Meta-Archaeology: Philosophy & Archaeology
ARCHY 574 / PHIL 574
Seminar meetings: T/Th 5:00-6:50, Denny 146
Instructor: Professor Alison Wylie
Office hours: Wednesdays 2:00-3:30
SAV M396 / 543-5873 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Archaeologists routinely confront and debate philosophical issues: about the scientific status of the field, its orienting goals, the nature of its (cultural) subject matter, and the challenges inherent in working with an archaeological database. The aim of this course is to selectively examine the philosophical underpinnings of archaeology as articulated in and through debates about these issues. The focus this quarter will be on questions about evidential reasoning.
Our point of departure is historical. We begin by considering antecedents to the New Archaeology of the 1960s and 1970s, and then turn to an examination of the philosophical sources that inspired its explicitly “positivist” ideals: the positivist models of confirmation associated with Hempel, and some prominent critques of these due to Popper and to Kuhn. We Later sections of the course focus on issues that have been pivotal in internal debate about the viability of such models: the role of interpretive understanding (vs. explanation); the nature of evidential reasoning both in forming and in evaluating claims about the cultural past; relativist challenges and ideals of objectivity.
All assigned readings are available through the University of Washington on Electronic Course Reserves: follow the ERes link (above left).
This is a schematic outline; for details see the requirements file posted under "Assignments" (upper left).
Seminar participation and presentations:
- Participation: attendance and active participation in seminar discussion is essential. (10%)
- In-class presentation: one required for each seminar participant, based on assigned readings. (10%)
- Reading Responses: one GoPost commentary every second week, due online by 5:00 pm on Monday. (15%)
- Term paper: one 12-15 page term paper, to be a case-based analysis of norms of evidential reasoning operative in archaeological practice. Plan to post prelimnary drafts of your case study for discussion in Workshop Weeks (65%)