History and Philosophy of Science 120:
Introduction to Philosophy of Science
Fall, 2011

Professor Joel Velasco

Class meets Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10:30-11:55

An introduction to fundamental philosophical problems concerning the nature of science. Topics include criteria for the confirmation and falsification of scientific theories, the character of scientific explanation, realism about unobservable entities, the objectivity of science, and issues having to do with the ways in which scientific knowledge changes over time.
Office hours:
My office hours are Mon 11:00-12:00, or by appointment, in 13 Dabney Hall.
Books available at the university bookstore:

1) Peter Godfrey-Smith, Theory and Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science, Westview Press, 2000 2nd edition (= PGS)

2) Theodore Schick ed. Readings in the Philosophy of Science: From Positivism to Postmodernism (=Schick)

Evaluation: Grades for this course will be based upon class participation (15%), performance as a discussion leader (25%), and upon two papers (25% and 35%). All aspects of evaluation come under the provenance of the university’s honor code. A student must receive a passing grade on each of these components in order to pass the course.

Class Participation: Philosophy is a communal enterprise: the ability to make valuable oral contributions to philosophical discussions can be as important as the ability to write well. Moreover, since the written assignments will force the students to think carefully about very specific topics, participation in class discussion is an important way for students to demonstrate a broader competence with the material than is possible in the papers alone. Evaluation will be based upon the quality, not the quantity, of comments made during class. Students are encouraged to continue class discussions after the class is over, by meeting with me in person, or continuing the discussion over e-mail, or posting to the course website. Students who for any reason have difficulty speaking up in class are especially encouraged to pursue these options. It should go without saying that attendance is an absolutely essential component of class participation. Any student who has more than two absences from class will be required to do make-up work for the classes missed.

Electronic Devices: Students may have laptop computers, or other portable electronic devices, for the purpose of taking notes, and occasionally looking up material relevant to class discussion. However, there will be no internet-surfing, texting, tweeting, instant messaging, e-mailing, gaming, or other use of electronic devices not directly related to class. Also, please silence all phones before class starts.

Discussion Leaders: Six classes have been assigned for student-led discussion. (This does not mean that there can be no discussion in other classes!) Each student will be a discussion leader for two of these classes (along with two other students). The schedule will be assigned during the second class meeting, on Thursday, September 29. Discussion leaders should make note of which parts of the reading material were particularly difficult or in need of further elaboration from the instructor. In addition, they should prepare a list of ‘talking points’ – questions, criticisms, and comments in order to facilitate class discussion. These must be prepared in the form of a handout. Copies of the list should be distributed via the class listserve by 2:00 pm of the day prior to the class meeting. Worksheets will be passed out in class to help discussion leaders prepare. Within 24 hours of the end of the discussion class, the discussion leaders should post a list of the most interesting or important responses made to the ‘talking points’ during class discussion.

Schedule of discussion leaders
Instructions for discussion leaders

Papers: Students will write two papers. The first, shorter paper should be approximately 1800 words or 6 typed, double-spaced pages. This paper will be due in class on Thursday, November 3, and is worth 25% of the final grade. The longer paper should be approximately 2700 words, or 9 typed, double-spaced pages; it is worth 35%. This paper is due on Friday, December 9 at 5:00 P.M. Suggestions for paper topics will be distributed via the class listserve and the course website.

Special Accommodations: If you have a disability or personal circumstance that will require special accommodation, please do not hesitate to contact me.

This is a tentative schedule/reading list:

Week 1 - Introduction

Week 2 - The Problem of Induction

Week 3 - Ravens, Grue, Popper Falsification

Week 4 (10/18) - Falsification, Underdetermination, Bayesianism

Week 5 (10/25) - Scientific Explanation

Week 6 (11/1) - Kuhn

***First paper assignment - due 11/3***

Week 7 (11/8) - Sociology of Science

Week 8 (11/15) - Social Structure of Science

Week 9 (11/22) - No Classes

Week 10 (11/29) - Scientific Realism

*** (12/9) - Final Essay Due***