PH400     
Philosophy of Science

This information is for the 2018/19 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Ioannis Votsis

Availability

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

Pre-requisites

None.

Course content

Science is chock full of miraculous predictions, shocking revolutions, and unexpected results that few science fiction writers could have ever dreamed of. What makes science so special? This course is a tour of the philosophical underpinnings of modern science. No background in any science is needed for this course; everything you need to know will be covered.

Indicative topics include: Theory and Observation: Hume’s problem of induction and Goodman’s new riddle of induction, Popper’s falsificationism, underdetermination of theory by evidence, the positive instance account of confirmation, Bayesianism. Laws of Nature: the regularity view of laws, laws as universals, the best systems account, instrumentalism. Explanation: the DN model of explanation, statistical explanation, causal explanation, unification. Intertheory relations: reductionism and pluralism. Realism versus Antirealism: Scientific realism and antirealism, the no miracles argument, inference to the best explanation, the pessimistic meta-induction, reductive empiricism, constructive empiricism, the natural ontological attitude, entity realism, structural realism, Kuhn and scientific revolutions. Sociological approaches to science: Social constructivism, feminism. Causation: Hume’s, Mill’s, Mackie’s accounts of causation, counterfactual theories, probabilistic causality and manipulability accounts, transference accounts. Philosophy of a special science: Space and Time in Newton’s physics.

Teaching

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 four essays (two in MT and two in LT), submit a few short answers before each seminar, and participate in seminar discussion.

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.

Assessment

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

Student performance results

(2014/15 - 2016/17 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 26.7
Merit 40
Pass 24.4
Fail 8.9

Key facts

Department: Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method

Total students 2017/18: 24

Average class size 2017/18: 13

Controlled access 2017/18: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course survey results

(2014/15 - 2016/17 combined)

1 = "best" score, 5 = "worst" score

The scores below are average responses.

Response rate: 93%

Question

Average
response

Reading list (Q2.1)

1.4

Materials (Q2.3)

1.3

Course satisfied (Q2.4)

1.3

Integration (Q2.6)

1.4

Contact (Q2.7)

1.4

Feedback (Q2.8)

1.3

Recommend (Q2.9)

Yes

91%

Maybe

9%

No

0%