Syllabus: Introduction to the Philosophy of Science, Fall Term 2017

  1. Course: PHIL 220–A.  Concordia University.  Credits: 3.
  2. Time & Place: Mon.  and Wed.  11:45 AM–1:00 PM, Room H 420, Campus SGW
  3. Instructor: Ulf Hlobil, Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Concordia University.
    Office phone:   (514) 848-2424 ext. 2536
    E-mail:   please use email only for administrative issues and solicited items; other substantive philosophical discussion should happen in person because email doesn't suit it:
    ulf.hlobil@concordia.ca
    Office hours:   Monday 10:00–11:30, or by appointment, in S-M 309 (2145 Mackay).
  4. Notice: In the event of extraordinary circumstances beyond the university's control (e.g.  a strike), the course contents, evaluation scheme and other parts of this syllabus may be subject to change.

Table of Contents

Course Description and Overview

Calendar Course Description:    This course provides an introduction to the main problems in the philosophy of science. These include the structure of scientific theories, various models of scientific method and explanation, and the existence of unobservables.
NOTE: Students who have received credit for INTE 250 or PHIL 228 may not take this course for credit.
Expanded Course Description:    The course gives you the opportunity to tackle interesting problems, especially non-empirical or philosophical problems, raised for and by scientific theories, observations and practice. We focus especially on battles between those who think science is an objective form of inquiry that is especially well suited to uncovering facts, and those who disagree and think it does or even must fail to be objective in important ways. This will take us on a tour through the past 100 years of thinking about science. The tour begins with traditional objectivist views of science. We then look at subjectivist alternatives. The tour ends with hybrid views that attempt to show how science is a reasonable mix of both objective and subjective factors, which raises important questions for how we use science in our daily lives.
  1. Part Problems
  2. Unit 1: Basics
    What is philosophy? What is philosophy of science? How do I analyze arguments? How do I evaluate philosophical claims?
  3. Unit 2: Traditional Objectivist Views
    What is special about science, compared to philosophy and religion? What have been the most popular objectivist views of science?
  4. Unit 3: Problems for Traditional Objectivist Views
    Why is it rational to believe that things that have reliably happened in the past will happen in the future? Do observations that agree with a theory support that theory? Can science prove theories? Can experiments or observations ever support one theory over rivals?
  5. Unit 4: Subjectivist Alternatives
    Do scientists really try to find out new things? Is theory choice a matter of taste? Does science have a male bias? Are scientific facts just our constructions?
  6. Unit 5: Between Objectivity and Subjectivity: Metaphysics
    Can we defend the idea that science uncovers truths? If scientific theories are partly objective and partly subjective, exactly which parts are subjective? Which parts must be subjective? What determines which scientific projects are worthwhile?
  7. Unit 6: Between Objectivity and Subjectivity: Epistemology
    Can we defend the idea that scientific methods objectively offer evidence in favor of theories? Can unobjective support for theories still be reasonable? How does feminism influence a science that has both objective and subjective parts?

Objectives: What Should You Get Our of This Course

The goal of this course is that you learn to express and argue for your own considered opinion about the nature of science, scientific evidence, theory choice, and the objectivity of science. After taking this course you’ll be able to better identify and analyze problems in philosophy of science. Furthermore, the course can help you succeed in other philosophy courses and courses in other areas. The skills of philosophical analysis, argument formation and writing that you develop in this course will give you an advantage in other classes. More specifically, after taking this course you should be able to do the following:
  1. Explain the logical concepts of soundness and validity and test whether arguments are valid and sound.
  2. Read philosophical texts by methodically applying a three-step procedure of skimming, close reading, and evaluating argument.
  3. Write a philosophical paper in a systematic and goal-directed way by applying the three-step procedure of outlining, drafting and rewriting.
  4. Express your considered view on, and knowledge about, philosophy of science in verbal discussion and in clear, concise, and tightly reasoned prose.
  5. Apply conventions of good reasoning to accurately and charitably reconstruct arguments about: logical positivism, falsificationism, scientific revolutions, scientific induction, realism, and theory choice.
  6. Identify core assumptions that underlie different theories in philosophy of science.
  7. Correctly respond to short-answer questions (e.g.  multiple-choice and true-false questions) about course material in tests and the final exam.
  8. Synthesize what you learned throughout the course by connecting different topics of the course in essays.
These abilities require both, skills that are specific to the content of the course and general methodological skills. Thus, the class objectives can also be stated in the following way:
  1. Content-specific goals:
    1. knowledge of the following theories and concepts: logical positivism, falsificationism, scientific revolutions, scientific induction, realism, theory choice.
    2. historical knowledge: who presented which ideas when and in what context, who held which view for which reasons.
  2. General goals:
    1. the ability to understand philosophical texts and arguments,
    2. the ability to evaluate philosophical ideas and to arrive at your own considered view on a topic at hand,
    3. analytical writing skills, i.e., the ability to engage with the ideas of others and to present your own ideas in writing in a compelling, clear and structured way,
    4. discussion skills, i.e., the ability to discuss complicated and controversial topics in a productive and respectful way, the ability to think about difficult issues together.
You will be evaluated by testing whether you have these abilities through exams and writing assignments.

