PHIL 150.001 – Philosophy of Science

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Instructor: John Phillips. This course meets MWF 9:05 – 9:55 a.m. in CW 105.

Science is widely believed to be a particularly good way of learning about the world around us. In this course, we won’t be doing science; instead, we will be trying to understand what science is, how it works, and what accounts for its successes. To this end, we will ask questions like the following: What features separate genuine sciences from pseudo-sciences? Does science help us discover the true nature of the world, or is it merely a useful tool or an appealing fiction? How does a given piece of evidence support a scientific theory, and in particular, how can observations about what has happened in the past justify predictions about the future? Is the scientific method fully objective, or does it reflect the values or interests of particular groups?

We will consider answers to these questions by contemporary philosophers, as well as developments in philosophical understanding of the sciences over roughly the past century. Our discussion will focus on ‘science’ in general rather than on any particular scientific discipline, though we will draw examples and case studies from individual sciences when it is helpful to do so.