UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies


HPSC1003 Philosophy of Science 1 2014/2015

Lecturer: Dr Emma Tobin

E-mail: e.tobin@ucl.ac.uk

Teaching Session: Term 1


Teaching, Assessment and Timetable:

Teaching Contents: Students attend 2 x 1 hour lectures and 1 x 1 - hour tutorial per week. 

Assessment: two essays (1,800 words) (25% each); one exam (3 hours) (50%); to be ‘complete’, students must submit both essays and sit the exam.

Timetable: Specific timetable information is available on the UCL Common Timetable 

Course Description:

This is an introductory module in the philosophy of science. The course is divided into two parts: (1) the epistemology of science and (2) the metaphysics of science. The first part of the course will focus on several central problems regarding the nature of scientific knowledge: how do scientists know if current scientific theories are true? Is science progressive? How do scientists test their theories and how are theories confirmed? Can science and pseudoscience be distinguished? How are sciences distinguished from one another? These questions will be discussed in the light of examples from science. 

During the course of discussing these problems, you will study some of the major positions that have been taken about scientific knowledge both in the history of philosophy and in the 20th century: Inductivism (Bacon), Logical Empiricism (Ayer and Quine), Falsificationism (Popper), Incommensurability (Kuhn) and Relativism (Feyerabend). What does it mean if more than two theories are consistent with the evidence (Quine/Duhem)? 

In the second part of the course we will look at some of the metaphysical problems that face science. Do our theories refer to real entities? (Kripke/Putnam) Are Laws of Nature Universal? (Lewis/Armstrong/Dretske) How do we isolate the "cause" when we are faced with an effect? (Lewis/Salmon)

Philosophy of Science 1 will provide you with the background knowledge that you will need for other Philosophy courses that you will take in later years. You do not need prior knowledge of philosophy or science to do this course.