Important Dates

Lecture Schedule and Assignments

All required readings, except those marked as being available on Moodle, are in a coursepack that is available at the university book store. Some of the readings are, in addition, put on reserve in the library; check the library reserve link on the Moodle page.
I recommend two general resources for when you have difficulties understanding the readings: Simon Blackburn, Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005, 2 nd ed.) and the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (online at: http://plato.stanford.edu). If you are looking around for additional background readings, http://philpapers.org/ is a good place to start.

4.1 Unit 1: Basics

In the following six lessons, we will develop the basic toolkit that you need to do philosophy. You will learn how to analyze and evaluate arguments.
Philosophy of Science and this Course
  1. Readings: Course Syllabus (and you should get a start on next class’s reading, listed immediately below)
Understanding Philosophy
  1. Readings: Stemwedel, Janet D. (2014), “What is philosophy of science (and should scientists care)?”, Scientific American, published online on April 7 th , 2014, at: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/doing-good-science/what-is-philosophy-of-science-and-should-scientists-care/
    Hlobil, U. (2017), “What is Philosophy?”, unpublished manuscript by instructor; available on Moodle.
Analyzing Arguments
  1. Readings: Sections 1–3 of Hlobil, U. (2017), “Analyzing Arguments”, unpublished manuscript by instructor; available on Moodle.
Evaluating Arguments, Reading and Writing Philosophy
  1. Readings: 1.   Sections 4 and 5 of Hlobil, U. (2017), “Analyzing Arguments”, unpublished manuscript by instructor; available on Moodle.
    2.   Hlobil, U. (2017), “Reading and Writing Philosophy”, unpublished manuscript by instructor; available on Moodle.
Other Kinds of Arguments, and Science
  1. Readings: Sober, E. ( 6 2013), “Inductive and Abductive Arguments”, ch. 3 in his Core Questions in Philosophy. New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall.
SKILLS TEST IN CLASS
  1. Readings: No new readings; bring an HB pencil and your Concordia ID to class.

4.2 Unit 2: Traditional Objectivist Views

In the following unit, you will learn about a philosophical tradition that loved science more than almost anything else: logical positivism. It is one of the most influential traditions, and it takes science to be objective.
The Importance of Philosophy of Science
  1. Readings: 1.   Brown, J. R. (2011), “The Community of Science”, in M. Carrier, D. Howard, and J. Kourany (eds.), The Challenge of the Social and the Pressure of Practice: Science and Values Revisited. Pittsburgh, PA: The University of Pittsburgh Press.
    2.   pp. 3-4 of Kitcher, P. (2001), Science, Truth and Democracy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Logical Positivism
  1. Readings: 1.   Sections 2.1 through 2.3, in Godfrey-Smith, P. (2003), Theory and Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
    2.   pp. 7–11 of Hegel, G. W. F. (1812[2010]), Preface to the First Edition of The Science of Logic (translated and edited by George di Giovanni). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. [Don’t slave over this; just get a sense of how obscure it probably seems to you.]
    3.   Ayer, A. J. (1952[2000]), “The Elimination of Metaphysics”, in T. Schick (ed.) (2000), Readings in the Philosophy of Science: from Positivism to Postmodernism. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing Company.
Problems with Logical Positivism
  1. Readings: 1.  Quine, W. V. O. (1951), “Two Dogmas of Empiricism”. Philosophical Review, 60: 20–43.
    2.  Section 2.4 in Godfrey-Smith, P. (2003), Theory and Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
  1. Thanksgiving (Make up meeting on Dec. 5)
Inductive Empiricism
  1. Readings: 1.   Sections 2.5 to 2.6, in Godfrey-Smith, P. (2003), Theory and Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
    2.   Hempel, C. (1966[2000]), “The Role of Induction in Scientific Inquiry”, in T. Schick (ed.) (2000), Readings in the Philosophy of Science: From Positivism to Postmodernism. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing Company.

