Kevin Davey

Kevin Davey
Associate Professor, Director of Graduate Studies (2018-19)
Stuart Hall, Room 207
Office Hours: Autumn Quarter, Tuesdays: 3:00 - 5:00 pm or by appointment
773.702.7737
University of Pittsburgh PhD (2004); Monash University (Australia), B. Sc., Honors (1992)
Teaching at UChicago since 2005
Research Interests: Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Physics, Formal Epistemology, Philosophy of Logic and Mathematics

Kevin Davey received his PhD from the University of Pittsburgh in 2003, and also has Masters degrees in both physics and mathematics. His main areas of interest are philosophy of science, philosophy of physics, philosophy of mathematics, logic, and the foundations of probability. In the general philosophy of science  he is particularly interested in the nature of theoretical commitments, and in the philosophy of physics he is interested in the nature of space and time. In the philosophy of mathematics, he is currently engaged in a close study of Euclid’s geometry, examining the light it sheds on both the origin of mathematics and our contemporary understanding of the notion of proof. In logic, he is currently looking at the way we reason about truth, focusing both on philosophical questions about the nature of the truth predicate and technical questions about formal theories of truth. In the foundations of probability, he is particularly interested in trying to understand the limits Bayesian epistemology. He is also currently Director of Graduate Studies.

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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)

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Recent Courses

PHIL 49700 Preliminary Essay Workshop

The workshop involves discussion of general issues in writing the essay and student presentations of their work. Although students do not register for the Summer quarter, they are expected to make significant progress on their preliminary essay over the summer.

All and only philosophy graduate students in the relevant years. A two-quarter (Spring, Autumn) workshop on the preliminary essay required for all doctoral students in the Spring of their second year and the Autumn of their third year.

2018-2019 Spring

PHIL 50616 Merleau-Ponty and the Scientific Image

This course will be a reading of Merleau-Ponty's 'Structure of Behavior'. In this book, Merleau-Ponty critiques many of the scientific paradigms of the time concerning the nature of perception and behavior, proposing his own anti-Cartesian paradigm. Where appropriate, we will read some of the scientific texts to which Merleau-Ponty was responding, such as the work of the Gestalt Psychologists, Goldstein, Pavlov, and Peiron, as well as older texts such as Descartes' Optics. At stake in Merleau-Ponty's book is the question of the extent to which our conception of ourselves as mere biological creatures responding to environmental stimuli in accordance with the laws of physiology, and our conception of ourselves as thinking, feeling creatures experiencing the world are at odds with one another, and this question will loom large in our reading. The course will touch on important issues in general philosophy of science, philosophy of biology, and phenomenology. (II)

2018-2019 Winter
Category
Philosophy of Science

PHIL 31414 MAPH Core Course: Contemporary Analytic Philosophy

(MAPH 31414)

The goal of this course is to have MAPH students explore the historical origins of analytic philosophy. Beginning with Frege, we will look at the development of analytic philosophy through the work of figures such as Russell, Wittgenstein, looking also at the rise and fall of positivism and the philosophical traditions that emerged afterwards with figures such as Quine, Kripke, Putnam and beyond. At the end of the course, MAPH students should have a more solid understanding of the central issues that have shaped modern American-European analytic philosophy, and some of the important ways in which this tradition diverges from contemporary continental philosophy.

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.

2018-2019 Autumn
Category
History of Analytic Philosophy

PHIL 49700 Preliminary Essay Workshop

The workshop involves discussion of general issues in writing the essay and student presentations of their work. Although students do not register for the Summer quarter, they are expected to make significant progress on their preliminary essay over the summer.

All and only philosophy graduate students in the relevant years. A two-quarter (Spring, Autumn) workshop on the preliminary essay required for all doctoral students in the Spring of their second year and the Autumn of their third year.

2018-2019 Autumn

PHIL 49700 Preliminary Essay Workshop

The workshop involves discussion of general issues in writing the essay and student presentations of their work. Although students do not register for the Summer quarter, they are expected to make significant progress on their preliminary essay over the summer.

All and only philosophy graduate students in the relevant years. A two-quarter (Spring, Autumn) workshop on the preliminary essay required for all doctoral students in the Spring of their second year and the Autumn of their third year.

