Kevin Davey

Kevin Davey received his PhD from the University of Pittsburgh in 2003, and also has Masters degrees in both physics and mathematics. His main area of interest is philosophy of science, and more specifically, philosophy of physics. Much of his current research revolves around the concepts of time and probability, and the way that modern statistical mechanics has shaped and been shaped by these concepts. He is also interested in the foundations of probability - in particular, in trying to understand the limits Bayesian epistemology, and in modern logic - in particular, in trying to understand what light modern logic sheds on the semantic paradoxes.

CV


Contact

office: Stuart Hall, Room 207
office hours: Autumn Quarter, Tuesdays & Thursdays: 1:30 - 3:00 pm
office phone: 773/702-7737
email: kjdavey@uchicago.edu

 

Recent News

  • Kevin Davey's promotion to Associate Professor with tenure will go into effect on July 1, 2012.
  • "In the Engine Room of Reality: Philosophy’s junior faculty members discuss their work, inspiration, and teaching" by Courtney C. W. Guerra, AB’05 Tableau, Spring 2012 - Link

Selected Publications

  • 'The Justification of Probability Measures in Statistical Mechanics', Philosophy of Science 75 (January 2008) pp. 28–44. (PDF)
  • 'What is Gibbs' Canonical Distribution?', Philosophy of Science, forthcoming. (PDF)
  • Debating Design (review) (PDF)
  • Aristotle, Zeno and the Stadium Paradox (PDF)
  • Is Mathematical Rigour Necessary in Physics
    The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 2003 54(3):439-463 (Link)
  • Insufficient reason in the ‘new cosmological argument’
    Religious Studies (2001), 37: 485-490 Cambridge University Press (Link)
  • Obligation and the Conditional in Stit Theory
    Studia Logica Volume 72, Number 3 / December, 2002 (Link)
  • Closed systems, explanations, and the cosmological argument
    International Journal for Philosophy of Religion Volume 62, Number 2 / October, 2007 (Link)

Please see my CV (link above) for a complete list of publications.

Recent and Upcoming Courses

PHIL 53106. Topics in the Philosophy of Mathematics. Course on the concept of proof in geometry, with a historical emphasis on figures from Euclid to Riemann. (II) Winter 2017.

PHIL 31414. MAPH Core Course: Contemporary Analytic Philosophy. (=MAPH 31414) This course is designed to provide MAPH students with an introduction to some recent and ongoing debates between philosophers working in the analytic tradition. The course is, however, neither a history nor an overview of analytic philosophy. Instead, we will focus on three different debates, spending about three weeks on each. We will likely consider one debate in metaphysics (on the freedom of the will), one in metaethics (on "constitutivism"), and one in epistemology (on the nature of knowledge and reasons for belief). This course is open only to MAPH students. MAPH students who wish to apply to Ph.D. programs in philosophy are strongly urged to take this course. Autumn 2016.

PHIL 29405/39405. Advanced Logic. (=CHSS 39405, HIPS 20905) Since Russell's discovery of the inconsistency of Frege's foundation for mathematics, much of logic has resolved around the question of to what extent we can or cannot prove the consistency of the basic principles with which we reason. This course will explore two main efforts in this direction. We will first look at proof-theoretic efforts towards demonstrating the consistency of various foundational systems, discussing the virtues and limitations of this approach. We will then closely examine Godel's theorems, which are famous for demonstrating limits on the extent to which we can formulate consistency proofs. Much has been written on the implications of Godel's theorems, and we will spend some time trying to carefully separate what they really entail from what they do not entail. Assessment will be by regular homework sets. Intermediate logic or prior equivalent required, or with consent of instructor. (II) and (B) Autumn 2016.

PHIL 22100/32100. Space and Time. This course is an introduction to some traditional philosophical problems about space and time. The course will begin with a discussion of Zeno’s paradoxes.  We will then look at the debate between Newton and Leibniz concerning the ontological status of space and time, and will examine reactions to this debate by thinkers such as Mach and Poincare. Finally, we will discuss the question of what sense is to be made of the claim that space is curved, looking at the writings of Poincare, Eddington, Einstein, Grunbaum, and others. Students will be introduced to the basics of the special and general theories of relativity, at a qualitative level. (II) (B) Autumnn 2015.

PHIL 20100/30000. Elementary Logic. (=CHSS 33500, HIPS 20700) Course not for field credit. An introduction to the concepts and principles of symbolic logic. We learn the syntax and semantics of truth-functional and first-order quantificational logic, and apply the resultant conceptual framework to the analysis of valid and invalid arguments, the structure of formal languages, and logical relations among sentences of ordinary discourse. Occasionally we will venture into topics in philosophy of language and philosophical logic, but our primary focus is on acquiring a facility with symbolic logic as such. Autumn 2015.

PHIL 50217. Induction and Evidence. In this class, we will look at various forms of non-deductive reasoning and will try to understand the relationships between them and the problems that surround them. Of particular interest will be the nature of inductive reasoning, the nature of abductive reasoning (inference to the best explanation), and the relationship between them. Some have argued that both of these forms of inference should be viewed as autonomous and independent forms of non-deductive inference, while others have argued that one should be subsumed under the other. We will also look at criticisms of both induction and abduction. We will begin by looking at the writings of Pierce, and will use this as a springboard to the modern literature. (II) Spring 2015.

