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Instructor: Jackson LeViness. This course meets MTWRF 1:15 – 2:45 p.m. in PE 2066 via in-person (IP) instruction.

We will investigate some of the central philosophical questions concerning science and scientific inquiry, including:

  • Scientific theories posit all sorts of theoretical “stuff” – forces, genes, elementary particles, mental representations – to help explain and predict empirical phenomena. Should we believe that such things really exist, or should we hold that they are merely theoretical?
  • What makes a pervasive regularity in the universe a law of nature rather than a mere coincidence? And what does it mean for these laws to explain and predict events?
  • According to a popular picture of science, what makes a practice scientific is its use of a particular method. If that’s right, what is this method shared by all the many sciences? If not, what else might distinguish science from pseudoscience?
  • The decision to replace a scientific theory with a new one may seem to be rationally determined by empirical evidence – evidence that can be accommodate by the new theory but not the old one. Does the history of science support this claim? If not, how might changes from one scientific theory to the next be rational?

The hope is that exploring these questions (and more!) will bring us toward a richer understanding of what science is, how it works, and what accounts for its successful track record.

No background in science or philosophy is needed for this course. Anyone with an interest in the foundations of science is welcome!