PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE
PHL of SCI Fall 2010
Time and class room schedule: TBA
Nyamsuren Tserennadmid, Department of Social Sciences and Humanities
Mission: To develop the student’s ability to evaluate and analyze philosophical
arguments and practices within field of philosophy of science.
Objective: This course will survey the key themes, arguments and methods in
philosophy of science. The focus will be on how science works. We will investigate such
questions as: What is science? How is a scientific theory justified? What are justification,
evidence, testing, and theory choice? How do scientific theories relate to our practical
Teaching philosophy: The class uses progressive teaching methods, designed to help
students engage with the important but challenging questions of philosophy. I will run the
first week primarily in the form of lectures. The rest will be run as interactive discussion
sessions. As a teacher of philosophy, I want my students to gain a proper knowledge of
the nature of fundamental philosophical questions in the field of science, to appreciate the
importance of the search for the answers to such questions, and to be aware of their own
philosophical views at the end of my course.
Reflecting on these basic issues, and so improving analytic skills and critical thinking, is
at the core of philosophy of science. My teaching philosophy will involve a strong
interdisciplinary perspective. So, I invite some professors in this course who specialized
in their own field of investigation.
In addition to the kind of participation I have spoken about above, my students have to
submit written material in order to learn to express themselves clearly and coherently,
showing their reflective thinking and a good grasp of the course content and the meanings
of technical and abstract concepts.
Nyamsuren Ts, MA in Philosophy
Office: 326 extension
Office Hours: TBA
1. Godfrey-Smith, Peter (2003) Theory and Reality. Chicago: University of Chicago
2. Kuhn, Thomas K. (1996) The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 3rd
University of Chicago Press.
1. Cover, J.A, Curd, Martin (1998) Philosophy of Science: The Central Issues. W. W.
Norton & Company, Inc. (C&C)
Additional course readings will be posted on e-office.
1. Attendance (10%): You get full 10% in advance. Any absences earn -1%, but
absences due to accountable reasons are excused.
2. Class presentation (10%): You will be responsible for leading one class
presentation. This will consist of a brief (up to 5 minutes) presentation of main issues of
assigned reading. The presentation schedule will be organized during the first week of
3. Written submission (30%): This will be one short paper (-5pp, typewritten and
double-spaced in a 12 point font) on key issues from course readings. As your grade in
this course depends strongly on the written submission, you should work hard to make
your assignments as clear, complete, and accurate as possible. First and foremost, your
writing must meet university standards. This criterion means that you must express
yourself clearly and coherently, showing a good grasp of the course content and the
meanings of technical and abstract words. The mechanics of your writing, including
grammar and spelling, must be sound.
4. Midterm exam (50%): There will be an in-class exam at end of course. The exam
will consist of key questions on major topics discussed in class. A list of topics and
sample questions will be distributed in advance.
Course policies and guidelines:
• Disability: Any student with a disability requiring accommodations in this course
should contact me after class or during office hours within the first two weeks of the
semester. All such discussions will be as confidential as possible.
• Plagiarism: Plagiarism is defined as quoting or paraphrasing another person’s words
without proper acknowledgment. Paraphrasing includes changing word order, changing
grammatical structure, omitting or adding sentences. Proper acknowledgment means
using a citation to indicate where you make use of another person’s words or ideas.
Plagiarism is not defined by the intent to plagiarize, but by the fact of presenting
another’s words or ideas as if they were one’s own. So it is no defense to say that one did
not mean to plagiarize. If you are unsure how to correctly cite a source, please consult
me or an academic advisor.
Teaching Methods Used in the Course:
Lecture method: This is the most widely used form of presentation. Lectures are used for
introduction of new subjects, summarizing ideas, showing relationships between theory
and practice, and reemphasizing main points.
Group learning method: Group learning is an instructional strategy which organizes
students into small groups so that they can work together to maximize their own and each
other's learning. The most significant characteristic of group learning is that it continually
requires active participation of the student in the learning process.
Guided discussion method: In the guided discussion method, as is true with any group
learning effort, the instructor typically relies on the students to provide ideas,
experiences, opinions, and information. Fundamentally, the guided discussion method is
almost the opposite of the lecture method. The instructor's goal is to draw out what the
students know, rather than to spend the class period telling them. All members of the
group should follow the discussion.
Schedule of Topics and Readings:
Week 1 Philosophy and science
We aim to acquire a deep understanding of how philosophical theories influence proper
scientific enquiries and vise versa, and learn the essential features of several important
Topic One: Introduction
•Distinctive features of philosophy
•Nature of science
•A very short history of science
•Connection between philosophical ideas and scientific discoveries
•The field of philosophy of science
•Philosophical questions that arise within particular sciences
• What is science and how does it work?
