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Understanding Science

Philosophy 218

Tu Th 5:45–7:05pm in PH-123

Professor: P.D. Magnus

Office: HU-258B Office hours: M 11:00–noon, Tu 2:45–3:45, and by appointment

TA: Darleen Cieply

Office: HU-255 Office hours: Th 4:35–5:35

Texts: All course readings will be available on E-Reserves.

Requirements and grading:

12%reading response papers
8% short papers
25%first midterm exam
25%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.

Reading response papers: Students will be responsible for writing five reading response papers during the term. Each should be about one typed page, stating the central thesis of the reading and explaining briefly what the author is trying to do. These may be written for any five readings, but must be turned in before we have discussed the readings in class.

Short papers: Students will be responsible for writing two short papers (about 3 pages) on assigned topics. These will be due Oct. 2 and Nov. 6.

Exams: There will be three exams. The final exam will 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

This 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 aug 28, 30


How should you decide what to believe? [read Peirce]

Week 2 sep 4, 6

Peirce, continued

Kinds of inference [read notes on inference]

Week 3 sep 11, 13


Observation and experiment [read Pinch]

Week 4 sep 20

— no class sep 18 —

Observation, continued

Week 5 sep 27

— no class sep 25 —


Week 6 oct 2, 4

The analogy between theories and maps


Scientific expertise [read Collins&Pinch]

Week 7 oct 9, 11

How to figure out the community opinion [read Magnus]

Scientific significance [read Kitcher ch. 6]

Week 8 oct 16, 18

Significance, continued

Should there be limits on enquiry [read Mill]

Week 9 oct 23, 25

Mill, continued

An argument for limits [read Kitcher ch. 8]

Week 10 oct 30, nov 1

Limits, continued


Week 11 nov 6, 8

Case study: genetics and IQ [read Gould, ch. 5 pages 176–213]


IQ, continued [read pages 218–263]

Week 12 nov 13

IQ, continued [read Gould, ch 6. pages 286–302, 351–353, 365–366]

— no class nov 15 —

Week 13 nov 20

Gender, values, and science [read Longino]

— Thanksgiving: no class nov 22 —

Week 14 nov 27, 29

Gender and science, continued

Role models and stereotype threat [read Brush, read Miyake]

Week 15 dec 4, 6

Science and heroism [read Oreskes]

Week 16 dec 11


Final Exam dec 18 T 5:45–7:45pm