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Issues in the Philosophy of Modern Science . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . AS 3CF3

Fall 2010 . | . Monday 19:00-22:00 . MDCL /1016

Richard T. W. Arthur . | . Office: UH305 . . .Hours: Mon 11:30, Thur: 14:00

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Provisional Syllabus

*-denotes on-line resources, available through the library.

1. Monday, Sept 20: Introduction: (No reading assigned)

2. Sept 27: Observation and Measurement

Boersema, Philosophy of Science, chs 1-2, pp. 1-64.
Brown, Who Rules in Science?, chs 1-3, pp. 1-74.
Case studies (in Boeresma): Einstein, pp. 29 ff (Amy, Jihye); Mendel, 59 ff (Grace).

3. Oct 4: Experiment, Theories and Realism

Boersema, ch 3-4, pp. 65-132.
Brown, ch 4-5, pp. , pp. 75-114.
Case studies: Torricelli, 94 ff (Arianne); Descartes, 127 ff (Ed, Harrison).

4. Oct 11: Thanksgiving; so no class.

5. Oct 18: Explanation And Evidence

Boersema, ch 5-6, pp. 133-206.
Brown, ch 6-7, pp. 115-168.
Case studies: Rumford, 170 ff; Michelson and Morley, 202 ff (Abha, Jill).

6. Oct 25: Reductionism, Inductivism and Falsificationism

Boersema, ch 7-8, pp. 207-264.
Case studies: Bernard, 235 ff (Kelly); Spallanzani, 262 ff (Yvonne); Plate tectonics, 348 ff (Aissa).

 7. Nov 1: Paradigms and Research Programs

Boersema, ch 9-10a, pp. 265-328.
Brown, re-read pp. 63-73.
Case studies: Phlogiston, 299 ff; Germ theory of disease, pp. 341 ff (Hannah); Plate tectonics, 346 ff (Rachel).

8. Nov 8: Science and Technology

Boersema, ch 10b-11, pp. 328-405.
Case studies: Germ theory of disease pp. 341 ff. (Arianne); Plate tectonics, 346 ff.; Genetically modified organisms, 398 ff (Aissa, Grace, Marta).

9. Nov 15: Science and Values––postponed to Nov 22

Boersema, ch 12, pp. 406-438.
Gould, The Mismeasure of Man, Introduction, ch 1-2, pp. 1-104.
Case studies: Does race exist? pp. 429 ff (Abha) ; Craniometry, Gould ch 2 (Kelly).

10. Nov 22: Science and Religion

Boersema, ch 13, pp. 439-472.
Gould, ch 2 + “Three Centuries Perspective…”, pp. 62-104, 391-424.
Case studies: Intelligent design, pp. 463 ff (Rachel, Jill) ; Polygeny, Gould ch 2 (Yvonne).

11. Nov 29: Science and Society 1

Boersema, ch 14, pp. 473-514.
Gould, ch 3, pp. 105-141.
Case studies: Science education, pp. 502 ff (Amy, Hannah) ; Craniology, Gould ch 3 (Ed).

12: Dec 6: Science and Society 2

Boersema, ch 15, pp. 515-556.
Gould, ch 5a + Epilogue, pp. 176-222, 351-364,
Brown, ch 8-9, Afterword, 169-212.
Case studies: Hereditarian theory of IQ: Binet, Goddard and Terman, Gould ch 5 (Harrison, Marta) .
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Paper topics

Paper Topics


Research paper (1500-2000 words)


Friday, December 3rd.

Be sure to consult Writing advice handouts!

  1. Develop any of your case study discussion papers into an essay.
  2. Discuss and evaluate any of the competing models of scientific explanation with respect to any of the case studies we have examined.
  3. Evaluate inductivism as a philosophy of science, discussing both its merits and the difficulties with respect to any of the case studies we have examined.
  4. Evaluate Popper's philosophy of science, discussing both its merits and the difficulties with respect to any of the case studies we have examined.
  5. Evaluate Lakatos' methodology of scientific research programmes. How successful is it in overcoming perceived difficulties with Popper's and Kuhn's philosophies of science?
  6. Discuss and evaluate van Fraassen's "constructive empiricism" as an alternative to scientific realism.
  7. Does the case of craniometry show that science is not always objective, and if so, in what sense?
  8. How best should we understand scientific progress? Can it be understood without a commitment to scientific realism?
  9. Is science self-correcting? i.e. will bad science always get weeded out eventually by its lack of objectivity? Discuss with reference to cases discussed in this course -for example, any of the case studies that Gould investigates.
  10. Is "IQ" a social construction? Evaluate its status, taking into account Gould's critique and responses to that critique.
  11. Evaluate Hacking's "experimental realism" in the context of a defence of scientific realism.
  12. Discuss and evaluate the thesis of the unity of science based on reductionism, with reference to any of the case studies discussed in this course.
  13. WILDCARD: develop your own topic --in consultation with me. I will not accept papers on topics that you have not cleared with me first.
  14. Is Kuhn a scientific realist? Discuss by reference to the realism-antirealism debate, and one or more case studies that he discusses in his book.




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