of cognition, physical computation, information processing, computational explanation, multiple realizability, medium independence, computational and non-computational functionalism, and neural representation.