Formal methods for the philosophy of science

This intensive course provides an opportunity for advanced students and early career researchers to learn how to enhance their research through the use of new formal tools.

Course summary

Title: Formal methods for the philosophy of science
Date: 27 February - 1 March 2017
Time: 9am-4pm each day, concluding at lunch on 1 March
Location: Charles Perkins Centre, University of Sydney
Fee*: $150 (price includes GST)

Course overview

Formal methods add rigour to the analysis of conceptual and methodological issues in science. In this course, leading proponents of formal approaches to scientific inference give accessible introductions to some formal methods. They also present relevant examples for the application of formal tools, including those that arise in the biomedical and biological research fields of the Charles Perkins Centre.

Download the program and course presenters





Formal tools for the analysis of causation

Students are introduced to causal graph theory, to the use of information theory to measure the flow of causal influence through complex systems, and to the role of probability in measuring causal effect. Applications include disentangling genetic and environmental causes of complex phenotypes, and dissolving philosophical puzzles about causation through more precise specification of problem-cases.

Griffiths, Lynch, Pocheville, Stern, Sprenger


Formal methods for assessing bias in research

Several different forms of bias in scientific reasoning threaten to invalidate the inferences a researcher draws. Students will be introduced to the common sources of bias that arise in the design, conduct and publication of research. Formal and empirical approaches to assessing and addressing bias will be demonstrated using contemporary examples in a workshop format.

La Caze, Sprenger


Statistical and probabilistic approaches to scientific reasoning

Probability and statistics are important formal tools for reconstructing and understanding scientific argumentation (e.g., to describe causal relations or theory confirmation). Students will be familiarized with these approaches and how to apply them to examples from a wide range of physical, life and social sciences

Hartman, Sprenger, Stern

Delivery method

Sessions will be divided between lecture-style introductions to formal tools and more interactive, workshop-style sessions in which these will be applied to specific examples. Students will have the opportunity to explore the potential application of the formal tools to their own research topics.

Learning outcomes

Students will acquire the basic skills needed to apply formal methods to their own research topics in philosophy of science.

Who should attend

Postgraduate and Honours students and early career researchers in philosophy, history and philosophy of science and science studies.


Charles Perkins Centre research and education hub
The University of Sydney
NSW 2006 Australia


Registrations are now closed

Please be advised that minimum numbers are required for this workshop to go ahead. If minimum numbers are not met, the course may be cancelled or rescheduled. Please see the Charles Perkins Centre short course policy.


Registration queries contact Charles Perkins Centre .
T +61 2 9351 5526