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Philosophy of Science

This course introduces the core issues in the philosophy of science, in particular the debates about the nature of the scientific method, theories of confirmation, the demarcation of science from non-science, the rationality of theory change, and scientifi
University of Oxford University Offices Wellington Square Oxford ,OX1 2JD United Kingdom
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Course at a Glance

Mode of learning : Online - Instructor Lead(LVC)

Domain / Subject : General/Others

Function : General

Starts on : 10th Sep 2014

Duration : 10 Weeks

Difficulty : Advanced

About the course

The philosophy of science concerns the nature of science and what makes it distinctive among forms of human inquiry. The problem of distinguishing genuine science from disciplines or activities that do not deserve to be called scientific is closely linked to the problem of precisely characterising the scientific method.

This course provides an introduction to this subject beginning with the origins of modern science in the Scientific Revolution in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and concluding with an introduction to the latest controversies among contemporary philosophers of science including the debate about the various forms of scientific realism. Along the way students will gain an appreciation for the importance of philosophy of science in the history of philosophy and an understanding of the ideas of the most famous names in the subject such as Bacon, Popper, Kuhn and Lakatos.their mind!

Course aims

This course aims to introduce participants to the core issues in the philosophy of science, in particular to the debates about the nature of the scientific method, theories of confirmation, the demarcation of science from non-science, the rationality of theory change, and scientific realism. Participants will be introduced to the key thinkers in twentieth century philosophy of science such as Popper, Carnap, Kuhn, Hempel and van Fraassen.

Course Objectives

This course will enable participants to engage with the central debates in the philosophy of science and to understand the terminology and concepts presupposed by advanced literature in the area. They will also be enabled to appreciate the importance of philosophy of science in the history of philosophy more generally, and to apply their knowledge of the subject to contemporary debates about science policy, uncertainty and risk and the controversy about alternatives to evolution.

Assessment methods

Assessment for this course is based on two written assignments - one short assignment due half way through the course and one longer assignment due at the end of the course. Students will have about two weeks to complete each assignment.

Teaching methods

  • Guided reading of texts
  • Group discussions of particular issues

Teaching outcomes

By the end of this course students will be expected to understand:

  • the basic issues in the philosophy of science such as the demarcation problem, the debate among competing accounts of the scientific method, the problem of induction, and the debate about scientific realism;
  • the main theories of the nature of science;
  • the main arguments for and against various positions in relation to the above issues.

By the end of this course students will be expected to have gained the following skills:

  • the ability to communicate philosophical concepts clearly in written and spoken English;
  • the ability to understand more advanced issues and arguments in the philosophy of science;
  • the ability to engage in contemporary debates about the nature of science.

Course eligibility

Course Requirements

This course is delivered online; to participate you must to be familiar with using a computer for purposes such as sending email and searching the Internet. You will also need regular access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification.

Recommended reading

To participate in this course you will need to have regular access to the Internet and you will need to buy the following books:

  • • Ladyman, James, Understanding Philosophy of Science(Routledge, London, 2001) ISBN 0415221579
  • • Curd, M. and Cover, J.A., Philosophy of Science: The Central Issues (Norton, London, 1998) ISBN 0393971759
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Course Content

The areas you will cover in this course are, Units:

  • Unit 1: The historical background to contemporary philosophy of science: the Scientific Revolution
  • Unit 2: The Problem of Induction
  • Unit 3: Karl Popper and Falsificationism
  • Unit 4: Thomas Kuhn and the idea of scientific revolutions
  • Unit 5: Recent theories of the scientific method
  • Unit 6: Scientific realism
  • Unit 7: The problem of underdetermination
  • Unit 8: Contemporary antirealism: van Fraassen’s Constructive Empiricism
  • Unit 9: The problems of theory change for scientific realism
  • Unit 10: Recent developments

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