Andrea I. Woody
Critical study of the nature of scientific knowledge. Topics include the relation of theory to observation, the use of mathematics, how theories change, the requirements for the meaningfulness of a theory, and nature of confirmation.. Prerequisite: one PHIL course; recommended: PHIL 120 or PHIL 160.
This course serves as an introduction to contemporary philosophy of science and will have a survey format (that is, we’ll try to get a feel for the “landscape”). Philosophy of science is concerned generally with what makes science a distinctive enterprise and what makes the claims of science and the activities of scientists epistemically respectable. Attempts to address these issues have tended to focus attention on a few key concepts, which we will discuss and analyze throughout the term. Topics will include explanation, confirmation and the nature of evidence, theory development, and issues concerning theory interpretation, e.g. realism/anti-realism debates. Where possible, these topics will be illustrated through contemporary and historical episodes of actual scientific practice. Classes will be a mixture of lecture and discussion. Students will be required to write several short papers aimed, first and foremost, at clear, concise explication of the philosophical issues. In effect, students will be introduced to both the "content" and the "methods" of contemporary philosophy of science.
Student learning goals
General method of instruction
Classes will be a mixture of lecture and discussion.
A previous course in philosophy is required, and some background in a natural science and/or elementary logic is highly recommended.
Class assignments and grading
Short essays, assigned throughout the term, will form the bulk of the graded assignments in this course.