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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 makes something a science? How are scientific theories generated? Can theories be proven? What makes a good scientific explanation? How should we understand and evaluate scientific models? What drives theory change in science?

Paper title Philosophy of Science
Paper code PHIL225
Subject Philosophy
EFTS 0.15
Points 18 points
Teaching period Semester 2 (On campus)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $955.05
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

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One PHIL paper or 72 points
PHIL 208 and PHIL 325
Schedule C
Arts and Music, Science
This paper is open to all students. No specific scientific knowledge is assumed.

Teaching staff

Course Co-ordinator and Lecturer: Professor James Maclaurin; other teaching staff to be confirmed.

Paper Structure
  • 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?
  • Short-answer test 15%
  • Short essay 15%
  • Final exam 70%
Teaching Arrangements

There are two sessions per week: one of 50 minutes, and one of approximately 80 minutes. Each session consists of some lecture and some in-class discussion.

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

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Semester 2

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system


Stream Days Times Weeks
A1 Monday 10:00-10:50 28-34, 36-41
Wednesday 09:00-10:50 28-34, 36-41