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PHIL 40S: Introduction to the Philosophy of Science

This course provides an introduction to some of the major philosophical questions about science. The first part of the course focuses on the role of values in a variety of sciences, especially in the environmental, biomedical and social sciences that have close connections with public policy. Question examined will include: Should values be involved in accepting or rejecting scientific hypotheses? Are certain scientific categories value laden? Are there scientific topics that should be deprioritized or not pursued at all in a society? How should scientists communicate socially important but uncertain information to the policy makers and the public? The second part of the course focuses on the scientific method and how it contributes to the success and progress of science. We will examine three different accounts of the scientific method, accounts that lead to different conceptions of the nature and growth of scientific knowledge: The hypothetical-deductive view; Thomas Kuhn's account o more »
This course provides an introduction to some of the major philosophical questions about science. The first part of the course focuses on the role of values in a variety of sciences, especially in the environmental, biomedical and social sciences that have close connections with public policy. Question examined will include: Should values be involved in accepting or rejecting scientific hypotheses? Are certain scientific categories value laden? Are there scientific topics that should be deprioritized or not pursued at all in a society? How should scientists communicate socially important but uncertain information to the policy makers and the public? The second part of the course focuses on the scientific method and how it contributes to the success and progress of science. We will examine three different accounts of the scientific method, accounts that lead to different conceptions of the nature and growth of scientific knowledge: The hypothetical-deductive view; Thomas Kuhn's account of normal science and scientific revolutions; and finally, an account of theory testing by George Smith, a leading scholar on Isaac Newton. Throughout the course, we will examine the philosophical ideas in the light of concrete cases in the history and practice of science. This course is designed to help students develop critical thinking skills, to communicate effectively through speaking and writing, and to construct well-reasoned arguments. Students of any discipline are welcome to attend, and no particular background is presupposed.
Terms: not given this year, last offered Summer 2018 | Units: 3 | Grading: Letter or Credit/No Credit
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