Logic, Philosophy of Language, and Philosophy of Sciences

Research projects:


Applications of game theory to epistemology

Description: Analysis of concepts and techniques of game theory and its applications to various branches of philosophy, in particular to epistemology.

Professor in charge: Caetano Ernesto Plastino (ceplasti@usp.br)


Philosophy of mind and metaphysics: materialism, functionalism, and the problem of the Qualia

Description: The Philosophy of Mind is an important contemporary area in the field of analytical philosophies, and the predominant position is materialistic (physicalist). Adopting this point of view, we explore the issue of reductionism, examining critically the thesis of strong emergentism (with its notion of descending causation). The problem of the sensorial qualities (qualia) is notoriously difficult for materialism, and seems to indicate the need for new physical concepts. The interface between materialism and functionalism is also studied, and the question of whether artificial machines can have a conscious.

Professor in charge: Osvaldo Frota Pessoa Júnior (opessoa@usp.br)


Topics in Formal Logic

Description: Various topics in general logic, mainly in classical logic and modal logic; with special emphasis on the theory of logical functions (truth-functions, modal functions, quantifiers).

Professor in charge: Rodrigo Bacellar (roderick_batchelor@hotmail.com)


Topics in Philosophical Logic

Description: Various questions about such topics as: existence, identity, quantification, modality, logicality, constituency, essence, ground, facts & situations, properties & relations, sets, etc.

Professor in charge: Rodrigo Bacellar (roderick_batchelor@hotmail.com)


Genesis and significance of technoscience

Description: The main objective of the project is to investigate critically the roles played by the ethical and social values, as well as by the individuals who support them and the institutions that incorporate them, in current scientific and technological practices. This central objective unfolds into several other: study the changes that have occurred in recent decades concerning the modes of social production of technoscientific knowledge, the way this change affects the status of the values of objectivity, neutrality and autonomy to which the scientific community traditionally adheres and the function of intellectual property rights in this process; research the history of the relations between science and technology in modernity, especially the role played by machines and mechanistic ideas; investigate theoretical problems (artificial-natural, biological identity etc.) and practical problems (ethical criticism, proposal of alternatives etc.) specific of current biotechnology from a perspective that integrates Philosophy, Biomedicine, and Ethology; discuss the alternative technoscientific practices (e.g., Agroecology), the theme of bioethics, and the implications of a critical view of technoscience for the teaching of sciences and for education in general. It is important that these investigations are open to the broadest range of different perspectives and that their results have a positive impact on the direction of research in Brazil. With this aim, we will make efforts to promote meetings of scientists, philosophers, and social scientists, of divergent methodological approaches and ethical perspectives, to discuss, especially in contexts in which the legitimacy of the technoscientific innovations and the priorities of scientific research are at stake.

Professor in charge: Pablo Ruben Mariconda (ariconda@usp.br)


Causal models of scientific advances

Description: The approach to address the ‘causal models in the history of science’ describes science in terms of units of knowledge (‘advances’ or ‘achievements’, comprising ideas, data, instruments, theories, questions, mathematical techniques, experiments, definitions, explanations and even tacit knowledge) related through causal relations (instead of logical relations, as performed by scientists in their minds). By studying an episode in the history of science, the researcher (who follows this approach) selects a set of relevant advances and, with the knowledge of the subject, postulates the relevant causal relations. A cause is understood in a ‘counterfactual’ manner: in the simplest case of a necessary cause, ‘if the cause had not occurred, the effect would not ensue.’ The weight of the causes is estimated based on the number of years between the causes and the effect. The historical study is conducted founded on independent discoveries, which provide factual examples of possible paths for the history of science. Possible paths that were not completed are called ‘counterfactual,’ and historians who are familiar with their field of study usually have a good intuition to postulate counterfactual scenarios. The aim is to characterize exactly the causal relations between advances, having in mind the future use of computing to store the information and run simulations. An application of this methodology to the philosophy of science was the comparison between the notions of scientific progress of Popper and Kuhn, based on the notion of counterfactual histories. The main historical case study refers to the birth of quantum physics. Applications to the teaching of Sciences involve the comparison of ordination of advances in history and in textbooks. Another project is the description of the metatheories of Kuhn and Lakatos in terms of causal models.

Professor in charge: Osvaldo Frota Pessoa Júnior (opessoa@usp.br)



Scientific realism and its alternatives

Description: Critical analysis of realist and anti-realist images of science, in their various formulations, and evaluation of the main philosophical arguments involved in contemporary discussions on the cognitive value of science.

Professor in charge: Caetano Ernesto Plastino (ceplasti@usp.br)


Wittgenstein and the transition

Description: The project is an attempt to achieve a detailed description of the evolution of Wittgenstein’s philosophy in the early 1930s, relating the production of that period with the two main poles of the philosopher’s work — the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus and the Philosophical Investigations. We will attempt, collectively, to write an analytical commentary to the Philosophische Bemerkungen, and to conduct a detailed study of the entire philosophical production of Wittgenstein during the transition phase. With this purpose, we will establish a routine of research that will include weekly seminars involving researchers from São Paulo, in addition to annual meetings with associated researchers from other Brazilian states. We intend to constitute, from the project, a group with international profile to debate the intermediate period, with active participation of foreign researchers through the activities and publications planned for the project, as well as to organize biennial congresses on the philosophy of Wittgenstein during the intermediate period.

Professor in charge: João Vergílio Gallerani Cuter (galleranicuter@uol.com.br)