4.3 Unit 3: Problems for Traditional Objectivist Views

Logical positivists held that, if all goes well, observations (or more generally:  data) can tell us what the correct scientific theory about something is, or at least make it rational for us to adopt one theory rather than any other theory. In this unit, we will see that it is difficult to say whether, and if so how and why, observations can make it rational for us to choose one theory, and not some other theory.
Hume’s Problem of Induction
  1. Readings: 1.  Section 3.1, in Godfrey-Smith, P. (2003), Theory and Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
    2.  Section IV, Part II (i.e.  pp. 12–29) of Hume, D. (2007), An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Hume’s Problem Continued
  1. Readings: Sections III.1-III.2 in Skyrms, B. ( 4 2000), “The Traditional Problem of Induction”, in his Choice and Chance: An Introduction to Inductive Logic. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
The Raven Paradox
  1. Readings: Sections 3.2 to 3.3 in Godfrey-Smith, P. (2003), Theory and Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Goodman’s New Riddle of Induction
  1. Readings: 1.  Section 3.4 in Godfrey-Smith, P. (2003), Theory and Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
    2.  Section IV.4 in Skyrms, B. ( 4 2000), “The Traditional Problem of Induction”, in his Choice and Chance: An Introduction to Inductive Logic. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Karl Popper’s Falsificationism
  1. Readings: 1.  Sections 4.1–4.3 in Godfrey-Smith, P. (2003), Theory and Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
    2.  pp. 33-39 of Popper, K. (1963), Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge, London: Routledge.
MID-TERM TEST

4.4 Unit 4: Subjectivist Alternatives

After having looked at problems with the idea that science is an objective way to find out the truth based solely on observations, we now turn to a subjectivist alternative: Thomas Kuhn's philosophy of science. At the core of Kuhn's view is an account of how science develops.
Kuhn: Paradigms and Normal Science
  1. Readings: pp. 1; 3-6; 10-11; 11-13; 17; 23-25; 35-42 from Kuhn, T. ( 3 1996), The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Kuhn: Anomalies to Crisis
  1. Readings: pp. 52-56; 59-60; 62-65; 66-72; 74-76 of Kuhn, T. ( 3 1996), The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Kuhn: Revolutions
  1. Readings: pp. 77-78; 81-85; 111-115; 118-123; 129-135 of Kuhn, T. ( 3 1996), The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

4.5 Unit 5: Between Objectivity and Subjectivity: Metaphysics

After having looked at objectivist and subjectivist views of science. We will now look at some suggestions for a middle ground. Is there a way to combine insights of objectivism and subjectivism?
Metaphysics: Realism, Truth and Success
  1. Readings: pp. 16–28 of Kitcher, P. (2001), Science, Truth and Democracy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Metaphysics: Accuracy and Significance
  1. Readings: 1.   pp. 43-62 of Kitcher, P. (2001), Science, Truth and Democracy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    3.   pp. 170-173 of Kuhn, T. ( 3 1996), The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Explanation and Causation
  1. Readings: Cartwright, N. (1982). “When explanation leads to inference”. Philosophical Topics, 13: 111–121.

4.6 Unit 6: Between Objectivity and Subjectivity: Epistemology

We end by returning to the question: When is it rational to adopt one scientific theory, rather than any other scientific theory? We will ask to what extent can we make such choices on objective grounds, and what that means for the objectivity of the theories with which we end up.
Rethinking Subjective Theory Choice
  1. Readings: pp. 147-159 of Kuhn, T. ( 3 1996), The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
    pp. 29-42 of Kitcher, P. (2001), Science, Truth and Democracy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Rethinking Subjective Theory Choice
  1. Readings: pp. 356-361; 361-363; 365-366 of Kuhn, T. (1973[1989]), “Objectivity, Value Judgment, and Theory Choice”, in B. A. Brody and R. E. Grandy (eds.), Readings in the Philosophy of Science, pp. 356–367. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Reasonable Theory Choice, Feminism, and Heuristics
  1. Readings: Longino, H. (2011), “Values, Heuristics, and the Politics of Knowledge”, in M. Carrier, D. Howard, and J. Kourany (eds.), The Challenge of the Social and the Pressure of Practice: Science and Values Revisited. Pittsburgh, PA: The University of Pittsburgh Press.

