Search | Directories | Reference Tools
UW Home > Discover UW > Student Guide > Course Catalog 

Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Margaret Alison Wylie
PHIL 560
Seattle Campus

Seminar in the Philosophy of Science

Class description

The focus of this seminar is the vexed debate about "science and values": whether a well motivated and clearly delineated distinction can be maintained between epistemic (cognitive, constitutive) norms and non-epistemic (social or contextual) values and interests, and whether this distinction can bear the weight of accounts of objectivity and related epistemic ideals that define the scientific enterprise.

We begin with canonical accounts of this distinction and of the role of "human values" in science, and then consider the debate generated by internal challenges from inductive risk and underdetermination, and by contextualist critics who insist that social interests and values are ineliminable from science. The final section of the seminar is devoted to discussion of the growing recent literature in which contextual values are recognized to play a constructive, not just a compromising role in scientific inquiry, and ideals of objectivity and epistemic credibility are reframed accordingly.

TEXTS: The majority of the assigned readings will take the form of articles available electronically, on ERes. Texts (required and recommended) include: - Douglas, Science, Policy and the Value-Free Ideal (2009) - Machamer and Wolters, Science, Values, and Objectivity (2004) - Lacey, Values and Objectivity in Science (2005) - Kincaid, Dupre, and Wylie, Value-Free Science? Ideals and Illusions (2007) - Smith, Science, Truth and the Human (2005).

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

The emphasis in this seminar is on discussion, grounded in close reading of the assigned texts.

Recommended preparation

This seminar will presume a general background in philosophy and some familiarity with the central issues in analytic philosophy of science. Familiarity with historical and social, cultural studies of science, and/or some grounding in a science will be an advantage. Advanced undergraduates with background in philosophy and/or a science are most welcome.

Class assignments and grading

Participants in the seminar will be expected to post weekly reading responses online, to participate actively in seminar discussion and to make at least one seminar presentation in the course of the quarter. The writing requirement is a final term paper that will take the form of a case-based analysis of the epistemic implications of role of values in science.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Additional Information
Last Update by Margaret Alison Wylie
Date: 01/07/2012