Summer Seminar Plan and Schedule

(This page is now of historical interest only.)

The Summer Seminar runs from Monday evening, June 11th, through Friday afternoon, June 15th. The schedule of lectures, discussions, events, and related readings are as follows (electronic copies of readings are linked within the schedule below). Start times will be followed closely (please be on time!); end times are approximate. Sessions of more than 1.5 hours will include short breaks every hour. Meals are not listed on the schedule, but will normally be taken together in the cafeteria, allowing time for further discussion and reflection.

A note on readings links and file formats: Direct links from titles of books are to the appropriate Amazon page. Direct links from titles of articles or essays are to web-based documents in HTML format. Links to Adobe PDF format documents are noted in a parenthetical after the document; a few documents are referenced both ways. Particularly large PDFs (those more than 2MB in size) are noted so that users with a slow Internet connections can act accordingly. Because different browsers handle PDFs differently, we suggest you right-click on PDF links (or Ctrl-click on a Mac) and choose the option of downloading them to your local disk.



Introduction and overview of the Summer Seminar; discussion of introductory readings.

Readings: Koyre, Newtonian Studies, Chapter 1 (PDF format, 4.6MB file size); Hassing, "On Aristotelian, Classical, and Quantum Physics" (unpublished article in PDF format); Kass, “The Permanent Limitations of Biology,” from Life, Liberty, and the Defense of Dignity (2002). 

Optional reading: McKnight, "Francis Bacon's God," The New Atlantis (2005) (PDF format).

Tutors: Staff (Mike Augros, Joe Audie, James Barham)


Informal gathering for fellowship and discussion in location TBA.



Lecture 1: The distinction between science and philosophy; the role of common experience in the study of nature.

Readings: Bacon, New Organon (Preface; Aphorisms X through LXXVII) (PDF format); Maritain, "Philosophy and Experimental Science," Chapter II of The Degrees of Knowledge (PDF format, 5.6MB file size); Augros, “Reconciling Science with Natural Philosophy,” The Thomist (2004); Bloom & Weisberg, "Childhood Origins to Adult Resistance to Science," Science May 2007 (PDF format).

Optional reading: Talbott, "The Language of Nature," The New Atlantis (2007) (PDF format).

Instructor: Mike Augros


Lecture 2: "Reductionism," "emergentism," and "holism": What comes first, a whole or its parts?

Readings: Dawkins, "The Gene Machine," Chapter 4 of The Selfish Gene (1976) (short excerpt in PDF format); Harold, "In Pursuit of Wholeness," the last section of "Morphogenesis: Where Form and Function Meet," Chapter 7 of The Way of the Cell; and "An Ingenious Machine?" (PDF format) and the first two sections of "So What is Life?," Chapter 10 of the same book (PDF format); "Emergent Properties" in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Optional reading: Fodor, "Headaches have themselves," May 2007 book review of Strawson, Consciousness and Its Place in Nature: Does Physicalism Entail Panpsychism?

Instructor: Mike Augros


Lecture 3: Is Nature mathematically intelligible?

Reading: DeKoninck, "Random Reflections on Science and Calculation," Laval Théologique et Philosophique (1956) (PDF format, 6.2MB file size).

Instructor: Mike Augros


Informal gathering for fellowship and discussion in location TBA.



Lecture 4: Protein folding and reductionism: a view from science.

Readings: Denton et al., "Protein Folds as Platonic Forms," Journal of Theoretical Biology (2002); "Physical law not natural selection as the major determinant of biological complexity in the subcellular realm," BioSystems (2003).

Instructor: Joe Audie


Lecture 5: What is a living thing?

Readings: Harold, "The Quality of Life," Chapter 2 of The Way of the Cell (PDF format); Descartes, Mediation VI: "Of the Existence of Material Things, and of the Real Distinction Between the Mind and Body of Man," Meditations on First Philosophy (1641); Dawkins, "Explaining the Very Improbable," Chapter 1 of The Blind Watchmaker (1986) (PDF format); DeKoninck, "The Lifeless World of Biology," Chapter 3 of The Hollow Universe (1960) (PDF format).

