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Susan G. Sterrett, Assistant Professor    editSusan G. Sterrett

Office Location: 201 West Duke Bldg (East Campus)
Office Phone: +1 919-660-3054, +1 919-660-3050
Fax:  (919) 660-3060
Email Address: send me a message
Web Page:

Ph.D. Philosophy, University of Pittsburgh
M. A. Mathematics, University of Pittsburgh
M. A. Philosophy, University of Pittsburgh
B. S. Engineering, Cornell University

Philosophy of Science

Research Interests:
Susan G. Sterrett (Ph.D. Philosophy University of Pittsburgh) joined the Duke faculty in Fall 2000.

She works in philosophy of science, broadly construed to include not only physics, but sciences such as psychology, the social sciences, and biology. She also investigates topics in the history of science and history of philosophy in the course of pursuing questions in the philosophy of science.

Professor Sterrett is especially interested in analogical reasoning and the use of various kinds of models in reasoning. She has published on a wide range of topics, including philosophy of science, philosophy of mathematics, philosophy of physics, philosophy of biology, philosophy of psychology, philosophy of mind, philosophy of artificial intelligence, and Early Analytic Philosophy. There is a common thread running through these various efforts, however: an interest in analyzing arguments or modes of reasoning that appeal to one or more concepts associated with Analogies, Models, Similarity, Correspondence, or Mappings.

Recent work includes:

She is also the author of:

  • "Turing's Two Tests for Intelligence"   - Minds and Machines Vol.10 No.4 (November 2000) pp. 541-559. (Reprinted in The Turing Test: The Elusive Standard of Artificial Intelligence edited by James H. Moor, Kluwer Academic 2003).

  • "Nested Algorithms and the Original Imitation Game Test"   - Minds and Machines Vol. 12 No. 1 (February 2002), pp. 131-136.

  • How Beliefs Make A Difference (PhD Dissertation, Department of Philosophy, University of Pittsburgh (1999)) Abstract: How are beliefs efficacious? One answer is: via rational intentional action. But there are other ways that beliefs are efficacious. This dissertation examines these other ways, and sketches an answer to the question of how beliefs are efficacious that takes into account how beliefs are involved in the full range of behavioral disciplines, from psychophysiology and cognition to social and economic phenomena.

  • "Sounds Like Light: Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity and Mach's Work on Acoustics and Aerodynamics"   - Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics Vol. 29 No. 1 (March 1998) pp. 1-35.

  • "Frege and Hilbert on the Foundations of Geometry" (http://philsci-archive/00000723/) (Talk presented at Graduate Student Colloquium, University of Pittsbugh 1993/1994).

Professor Sterrett was a recipient of a Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation Career Enhancement Fellowship in 2003-2004.

Areas of Interest:
Philosophy of Science 
History and Philosophy of Science, 

Recent Publications   (More Publications)
  • S.G. Sterrett. ""Similarity and Dimensional Analysis" (to appear)." Handbook of the Philosophy of Science 9 (Accepted, 2009).  [author's comments]
  • S.G. Sterrett. ""Abstracting Matter"."   (Accepted, March 3 - 8th, 2009).  [author's comments]
  • S.G. Sterrett. "Models of Machines and Models of Phenomena." International Studies in Philosophy of Science 20.1 (March, 2006): 69-80. [contribution.asp]  [abs] [author's comments]
  • Susan G. Sterrett. Wittgenstein Flies A Kite: A Story of Models of Wings and Models of the World. Pi Press (Penguin Group imprint), Fall, 2005. (Appeared December 2005) [net]  [abs]
  • S.G. Sterrett. "Pictures of Sound: Wittgenstein on Gramophone Records and the Logic of Depiction." Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science Part A 36.2 (June, 2005): 351-362. [pdf]  [abs]

Selected Invited Lectures

  1. "Could There Be A General Theory of Similarity?", April, 2009, 36th Annual Philosophy of Science Conference, Inter-University Center, Dubrovnik, Croatia    
  2. "What Makes Good Models Good?", May 26-28, 2006, University of San Diego, San Diego, California [htm]    
  3. "Models of Machines and Models of Phenomena", November 18, 2004, Workshop on Applying Science at PSA 2004, Philosophy of Science Biennial Meeting, Austin, TX [00002088]    
Selected Talks

  1. Analogous Principles: Some Historical Case Studies, August 27, 2005, The Free University, Amsterdam, Netherlands    
  2. The proper uses of proportion: understanding Galileo's advance over the Pythagoreans, September 2-5, 2003, 12th UK Conference on Foundations of Physics, University of Leeds, UK    
  3. The science of the similar: how to get things out of proportion, August 7-14, 2003, 12th Conference on Logic, Methodology and Philosophy of Science, Oviedo, Spain    
  4. "Kinds of Models", March 20, 2003, John Hope Franklin Center, Duke University [available here]    
  5. Intelligent behavior, habitual response or programmed movement? Turing, James and Descartes on intelligence in animals and machines, April 24, 2002, NC State Philosophy Club, Raleigh, NC    
  6. "Too Many Instincts: Contrasting Philosophical Views on Intelligence in Humans and Non-Humans", February 9, 2002, North Carolina Philosophical Society/South Carolina Philsophy Society , College of Charleston, Charleston, SC    
  7. Physical models and fundamental laws: using one piece of the world to tell about another, 2001, MBR '01 (Conference on Model Based Reasoning 2001), Pavia, Italy [00000720]    
  8. Darwn's analogy between artificial and natural selection: how does it go?, March, 2001, Lunchtime Talk Series, Center for Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh    
  9. Physical pictures: engineering models circa 1914 and Wittgenstein's "Tractatus", 2000, HOPOS 2000 (History of Philosophy of Science), Vienna Austria [00000661]    
  10. Sounds like light: Einstein's special theory of relativity and Mach's work on acoustics and aerodynamics, 1997, Lunchtime Talk Series, Center for Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh [htm]    

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