• What makes science different from other ways of investigating the world?
• Is science influenced by philosophical world-views, historical, political and social
• How are the various sciences related to one another?
• Discuss the good opportunities for cross-fertilization, borrowing, and joint work
in the scientific field
Randall, Jr., John Herman (1976) The Making of the Modern Mind.
Toulmin, Stephen Edelston, and June Goodfield (1962) The Fabric of the Heavens. New
Topic Two: Theories of science
• Scientific status
• Science versus pseudoscience
• Scientific and unscientific knowledge
• Scientific revolutions
• Abstract structure of scientific theories
• Descriptive and normative theories
• What are the most common criteria for science?
• Is there a set of rules or procedures that scientists do or should follow?
• What is the logical structure of science?
• What are the main ideas of the three most important theories of science?
PGS Ch1 ‘Introduction’ (1-18), Ch10 ‘Naturalistic philosophy’ (149-55)
C&C Introduction; Imre Lakatos 'Science and pseudoscience' (20-27), Michael Ruse
'Creation-science is not science' (38-48)
Week 2 Logical positivism and the growth of scientific knowledge
We aim to understand the central ideas of logical positivism, some critical objections to
these ideas and alternatives, placing all these issues in historical context.
Topic Three. Central ideas of logical positivism and objections to it
• Brief introduction to empiricism in general
• The Vienna Circle
• Analytic/synthetic distinction
• The verifiability theory of meaning, verification principle as means of observation
• Logic as the main tool for philosophy
• Inductive logic
• Some objections: Karl Popper’s objection, A.J.Ayer’s objection, objections from
W.V.O.Quine and Thomas Kuhn
• How do you understand the different types of empiricist theories?
• What were the main claims put by The Vienna Circle?
• Briefly discuss the central ideas of logic positivists.
• Explain verification principle.
• Do you agree with the objection from Karl Popper against logical positivism? Explain
why you agree with or don’t.
• Do you agree with the objection from A. J. Ayer against logical positivism? Explain
why you agree with or don’t.
• Do you agree with the objections from W.V.O. Quine and Thomas Kuhn against
logical positivism? Explain why you agree with or don’t.
PGS Ch2 ‘Logic plus empiricism’ (19-37)
Garrett, Don, and Edward Barbanell. (1997) Encyclopedia of Empiricism. Westport, CT:
Topic Four. From Popper to Feyerabend
• Problem of demarcation: distinguishing science from pseudo-science
• Falsification principle, confirmation as a myth
• Objections to Popper on falsification and confirmation
• Normal science, and its anomaly or crisis
• “Hard core”
• “Protective belt”
• Principles of scientific change
• “Anything goes”
• Methodological anarchism
• How do you define a concept of “demarcation”?
• What are the merits and demerits of the “Falsification Principle”?
• Do you agree with the objections Popper’s Principle of Falsification?
• Compare Popper’s principle of falsification with verification in logical positivism.
• What are the main concepts of Kuhn’s theory?
• Discuss Kuhn’s theory about scientific knowledge dynamic
• What does Lakatos mean by “hard core”, “protective belt”?
• How do you understand principle of “methodological anarchism” in Feyerabend’s
theory? Do you agree with this principle?
PGS Chapters 4-7 (57-117)
Kuhn (1996) Chapters III-IX (23-92)
Week 3 Induction, observation, and evidence
We will learn about the method of induction and the problems related it, with emphasis
on the views of David Hume and Karl Popper. We will also learn the basic ideas of
Bayes’ theorem and its role in assessing evidence.
Topic Five: Induction and problems of induction
• Inductive confirmation of theories
• Deductive logic vs. inductive logic
• Discussion of induction by Hume
• The Paradox of the Ravens
• New riddle of induction
• The problem of Induction by Karl Popper
• How do observations provide evidence for a theory?
• What is Hume’s view of induction?
• Define deductive reasoning and inductive reasoning.
• Explain the ravens problem.
PGS Ch3 ‘Induction and confirmation’ (39-56)
C&C Ch4: Peter Lipton 'Induction' (412-426), Karl Popper 'The problem of induction'
Topic Six: Observation, evidence, and probability
• Confirmation or evidence
• Understanding evidence using probabilities: Probability and its basic theorems,
Bayes theorem, P(h)+P(not-h)=1, hypothesis-h, evidence-e
• Updating a hypothesis with a evidence
• Comparing probabilities of hypotheses with reference to their evidence
• What is a probability? (Different interpretations)
• What is Bayes’ theorem?
• What is the relationship between hypothesis and evidence?
• How should one update the probability of a hypothesis in the light of evidence?
