UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies


HPSC3020 Philosophy of the Natural Sciences

Course Tutor's:

Dr Emma Tobin  and Dr Phyllis Illari

2014/2015: Term 1

Teaching and Assessment

Teaching Contents : 10 lectures + 10 accompanying seminars 

Workload : 1 x 3000 word essay, coursework for seminar and summer examination.

Conditions for credit : Attendance and participation in seminars; coursework essays written to set deadlines, passing the examination. 

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

Course Description

This course explores topics in the philosophy of the natural sciences. In the philosophy of physics, we will address how quantum mechanics has changed our view of physical reality; and how particle physics has had an impact on philosophical debates about realism and antirealism in science, such as recent literature on structural realism. We will interrogate the philosophical literature on mechanisms and causality by considering astrophysical mechanisms.  In the philosophy of chemistry, we will assess the periodic table as a system of classification and particular philosophical problems presented by molecular structure and shape and biomolecular visualisation. We will also discuss problems common to both physics and chemistry such as problems of data, simulation and modelling. 


(1) Introduction: Prediction and the Periodic Table 

(2) Classification: Structure and Shape 

(3) Complexity and Integrative Pluralism 

(4) Anti-realism in Science

(5) Structural Realism 

(6) Mechanism in Physics

(7) Simulation and Modelling

(8) Data and Phenomena

(9) Data Visualisation in the Digital Age

(10) Maths in Practice