PHIL 50217. Theory Change. In what sense is science a cumulative process? How does theory change in science differ from other, more ordinary changes of belief? We will investigate some opposing views on these tightly connected issues. We will begin by looking at some old views, drawn from Duhem, Popper, Kuhn and others. The bulk of the course, however, will be spent trying to assess the virtues of more modern approaches, focusing in particular on the Bayesian approach and the approach of modern structural realism developed by Van Fraassen and others. (II) Spring 2015.

29901-01, -02, -03, -04. Senior Seminar I., 29902-01, 02. Senior Seminar II. PQ: Consent of director of undergraduate studies. Note(s): Required and only open to fourth-year students who have been accepted into the BA essay program.  Students writing senior essays register once for PHIL 29901, in either the Autumn or Winter Quarter, and once for PHIL 29902, in either the Winter or Spring Quarter. (Students may not register for both PHIL 29901 and 29902 in the same quarter.) The senior seminar meets all three quarters, and students writing essays are required to attend throughout. K. Davey, Staff.

40405. Topics in Logic. This course will explore some topics in modern logic and the philosophy of mathematics. Possible topics include formal theories of truth (including Kripke’s theory of truth), implications of Godel’s theorems, the role of paradox in the development in modern mathematics and logic, and various connections between these different topics. (II) Spring 2014.

29901-01, -02, -03, -04. Senior Seminar I. PQ: Consent of director of undergraduate studies. Note(s): Required and only open to fourth-year students who have been accepted into the BA essay program.  Students writing senior essays register once for PHIL 29901, in either the Autumn or Winter Quarter, and once for PHIL 29902, in either the Winter or Spring Quarter. (Students may not register for both PHIL 29901 and 29902 in the same quarter.) The senior seminar meets all three quarters, and students writing essays are required to attend throughout. Autumn 2013, Winter 2014.

29405/39405. Advanced Logic. PQ: Elementary Logic or equivalent. In this course we will prove the Undecidability of Predicate Logic, and both Gödel’s First and Second Incompleteness Theorems. We will also examine the concept of interpretability, and will make some connections with broader issues in mathematics. Finally, we will discuss some uses and abuses of Gödel’s Theorems that can be found outside logic and mathematics. For instance – do Gödel’s Theorems entail that the mind is not a machine? (B) K. Davey. (II) Spring 2012.

22000/32000. Introduction to the Philosophy of Science. (=CHSS 33300 HIPS 22000). We will begin by trying to explicate the manner in which science is a rational response to observational facts. This will involve a discussion of inductivism, Popper’s deductivism, Lakatos and Kuhn.  After this, we will briefly survey some other important topics in the philosophy of science, including underdetermination, theories of evidence, Bayesianism, the problem of induction, explanation, and laws of nature. (B) (II) Spring 2012.

53105. Philosophy of Mathematics. (=CHSS 53105). The course will focus on the developments in the foundations of mathematics that occurred around the end of the 19th century and into the 20th century. We will focus on the rise and fall of logicism, and try to understand the way in which our modern conception of mathematics was shaped by the shortcomings of this approach to grounding mathematics. We will spend a good deal of time focusing on Frege's program, its failure, and Russell’s attempt to salvage Frege’s program. We will also examine the impact of Dedekind, Hilbert and Godel on the conception of mathematics of this time period. (II) Autumn 2011.

20100/30000. Elementary Logic. Course not for field credit. An introduction to the concepts and principles of symbolic logic: valid and invalid argument, logical relations among sentences and their basis in structural features of those sentences, formal languages and their use in analyzing statements and arguments of ordinary discourse (especially the analysis of reasoning involving truth-functions and quantifiers), and systems for logical deduction. Throughout, we are attentive to both general normative principles of valid reasoning and the application of these principles to particular problems. Time permitting, the course ends with a brief consideration of set theory. Autumn 2007.

22000/32000. Introduction to the Philosophy of Science. Open to college and grad students. This course will serve as an introduction to philosophical questions about the epistemology and methodology of science. The central goal of the course will be to try and understand in what sense it is right for us to think of science as a rational response to our observations. To this end, we will look at historical figures such as Popper and Kuhn, and will examine such topics as the problem of induction, confirmation theory, and whether or not our observations underdetermine our theories. (B) Autumn 2006. Autumn 2011.

22100/32100. Space and Time. Open to college and grad students. This course is an introduction to some traditional philosophical problems about space and time. The course will begin with a discussion of Zeno's paradoxes. We will then look at the debate between Newton and Leibniz concerning the ontological status of space and time, and will examine reactions to this debate by thinkers such as Mach and Poincare. Finally, we will discuss the question of what sense is to be made of the claim that space is curved, looking at the writings of Poincare, Eddington, Einstein, Grunbaum, and others. Students will be introduced to the basics of the special and general theories of relativity, at a qualitative level. (B) Winter 2007.

23105/33105. Philosophy of Mathematics. Open to college and grad students. We will look at some traditional and modern conceptions of mathematics, including Platonism, logicism, formalism, intuitionism, fictionalism, and structuralism. We will also discuss the concept of 'impredicativity', and examine the role it plays in motivating (or criticizing) various strains of the views just listed. Spring 2008.

29000/39700. Intermediate Logic - II: Incompleteness. Open to college and grad students. Prerequisites: Intermediate Logic - I or equivalent.. The focus of this course will be Godel's Incompleteness Theorems. We will prove these theorems in detail, and also discuss their broader philosophical implications. (B) Spring 2007.

50210. Philosophy of Science: Induction. Open to grad students. Autumn 2007.