PGS 10.3 ‘The theory-ladenness of observation’ (155-162)
PGS Ch14 ‘Bayesianism and modern theories of evidence’ (202-214)
C&C Ch4: Carl G. Hempel 'Criteria of confirmation and acceptability' (445-460), Laura
J. Snyder 'Is evidence historical?' (460-481)
Week 4 Experiment and theory
We aim to obtain knowledge of the different kinds of models and representations used in
science and to understand the similarity and difference among them; to learn the basic
ideas of covering law theory of explanation and basics of experiment.
Topic Seven: Experiment, models, and reality
• Representation and reference
• Representational “vehicles”: ordinary language and its technical extensions, other
models including mathematical
• Mathematical models and hypotheses expressed in ordinary language
• What is a representation?
• What is reference?
• What are the different kinds of representational “vehicles”?
• What are the main differences between models and linguistically expressed
C&C Ch3: Pierre Duhem 'Physical theory and experiment' (257-280)
PGS Ch12 §7 ‘Representation, models and truth’ (186-189)
Topic Eight: Structure and explanation of theory
• Covering law theory of explanation
• Explanandum-“Why-X”, Explanans- “Why-Y”
• “D-N” theory is a deductive form of covering law explanations
• Asymmetry problem
• Directionality of explanation and prediction
• What is an explanandum?
• What is an explanans?
• Explain the basic ideas of covering law theory of explanation.
• What is wrong with the covering law explanation? Use an example to illustrate.
• The covering law theory sees explanation as very similar to prediction. Explain
PGS Ch13 ‘Explanation’ (190-200)
C&C Ch6: Rudolf Carnap 'The value of laws: explanation and prediction' (678-685),
Carl G. Hempel 'Two basic types of scientific explanation' (685-695)
Written submission due end of week 4
Week 5 Naturalism and Realism
We will investigate the “naturalist” and “realist” approach to science, exploring process,
structure, and reward system of science.
Topic Nine: Naturalistic philosophy in theory and practice
• Doing philosophy with science
• Connection between scientific and philosophical theories
• Science is a resource for philosophy
• Normative naturalism
• Doing with the relations between different sciences
• Scientific picture of the world and the reality
• Theory choice
• Science as structural
• Reward system in science
• Are there the general philosophical foundations for science?
• What would be the results from value judgment based on instrumental rationality in
the scientific scene?
• Is there theory-free observation? If yes, how successful in science making?
• What is the suggestion from the Muller-Lyer illusion?
• Is science fundamentally cooperative, or is it fundamentally competitive?
• What about the possibility that ‘pie’ divided equally?
PGS Chapters 10-11 (149-172)
Topic Ten: Scientific Realism
• Common sense realism
• Product of settlement of scientific controversy
• Optimistic and pessimistic version of scientific realism
• Accuracy of our current scientific theories
• The oppositions to scientific realism
• Theories that empirically adequate
• Living inside the theories
• Accurate representation of the world
• Can science describe the real structure of the world?
• Is the world as described by science real?
• What would happen when the best-established theories turn out to be wrong?
• How science developed?
• Discuss the oppositions to realism
• What is position of Bas Van Fraassen?
PGS Ch12 ‘Scientific realism’ (173-186)
C&C Ch9: Bas C. van Fraassen 'Arguments concerning scientific realism' (1064-1088),
Ian Hacking 'Experimentation and scientific realism' (1153-1169)
Week 6 Suggestions from humanities
We aim to learn the essentials of hermeneutics, phenomenology, structuralism,
deconstruction, feminism, postmodernism to develop skills in interpreting the meaning,
and to understand the postmodern condition and its importance to scientific inquires.
Topic Eleven: Hermeneutics and phenomenology
• The hermeneutic circle and triangle
• Relationship between language and understanding
• Understanding as a practical know-how
• Understanding as application
• Noesis and Noema
• Is it possible to get out of the hermeneutic circle? If yes, how?
• Discuss the importance of interpretation in medicine?
• What is phenomenology?
• Use an example for phenomenological investigation in particular science
Topic Twelve: Structuralism, Deconstruction, Feminism, and Postmodernism
• Defining the structure
• Binary opposition
• Gendered knowledge
• Feminist science
• Diversity of viewpoint
• Challenge of value-neutrality
• Science in postmodern age
• Story telling in science
• Legitimation of knowledge
• What is main claim by structuralism and deconstruction?
• Are there any possibilities for deconstruction in practice of medicine?
• Do women have different style of theorizing or reasoning that derives from their
• Discuss the pragmatics of scientific knowledge
• What is the principle of postmodern knowledge?
PGS Ch9 ‘Feminism and Science Studies’ (136-148)
Jean-Francois Lyotard 'The postmodern condition' Ch7 'The pragmatics of scientific
knowledge' (23-27), Ch13 'Postmodern science as the search for instability' (53-60)