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Understanding Science

Philosophy 218

MWF 12:35-1:30, FA 126

P.D. Magnus pmagnus -at-

Campus phone 442-4251

Office hours: Tu 11:00-noon,

F 11:30-12:20,and by app't


Okasha, Philosophy of Science: A Very Short Introduction

ISBN: 0192802836

Gould, The Mismeasure of Man

ISBN: 0393314251

Other readings will be available on E-Reserves.


10% short papers

30% first midterm exam

30% second midterm exam

30% final exam

Class participation: Participation in class discussion is required. Exemplary participation will add to your grade, up to two-thirds of a letter grade.

Short papers: Students will be responsible for writing five short papers during the term. Each should be a one page response to the assigned reading for that class meeting. Papers should state the central thesis of the reading and explain briefly what the author is trying to do. Short papers may be written for any five readings, but must be turned in before we have discussed the readings in class.

Exams: There will be three exams. The final exam, although at the end, will not be cumulative.

Academic honesty: Cheating will not be tolerated.

Absences: Students who will need to miss exam dates for foreseeable reasons should discuss them with the professor at the beginning of the term. If an emergency results in absence, the student should contact the professor as soon as possible.

Schedule of topics

The following is a provisional schedule. Specific readings may take more or less time than indicated, but exam dates and due dates will not change.

Week 1 jan 20-22


What is science? (Read Okasha ch 1)

Week 2 jan 25-29

Scientific reasoning (Read Okasha ch 2)

Scientific explanation (Read Okasha ch 3)

Week 3 feb 1-5

Scientific realism (Read Okasha ch 4)

Scientific change (Read Okasha ch 5)

Week 4 feb 8-12

The special sciences (Read Okasha ch 6)

Week 5 feb 17-19 feb 15: no class

Science and its critics (Read Okasha ch 7)


Week 6 feb 22-26

Theories as maps (Read Toulmin)

Week 7 mar 1-5

Scientific significance (Read Kitcher #1)

Should there be limits to enquiry?

(Read Mill)

Week 8 mar 8-12

An argument for limits (Read Kitcher #2)

Week 9 mar 15-19

Case study: Genetics and IQ

(Read Gould ch 5)

Week 10 mar 22-24

More on IQ

(Read Gould pgs 286-302, 351-353, 365-366)


Spring Break!

Week 11 apr 7-9

A further argument for limits

(Read Kitcher #3)

apr 5: no class

Week 12 apr 12-16

Gender and science (Read Fox Keller)

Values and science (Read Longino)

Week 13 apr 19-23

Role models (Read Brush)

Week 14 apr 26-30

Heroism (Read Oreskes)

Week 15 may 3


Final Exam Tu may 11 10:30-12:30