James F. Woodward Named Distinguished Professor of History and Philosophy of Science

Issue Date: 
September 27, 2010
James F. WoodwardJames F. Woodward

School of Arts and Sciences faculty member James F. Woodward has been named Distinguished Professor of History and Philosophy of Science. Pitt Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg made the appointment, which became effective Sept. 1.

The rank of Distinguished Professor recognizes extraordinary, internationally recognized scholarly attainment in an individual discipline or field.

Woodward came to Pitt’s Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the beginning of the 2010-11 academic year from the California Institute of Technology where he was the J.O. and Juliette Koepfli Professor of Humanities.

Woodward’s research covers a number of different areas, including theories of causation, the philosophy of psychology, and the philosophy of social science. Among his interests is the empirical psychology of causal learning and judgment. He is part of a multidisciplinary project through the James S. McDonnell Foundation to explore the relationship between formal theories and actual observations of how children and adults learn about causal relationships. The basis of the project is that theory and experimental work should complement one another. Woodward’s own work in this area, the book Making Things Happen: A Theory of Causal Explanation (Oxford University Press, 2005), won the 2005 Lakatos Award, which is endowed by the Geneva-based Latsis Foundation and given annually for an outstanding contribution to the philosophy of science field.

Woodward also is interested in moral psychology and empirical ethics, or studying how people behave in moral situations and the psychological mechanisms that dictate that behavior.

Woodward currently serves as president-elect of the Philosophy of Science Association (PSA), which publishes Philosophy of Science, the field’s premier scholarly journal; organizes conventions; awards prizes for notable work; and promotes discussion and research. Woodward is joined in the PSA’s administration by Pitt history and philosophy professor and chair Sandra Mitchell and professor John Norton, director of Pitt’s Center for Philosophy of Science, both of whom serve on the association’s governing board.

Woodward received his bachelor’s degree from Carleton College in 1968 and his PhD from the University of Texas in 1977.