Philosophy of Science
Catalog description: A study of the philosophical problems that arise in the sciences: how claims are justified, the limits and styles of explanation, identifying pseudoscience, values in science, unity and diversity of the sciences, and science's impact on our world view. 3 units.
Grades: Your grade will be determined from the following assignments: Two homework sets (each 19%), a final exam (29%), a research essay seven to eight pages long (28%) and class participation (5%).
attendance is not required, but some parts of the
assignments will be on material introduced only during class
meetings. All the assignments will be composed only of
essay questions. They are due at the beginning of the due
date's class meeting, not during or after class.
Textbooks: Worldviews by Richard DeWitt, Blackwell Publishing, 2004. In addition, there are some webpages and class handouts to read.
Prerequisites: There are no prerequisite courses, although it is recommended that you have completed your G.E. critical thinking requirement (area A3) plus have had either (I) two college-level science courses, or (ii) one college science course and one philosophy course. Very little previous knowledge of any specific science is presupposed in our course, so there is little danger that you will be blinded by technical material. This course can be used to satisfy your B5 requirement in the G.E. program.
Goals of the course: By the end of the course you will be able to analyze and evaluate basic concepts and practices within science and about science. You will have an overall view of the sciences and how they work. Also, you will know what the central problems about science that are of interest to the philosophers, and you will know some of the major solutions to those philosophical problems. In short, you will understand science more deeply and be better prepared to explore on your own these and other philosophical and scientific questions. At the same time you will gain a better understanding of the scope and limits of human knowledge. Finally, because of all the writing projects in our course, the hope is that you will become a better writer, especially of essays that do not commit the fallacy of confirmation bias.
My office is in Mendocino Hall, room 3022, and my weekly
office hours will be announced in class on the first day.
Feel free to stop by at any of those times, or to call. If
those hours are inconvenient for you, then I can arrange an
appointment for an alternative time. You may send me e-mail
or call my office at 278-7384 or the Philosophy Department
Office at 278-6424. The fastest way to contact me is by
email. My personal web page is at http://www.csus.edu/indiv/d/dowdenb/index.htm
Late work, and make-up assignments: I realize that during your college career you occasionally may be unable to complete an assignment on time. If this happens in our course, contact me as soon as you are able. If you provide me with a good reason for missing an assignment (illness, accident, etc.), then I'll use your grade on the final exam as your missing grade. There will be no make-up tests nor make-up homework. I do accept late assignments with a grade penalty of one-third of a letter grade per 24-hour period beginning at the class time the assignment is due. Examples: If you turn in the assignment a few hours after it is due, then your A becomes an A-. Instead, if you turn in the same assignment 30 hours late, then your A becomes a B+. Weekends count. If you turn in your assignment late by email, which is recommended, then there is no need to follow up with a paper copy. No late work will be accepted after the answer sheet has been handed out (normally this will be at the next class meeting) nor after the answers are discussed in class, even if you weren't in class that day.
Food: Please do not eat and drink (except water) during class. You're welcome to leave class anytime if the need arises.
If we have a long-term emergency, say, an influenza health emergency, then our
course will continue by email and the Internet. You'll be
contacted at your Saclink email address.
AND READING ASSIGNMENTS
Week 3. Science and its critics
Weeks 5 & 6: Scientific reasoning
Week 7 & 8: Explanation in science
Week 9: Realism and anti-realism
Weeks 10 & 11: Scientific change and scientific revolution
Weeks 12-14. Selected philosophical problems in science
Week 15. Review
web address of this file is