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PHIL225 Philosophy of Science

What is science? How does it differ from other disciplines? Do its methods yield a superior type of knowledge? Why do scientists perform experiments and what can those experiments show?

The philosophy of science focuses on philosophical issues regarding scientific reasoning, methods and concepts. The topics in this paper include: What is special about science? How are scientific theories generated? How are they tested? Can theories be conclusively established? What makes a good scientific explanation? To what extent is the succession of theories in the history of science driven by social forces?

Paper title Philosophy of Science
Paper code PHIL225
Subject Philosophy
EFTS 0.1500
Points 18 points
Teaching period First Semester
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $851.85
International Tuition Fees (NZD) $3,585.00

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Prerequisite
One PHIL paper or 72 points
Restriction
PHIL 325, PHIL 208
Schedule C
Arts and Music, Science
Eligibility
This paper is open to all students. No specific scientific knowledge is assumed.
Contact
james.maclaurin@otago.ac.nz
Teaching staff
Course Co-ordinator and Lecturer: Associate Professor James Maclaurin
Teaching Arrangements
There are two sessions per week. Each lasts approximately 80 minutes. Each session consists of some lecture and some in-class discussion.
Textbooks
What is this Thing Called Science? by Alan Chalmers, University of Queensland Press.

This is available from the University Book Shop (UBS) and as an Amazon eBook.
Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Global perspective, Interdisciplinary perspective, Lifelong learning, Scholarship, Communication, Critical thinking, Information literacy, Research, Self-motivation, Teamwork.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Paper Structure
Inductivism:
  • Science as authoritative knowledge, distinguished by the scientific method
  • Logical problems for inductivism and the underdetermination of theory by data
Popper's Falsificationism:
  • Confirmation and refutation of hypotheses
  • Falsifiability as a test for science
  • The "theory-ladenness of observation"
  • Theories of scientific explanation
Kuhn's Scientific Revolutions:
  • Scientific paradigms
  • Incommensurability
  • Does science progress towards truth?
Lakatos and the "Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes":
  • What are research programmes?
  • Criteria for their progress and degeneration
Feyerabend's Epistemological Anarchism:
  • "Anything goes!"
  • Incommensurability again
  • Science and voodoo
  • Science and freedom of the individual
  • Feyerabend's critique of Lakatos
Scientific Realism:
  • Scientific realism about about theoretical entities
  • Positivism, fictionalism and constructivism
  • What is it that realists believe? Can realism be sustained?
Assessment:
  • Short-answer test 15%
  • Short essay 15%
  • Final exam 70%
Learning Outcomes
Students who successfully complete the paper will acquire
  1. The ability to present and assess philosophical arguments (both written and verbal) to an acceptable standard, especially in the area of the philosophy of science
  2. A broad awareness and grasp of what is at issue in debates in the philosophy of science
  3. A demonstrated ability to explain and assess philosophical positions and arguments in their own words and to think critically and independently about them
  4. The ability to develop and analyse philosophical reasoning collaboratively in group discussion

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Timetable

First Semester

Location
Dunedin
Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system
Blackboard

Lecture

Stream Days Times Weeks
Attend
L1 Monday 11:00-12:50 9-15, 18-22
Wednesday 14:00-15:50 9-15, 17-22

What is science? How does it differ from other disciplines? Do its methods yield a superior type of knowledge? Why do scientists perform experiments and what can those experiments show?

The philosophy of science focuses on philosophical issues regarding scientific reasoning, methods and concepts. The topics in this paper include: What is special about science? How are scientific theories generated? How are they tested? Can theories be conclusively established? What makes a good scientific explanation? To what extent is the succession of theories in the history of science driven by social forces?

Paper title Philosophy of Science
Paper code PHIL225
Subject Philosophy
EFTS 0.1500
Points 18 points
Teaching period First Semester
Domestic Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for 2018 have not yet been set
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

^ Top of page

Prerequisite
One PHIL paper or 72 points
Restriction
PHIL 325, PHIL 208
Schedule C
Arts and Music, Science
Eligibility
This paper is open to all students. No specific scientific knowledge is assumed.
Contact
michael.lebuffe@otago.ac.nz
Teaching staff
Course Co-ordinator and Lecturer: Prof Michael LeBuffe
Paper Structure
Inductivism:
  • Science as authoritative knowledge, distinguished by the scientific method
  • Logical problems for inductivism and the underdetermination of theory by data
Popper's Falsificationism:
  • Confirmation and refutation of hypotheses
  • Falsifiability as a test for science
  • The theory-ladenness of observation
  • Theories of scientific explanation
Kuhn's Scientific Revolutions:
  • Scientific paradigms
  • Incommensurability
  • Does science progress towards truth?
Lakatos and the Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes:
  • What are research programmes?
  • Criteria for their progress and degeneration
Feyerabend's Epistemological Anarchism:
  • Anything goes!
  • Incommensurability again
  • Science and voodoo
  • Science and freedom of the individual
  • Feyerabend's critique of Lakatos
Scientific Realism:
  • Scientific realism about about theoretical entities
  • Positivism, fictionalism and constructivism
  • What is it that realists believe? Can realism be sustained?
Assessment:
  • Short-answer test 15%
  • Short essay 15%
  • Final exam 70%
Teaching Arrangements
There are two sessions per week. Each lasts approximately 80 minutes. Each session consists of some lecture and some in-class discussion.
Textbooks
What is this Thing Called Science? by Alan Chalmers, University of Queensland Press.

This is available from the University Book Shop (UBS) and as an Amazon eBook.
Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Global perspective, Interdisciplinary perspective, Lifelong learning, Scholarship, Communication, Critical thinking, Information literacy, Research, Self-motivation, Teamwork.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes
Students who successfully complete the paper will acquire
  1. The ability to present and assess philosophical arguments (both written and verbal) to an acceptable standard, especially in the area of the philosophy of science
  2. A broad awareness and grasp of what is at issue in debates in the philosophy of science
  3. A demonstrated ability to explain and assess philosophical positions and arguments in their own words and to think critically and independently about them
  4. The ability to develop and analyse philosophical reasoning collaboratively in group discussion

^ Top of page

Timetable

First Semester

Location
Dunedin
Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system
Blackboard

Lecture

Stream Days Times Weeks
Attend
L1 Tuesday 10:00-11:50 9-13, 15-16, 18-22
Thursday 10:00-10:50 9-13, 15-16, 18-22