PHI6420 - Philosophy of Science

Outline

It is virtually impossible to overstate the importance that science has in our everyday life. Here is a brief list of things that would not exist without modern science: computers, phones, internet, cars, airplanes, pharmaceutical drugs, electric guitars. Imagine your life without these things. It looks very different doesn't it? Science, however, is not important only in virtue of its practical applications. In fact, many would agree that the the primary value of science is that of being the best available source of knowledge about the world. Indeed, it seems fair to say that we made more discoveries after the 17th century scientific revolution [e.g. the laws of planetary motion, the principles underlying biological evolution, the laws governing quantum phenomena, the structure of DNA, the cellular architecture of the brain] than in all the previous millennia. This raises important philosophical questions. First, what is science? What are the criteria that demarcate science from non-science? For example, what is the difference between science and religion? Second, how does science work? What are the methods and eplanatory strategies that make it so successful? Is there such a thing as the scientific method, and what counts as a scientific explanation? Third, is science objective? That is, is science a form of rational and unbiased inquiry, or does it reflect ethical, political, and social factors? Finally, is science the fundamental source of knowledge about the world? Does science tell us how things really are? These are some of the questions that we will tackle in this course.

The module is also available to undergraduates, as PHI230.

If there are three or more postgraduates taking the module, a separate seminar will be scheduled for postgraduates only.