PHI6420 - Philosophy of Science

Outline

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 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, how does science work? What are the methods and explanatory strategies that make it so successful?

Second, what are the criteria that demarcate science from non-science? For example, what is the
difference between science and religion?

Finally, is it true that science gives us an objective picture of reality? Specifically, given that modern science has developed in a particular historical context, i.e., modern Western society, should not we say that it reflects a certain set of ethical, political, and social factors?

These are the questions that we will tackle in this course.

Lectures and Seminars:

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.