Spring 2011 Schedule of Courses

PHILOSOPHY 352: PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE

TUESDAY, THURSDAY
SECTION 1, 3:30 - 4:45 P.M.

PROFESSOR VALIA ALLORI

REQUIRED TEXT
Hung, E. The Nature of Science: Problems and Perspectives
Additional readings will be either on Blackboard or on reserve at the Library.

COURSE CONTENT
The course will focus on questions such as:
• What are the methods that are supposed to be distinctive of science? Do these methods involve "proving" theories? If so, how? If not, is there any reason to think that "the scientific method" is any more likely to lead us to true theories than, say, crystal-ball-gazing? (Inductivism, Falsificationism)
• What, if anything, is the difference between "proper sciences" like physics and biology, and "pseudo-sciences" like astrology and (allegedly) "creation-science"? (Science and Pseudo-science)
• When scientists choose between rival theories, is their choice a rational one, or is it more a matter of subjective tastes? Could the choice be made on rational grounds? (Rationality and revolutions)
• Is it reasonable to think that our best scientific theories (especially those dealing with "unobservable" entities and processes, like electrons and the Big Bang) are true, as opposed to being (say) mere calculational devices for predicting the outcomes of experiments? (Realism and anti-realism)
• What exactly does it mean to say that a theory "explains" something? (Explanation)
• What exactly does it take for a given observation or experiment to count as evidence in favor of a particular theory? What is the relationship between evidence (observation X is evidence for theory T), prediction (theory T predicts observation X) and explanation (theory T explains observation X)? (Prediction and evidence)

COURSE FORMAT
Exams and paper