5/12/2017        Make up meeting (for Thanksgiving)

Catch-up and Exam Review
  1. Readings: no readings

Class Requirements, Policies, and Grading

5.1 General Rules & Advice

Office hours: If you have any questions or difficulties with the material, I encourage you to visit me in my office during office hours. During office hours I can discuss questions in more depth and I can give you detailed feedback on assignments.
Readings: In order to meet the class objectives it is essential that you read the assigned texts completely and carefully before each meeting and actively participate in classroom discussions. I will introduce material that is not in the readings during class, so attendance at each and every class is essential if you want to do well in the course.
Special Circumstances: If a special condition or circumstance in your life may or will affect your performance, please let me know about it as soon as possible. It will be treated with the strictest confidence. Please do not wait until the condition or circumstance is impending or has already happened before telling me about its impact on you. If something unanticipated occurs, bring it to my attention and we will work out a way of dealing with it.
Assignments: Start your writing assignments early. Writing a philosophy paper takes time. Please consult my “Reading and Writing Philosophy” before you start working on a paper. An excellent set of tips on how to write good philosophy texts is also provided by Prof. Jim Pryor on this webpage: http://www.jimpryor.net/teaching/guidelines/writing.html. You must keep a copy of all your work—your original submissions as well as graded copies I return to you. According to the calendar (16.3.9.2), “students are responsible for the preservation of any material, in its entire and original form, which has been returned to them.” It hence is a good idea to regularly back up your data.
Laptops, phones, tablets, etc.: New research shows that students who use laptops or phones or iPods and the like in class perform markedly more poorly than others and unfairly diminish the performance of others (see here and here). As Maryellen Weimer, an author for Faculty Focus, puts it here: “students are way too convinced that multitasking is a great way to work. They think they can do two or three tasks simultaneously and not compromise the quality of what they produce. Research says that about 5% of us multitask effectively. Proof of the negative effects of multitasking in learning environments is now coming from a variety of studies.”
Religious or Cultural Holidays: If you celebrate holidays that the university calendar does not accommodate and this creates any kind of conflict with this course, please see me about this at least one month prior to the holiday; I will consider such matters on a case-by-case basis.
Gender Neutral Language & Human Diversity: In addition to all the other reasons for using gender neutral language and language that attends to human diversity, there are philosophical reason for this too. Using gender neutral language in your writing and speaking reminds us that human beings are diverse in gender, that not all of them are “he.” There are different ways of approaching the task of keeping gender and other differences in mind, e.g., substituting “she” where “he” might have traditionally been expected, alternating systematically between the two, using “she/he,” and so on. No formal procedure is entirely adequate to the task, for the task is improving your thinking and that of our culture and future generations, and the form of thinking adequate to this cannot be set in advance. The American Philosophical Association has provided helpful “Guidelines for the Nonsexist Use of Language.” (online at http://www.apaonline.org/?page=nonsexist).
For other rights and responsibilities, see the Concordia Code of Rights and Responsibilities at: http://www.concordia.ca/students/rights.html

