Philosophy of Science

This information is for the 2013/14 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Miklos Redei


This course is available on the BSc in Business Mathematics and Statistics, BSc in Philosophy and Economics, BSc in Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method, BSc in Politics and Philosophy and BSc in Statistics with Finance. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

Course content

Different traditions in the philosophy science. The problem of induction and theories of confirmation. Probabilities and their interpretation. Scientific Explanation. Reductionism. Laws of nature. Realism versus Antirealism. Scientific revolutions. Sociological perspectives on science. Philosophy, science and two grand traditions in philosophy of science (weeks 1-2): the history of the philosophy of science and the two major traditions. Theory and observation (weeks 3-5): Hume's problem of induction and Popper's falsificationism, Lakatos' Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes, underdetermination of theory by evidence, the positive instance account. Bayesian confirmation theory (weeks 6-8): probability theory and the interpretation of probability, Bayesianism. Explanation (weeks 9-10): the Deductive-Nomological model of explanation, statistical explanation. Reductionism (week 11): reductionism and pluralism. Theories and laws (week 12-13): the regularity and necessitarian views of natural laws, the best systems-account, instrumentalism. Realism versus antirealism (weeks 14-15): scientific realism and the no miracles argument, inference to the best explanation, antirealism and the pessimistic meta-induction, constructive empiricism, entity realism, structural realism. Kuhn's philosophy of science (weeks 16-17): normal science and paradigms, scientific revolutions and incommensurability. Sociological approaches to science (weeks 18-20): social constructivism, strong programme, feminist epistemology.


10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the MT. 10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the LT.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to write two essays per term and to give class presentations.

Indicative reading

K Lambert & G Brittan, An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science. P Godfrey-Smith: Theory and Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science.


Exam (100%, duration: 3 hours) in the main exam period.

Student performance results

(2010/11 - 2012/13 combined)

Classification % of students
First 22.7
2:1 45.5
2:2 25
Third 4.5
Fail 2.3

Key facts

Department: Philosophy

Total students 2012/13: 12

Average class size 2012/13: 7

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information