College of Humanities

Middle-level theory: Without it what could anyone do?

Wednesday, February 20, 2019 - 4:00pm to 6:00pm

Whitsett Room, Sierra Hall

The Philosophy Department, Liberal Studies Program, and the College of Humanities Distinguished Visiting Speakers Program at CSUN present an invited talk by Prof. Nancy Cartwright

 On Wednesday, February 20th 4:00 – 6:00 pm At Whitsett Room, Sierra Hall

Middle-level theory: Without it what could anyone do?

Suppose you are a principal at a Southern California middle school with a lot of students whose first language is Chinese, and many of your students are 2 years behind in reading comprehension. Should you buy READ180 to help? The program is expensive; it also takes costly IT equipment plus teacher training time. But the US Department of Education's What Works Clearing House that has reviewed what they count high-quality evidence gives it a ++ rating.

This fits with the canonical way of thinking of problems like this: in terms of hypothesis ('READ180 will help my students') and evidence. This talk will argue that this is a mistake. We should think not of evidence but of warrant, where warrant does not come from a handful or even a sack-full, of study results. Rather it comes from a thick tangle of middle-level theory – or better, theorizing – that involves study findings of highly varied kinds about highly varied matters, theories of different kinds from a variety of domains including the theory of change for READ180, and lots of hands-on practice. 

Nancy Cartwright is Professor of Philosophy at the Department of Philosophy, University of Durham and at the University of California, San Diego. Her research interests include philosophy and history of science (especially physics and economics), causal inference, causal powers, scientific emergence and objectivity, evidence, especially for evidence-based policy [EBP] and the philosophy of social technology. Her current work, for the project ‘Knowledge for Use’ [K4U], investigates how to use scientific research results for better policies. She has written a number of books including The Dappled World: A Study of the Boundaries of Science (1999), and Evidence: For Policy and Wheresoever Rigor is a Must (2013). Nancy Cartwright is a Fellow of the British Academy and a member of the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the German Academy of Sciences (Leopoldina) and a recipient of a MacArthurFellowship

Refreshments will be provided.

Please RSVP by February 15th to Prof. Sindhuja Bhakthavatsalam at .

Communication services (sign language interpreters, note takers, real-time captionists or assistive listening devices) are available for this event. Contact the Department of Philosophy, 818-677-2757 for information. Requests for services must be submitted at least (5) working days in advance.