2017-2018 Spring

PHIL 53709 Conceptual Change and the A-Priori

(CHSS 53709)

In light of continual upheavals in the sciences, Kant's view that the sciences should be built on a foundation of synthetic a-priori knowledge has fallen out of favor. Should we then completely abandon the idea that the a-priori plays a significant role in science, or does some variant of the synthetic a-priori still in fact turn out to be necessary for science? To address this question, we will look at the writing of thinkers like Schlick, Reichenbach, Carnap, Quine, Kuhn, Friedman and others. (II) (III)

2017-2018 Winter
Category
Philosophy of Science

PHIL 31414 MAPH Core Course: Contemporary Analytic Philosophy

(MAPH 31414)

The goal of this course is to have MAPH students explore the historical origins of analytic philosophy. Beginning with Bolzano and Frege, we will look at the development of analytic philosophy through the work of figures such as Russell, Wittgenstein, Carnap, Quine and Kripke. We will try to understand the growing concern with linguistic matters in this period, and also examine the rise and fall of positivism. At the end of the course, MAPH students should have a more solid understanding of the central issues that have shaped modern American-European analytic philosophy, and some of the important ways in which this tradition diverges from contemporary continental philosophy. We will mostly read primary materials, and will use Coffa's 'The Semantic Tradition from Kant to Carnap: To the Vienna Station' as a secondary source.

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.

2017-2018 Autumn
Category
History of Analytic Philosophy

PHIL 49700 Preliminary Essay Workshop

The workshop involves discussion of general issues in writing the essay and student presentations of their work. Although students do not register for the Summer quarter, they are expected to make significant progress on their preliminary essay over the summer.

All and only philosophy graduate students in the relevant years. A two-quarter (Spring, Autumn) workshop on the preliminary essay required for all doctoral students in the Spring of their second year and the Autumn of their third year.

2017-2018 Autumn

PHIL 20616 Merleau-Ponty and the scientific view of the human

A major theme in modern philosophy is to try and understand the relationship between our view of ourselves as thinking, feeling creatures experiencing the world with our more scientific view of ourselves as mere biological creatures responding to environmental stimuli in accordance with the laws of physiology, physics and chemistry. Are these two views of human life at odds with each other? If not, why not? We will explore the views of the 20th century French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty on these and related questions, focusing on his seminal work, 'The Structure of Behavior.'

Open to students who have been admitted to the Paris Humanities Program. This course will be taught at the Paris Humanities Program.

2016-2017 Spring
Category
Philosophy of Science

PHIL 53106 Topics in the Philosophy of Mathematics

This course will broadly be about the concept of mathematical proof, focusing on the case of geometry, and more specifically, focusing on the works of Euclid. While many mathematicians think of Euclid as the pioneer of the modern axiomatic method, this way of thinking seems somewhat anachronistic. How then should we think of Euclidean proofs? What does a Euclidean proof accomplish, how does it accomplish it, and what does this tell us about the nature of mathematical proof more generally? This course will look both at ancient sources and modern sources as a way of tackling these questions. (II)

2016-2017 Winter
Category
Philosophy of Mathematics

PHIL 31414 MAPH Core Course: Contemporary Analytic Philosophy

(MAPH 31414)

The goal of this course is to have MAPH students explore the historical origins of analytic philosophy. Beginning with Bolzano and Frege, we will look at the development of analytic philosophy through the work of figures such as Russell, Wittgenstein and Carnap, looking also at the rise and fall of positivism. At the end of the course, MAPH students should have a more solid understanding of the central issues that have shaped modern American-European analytic philosophy, and some of the important ways in which this tradition diverges from contemporary continental philosophy. We will use Coffa's 'The Semantic Tradition from Kant to Carnap: To the Vienna Station' as our main textbook, supplementing it with other materials when necessary.

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.

2016-2017 Autumn
Category
History of Analytic Philosophy

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. (B) (II)

Intermediate logic or prior equivalent required, or with consent of instructor.

2016-2017 Autumn
Category
Logic
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For full list of Kevin Davey's courses back to the 2012-13 academic year, see our searchable course database.