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Distinguished prof. Sklar discusses "dappled theories"

The University's Philosophy of Science program is considered one of the best in the world, and colleagues say the vast majority of the credit for that ranking goes to Prof. Lawrence Sklar.
(Photo by Marcia Ledford, U-M Photo Services)

Sklar, the Carl G. Hempel and William K. Frankena Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, was honored Feb. 12 when he was asked to speak as part of the University's Distinguished University Professorship lecture series.

President Mary Sue Coleman noted that Sklar, who has been part of the Department of Philosophy since 1968, is popular with students and highly respected by his peers. He teaches large introductory courses as well as small, select graduate courses that have long waiting lists, Coleman said.

"He is one of the world's leading philosophers of science," Coleman said.

For more than an hour, Sklar lectured students and colleagues at the Michigan League, then took questions, enthusiastically trading theories and other ideas after speaking on "Dappled Theories in a Uniform World."

"We need laws and concepts to explain these things," Sklar said in discussing scientific laws and theories and how they can apply to changing conditions.

As a distinguished professor, Sklar was able to choose the name of the professorship; he selected two scholars who inspired him. Hempel was one of his mentors and Frankena was a former colleague.

Sklar is well-known for explaining complex areas of philosophy, such as space-time and statistical physics. He is the author of the award-winning "Space, Time, and Spacetime" and "Physics and Chance," which was hailed by Choice magazine as "one of the most important books in the philosophy of science in the last 50 years."

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