Philosophy of Science

This information is for the 2013/14 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Miklos Redei


This course is available on the MSc in Economics and Philosophy, MSc in Philosophy and Public Policy, MSc in Philosophy of Science, MSc in Philosophy of the Social Sciences and MSc in Social Research Methods. This course is not available as an outside option.

Course content

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 (weeks 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 15 hours of seminars in the MT. 10 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the LT.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to write two 2,000 word essays per term on topics covered by the course.

Indicative reading

T S Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions; K R Popper, Conjectures and Refutations; B van Fraassen, The Scientific Image; N Cartwright, How the Laws of Physics Lie.


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

Student performance results

(2009/10 - 2011/12 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 14
Merit 62.8
Pass 20.9
Fail 2.3

Key facts

Department: Philosophy

Total students 2012/13: 21

Average class size 2012/13: 9

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information