Instructor: Mike Augros


Lecture 6: What is nature?; the natural and the artificial; does nature act for an end?

Readings: Aristotle, Book II, Sections 1 & 8, Physics; Book V, Section 4, Metaphysics.

Instructor: Mike Augros


Showing of movie related to theme of Baconian science, scientism, etc. (possibly Krzysztof Kieslowski's "The Decalogue: I," 1989, or "Gattaca," 1997).



Lecture 7: Nature rediscovered (or, the scientific case against
reductionism) I: Physics.

Readings: Anderson, “More Is Different,” Science (1972) (PDF format); Laughlin & Pines, “The Theory of Everything,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2000) (PDF format); Schweber, “The Metaphysics of Science at the End of an Heroic Age,” in Experimental Metaphysics (1997) (PDF format; 3.2MB file size).

Optional reading: Georgi, “Effective Quantum Field Theories,” in The New Physics (1989) (PDF format, 3.1MB file size).

Instructor: James Barham


Lecture 8: Nature rediscovered II: The relationship between physics and biology.

Readings: Frauenfelder, “Proteins—Paradigms of Complex Systems,” Experientia (1995) (PDF format); Kauffman, "Autonomous Agents," in Science and Ultimate Reality (2004) (PDF format); Laughlin, Pines, Schmalian, Stojkovic, and Wolynes “The Middle Way,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2000) (PDF format); Pollack, “The Cell as a Biomaterial,” Journal of Materials Science: Materials in Medicine (2002) (PDF format).

Optional reading: Ho, “Towards a Theory of the Organism,” Integrative Physiological and Behavioral Science (1997) (PDF format, 3.7MB file size).

Instructors: James Barham


Lecture 9: Nature rediscovered III: Biology proper.

Readings: Oltvai & Barabasi, "Life's Complexity Pyramid," Science (2002) (PDF format); Shapiro, “A 21st Century View of Evolution: Genome System Architecture, Repetitive DNA, and Natural Genetic Engineering,” Gene (2005) (PDF format); West-Eberhard, “Phenotypic Accommodation: Adaptive Innovation Due to Developmental Plasticity,” Journal of Experimental Zoology (2005) (PDF format); Wheatley, “Diffusion, Perfusion and the Exclusion Principles in the Structural and Functional Organization of the Living Cell: Reappraisal of the Properties of the ‘Ground Substance,’” Journal of Experimental Biology (2003) (PDF format).

Optional reading: Soto and Sonnenschein, “Emergentism by Default: A View from the Bench,” Synthese (2006) (PDF format).

Instructor: James Barham


Lecture 10: Natural philosophy, Darwinism, and "intelligent design": a case study.

Readings: Denton, "Note to the Reader" and "Prologue," Nature's Destiny (1998) (PDF format); Barham, “The Emergence of Biological Value,” from Dembski & Ruse, Debating Design (2004) (PDF format); Ryland, "Applying Natural Philosophy to a Modern Controversy," (unpublished paper) (PDF format [coming]).

Instructor: Mark Ryland


Dinner at local restaurant.



Lecture 11: Philosophy, physics, and the collapse of the Newtonian world-picture.

Readings: Cartwright, "Introduction" (PDF file), "Essay 2: The Truth Doesn't Explain Much" (PDF file), and "Essay 3: Do the Laws of Physics State the Facts?" (PDF file) from How the Laws of Physics Lie (1983); Cartwright, "Introduction," Nature's Capacities and Their Measurement (1989) (PDF file).

Instructor: Mark Ryland


Closing remarks and discussion.

Instructors: Staff (Mike, Joe, James, Mark)


Summer Conference

The Summer Conference follows the Summer Seminar at 3:30pm on Friday, June 15th, continuing through Saturday, June 16th.


This page last updated on June 19, 2007