5.2 Grading and Requirements

The grading works as follows: You can earn up to 100 points (plus 2.5 bonus points). You start with zero points. Each point is worth 1% of your course grade. Here is how many points the different tasks are worth:
  1. 2.5 pts Bonus points (during class on different dates)
  2. 10 pts Skills test
  3. 10 pts First assignment (short paper)
  4. 20 pts Mid-term
  5. 20 pts Second assignment (longer paper)
  6. 40 pts Final exam
Points can be converted into letter grades according to the following table:
Philosophy Department Grading Policies: In 200 & 300 level courses with over 30 students, it is normally expected that: the grade average will be in the C+ to B- range; there will be no more than 25% As.
Grading Criteria: I lay out my expectations regarding philosophy papers in the document “Reading and Writing Philosophy” that is available on the Moodle page of the course. In a nutshell, papers must be clearly written, well-structured, give illuminating and charitable interpretations and present compelling arguments for a main thesis. With respect to tests and exams, there is usually just one correct answer to questions on test and exams. You get the points for a question just in case you get the answer right.
My feedback policies: I strive to grade submission within 2 weeks of submission. If you have not received your grade or feedback after 2 weeks and I haven't addressed this issue, please contact me.
Moodle: Routinely check the Moodle page for posted material and updates. You may also receive grades and feedback via Moodle.
Submission Rules: Assignments must be submitted via Moodle as files in pdf, doc, or dox formate. You can submit papers in English or French. However, it might take longer to grade papers in French, and I (or we) will comment on your paper in English. Concordia's Writing Assistance Program can help you improve your general writing as well as your English language skills.
Bonus Points: In some randomly selected classes you can earn bonus points (up to a total of 2.5 bonus points for the whole course). Typically this will consist in completing a short task that concern the readings at the beginning of class. Such bonus tasks will typically take one of two forms: either you complete a very small set of short-answer questions, or in a paragraph or two you answer a question I give you. Neither the accuracy or quality of your work on these tasks will be scored; the tasks will only be scored as completed or not. The purposes of these bonus points is, in part, to encourage you to attend all classes, to help you compensate for poor performance on other components of the course, and to help improve your performance on other components of the course by practicing answering the kinds of questions you will see on those other components.
Policies on late work and policies on early work: For paper assignments or other writing submissions (not including any skills assignment): You lose 10% of the points available for the assignment each day the assignment is late; it is one day late (and will lose 10%) between one minute and 24 hours after the due date; it is two days late (and will lose 20%) between 24 and 48 hours after the deadline, and so on. When paper assignments do not ask for submission of rough drafts, students sometimes ask me to read rough drafts of their paper anyway, before they submit the paper for grading. I am happy to look at these drafts, and typically will provide feedback on them verbally in a personal meeting in my office. However, please keep in mind that I cannot provide thorough or comprehensive feedback on these drafts prior to official grading, because of the sense in which paper assignments are like tests.
Missing Tests and Exams: You will not have the chance to earn the points available on a test or exam if you miss the test or exam, unless you have exceptionally good reasons for missing the test (for example, you have a serious illness for which you consult a doctor), and have informed me of these in advance of the test if possible. If I judge that your reasons are exceptionally good, then the value of the missed test will be rolled into the value of the largest test or exam remaining in the course, where you can “make up the points”, so to speak, by having that test or exam weighted more heavily for you. (So under no circumstances can you write tests that you miss.) If there is a final exam in this class and you miss it, you will be subject to the associated policies in the school’s Academic Calendar.
General remark: I strive to be very clear in my expectations, because I think fairness requires this. Fairness to all people in class also requires that in ordinary circumstances (extraordinary cases are another matter) no one person can have a special extended deadline or write a test at an unusual time. If you foresee difficulty meeting a deadline or scheduled evaluation, please discuss this with me well in advance of the deadline or evaluation. I’m happy to make exceptions to grading policies, but only for what I judge to be exceptionally good reasons.

5.3 Academic Integrity and Plagiarism

The most common offense under the Academic Code of Conduct is plagiarism which the code defines as ”the presentation of the work of another person [an author of a book, a journal, a fellow student, etc.] as one’s own or without proper acknowledgment.”
This could be material copied word by word from books, journals, internet sites, professor's course notes, etc. It could be material that is paraphrased but closely resembles the original source. It could be the work of a fellow student, for example, an answer on a quiz, data for a lab report, a paper or assignment completed by another student. It might be a paper purchased through one of the many available sources. Plagiarism does not refer to words alone—it can also refer to copying images, graphs, tables, and ideas. “Presentation” is not limited to written work. It also includes oral presentations, computer assignments and artistic works. Finally, if you translate the work of another person and do not cite the source, this is also plagiarism. In simple words: Do not copy, paraphrase or translate anything for anywhere without saying from where you obtained it!
The Academic Code of Conduct can be found here:
http://www.concordia.ca/content/dam/common/docs/policies/official- policies /Academic-Code-Conduct-2015.pdf
Please make sure that you comply with it. Help regarding how to cite your sources correctly can be found here: http://library.concordia.ca/help/howto/citations.html.
Plagiarism and academic dishonesty are highly disruptive of the learning that we should be doing here. Should I detect any form of academic dishonesty, including plagiarizing from the internet, from books, journals, other students, etc., I will report it directly to the Vice-Dean of Academic Affairs. The penalties for plagiarism tend to be rather severe, and in any case undermine your learning process. So avoid it. In case of doubt as to what counts at plagiarism, ask me. Cite your sources and inspirations; this enriches your ideas by showing their roots in the thoughts of other people, and does not detract from your exposition, articulation, and development of ideas.

5.4 Special Needs

The Access Center for Students with Disabilities coordinates academic accommodations and services for all eligible students with disabilities. If you have a disability for which you wish to request accommodations and have not contacted the Access Center for Students with Disabilities, please do so as soon as possible. Information about their services can be found at http://www.concordia.ca/offices/acsd.html/. Please contact me privately in regard to your needs in this course.

List of Important Services at Concordia