Sidoli, Nathan Camillo
Office hours: Thursday, 4th and 5th
I will put announcements about the class in this space. Please check here periodically as the term progresses.
Seminar on Matter and
Information: Science Studies
Philosophy of Science
Science studies covers a broad range of topics in the history, philosophy and sociology of the sciences wherever and whenever they have been practiced. Because of this scope, there is great diversity in the styles of scholarship practiced and the views about science put forward by scholars in the field. For these reasons, this seminar will be based around a particular theme each term.
In this term, we will be studying Philosophy of Science. In this course, we will try to address some of the most difficult questions about the nature of science. How are scientific facts produced? What makes the sciences different from other fields of intellectual activity? How do the sciences develop, change and progress? What does every educated person needs to know about the sciences?
We will begin with some classics in the field by authors such as Ludwig Fleck, Karl Popper, Thomas Kuhn and Imre Lakatos. We will then study some special topics such as Bayesianism and new theories of evidence, feminist approaches to the philosophy of science, the role of observation and the philosophy of normative sciences, such as medicine and psychology—with an emphasis on the work of Ian Hacking.
Students taking this class will be introduced to the core ideas of the philosophy of science and develop new ways of thinking about the relationship between science, technology and society. Students are expected to do all of the readings, participate actively in classroom discussions, and write a final paper.
A number of papers will be available for download from this site.
Godfrey-Smith, P., 2021. Theory and Reality, 2nd edition. UofC Press: Chicago. (For the 1st edition, 2003, see paranthetical notes below.)
Participation 50% Final paper 50%
The class meets once a week for a seminar discussion. Attendance and participation in class are mandatory and graded. Each week, we will discuss a chapter or two from the text, and other topics of interest. Students are expected to do all the readings, participate actively in the discussions, submit a final paper and give an in class presentation on its contents.
Writing project, 3,000-5,000 words.
The writing project will be done in two phases: (1) a topic proposal and bibliography, and (2) a final paper. You should come up with your own idea for a final project that is based on the works we are studying. The best kind of project will be on a subject in which you are personally interested.
Once you have selected a topic, you should write up a short description of your project (100-300 words), which should be followed by a bibliography (5-10 items). The topic proposal is due at least two weeks before the final paper. Once this has been submitted and approved, you can begin work on your final paper.
Please also read the general guidelines for written assignments.
Discussion Topics, Readings and Assignments
As you read through the readings, you should ask yourself the following questions:
1. What is the overall point that the author is trying to make?
2. What is the author’s argument? What evidence does the author use? What are the strong points of the argument, the weak points?
3. Is the argument convincing? Why, or why not?
4. Why would the author make this kind of argument? What is the broader context in which this is interesting?
What is a scientific fact? (I)
What is a scientific fact? (II)
What is a scientific fact? (III)
What is a science?
How does science change? (I)
How does science change? (II)
How does science progress?
Bayesianism and new theories of evidence
Is scientific knowlege a social construct?
The relationship between mathematics and physics
Observation, and realism about scientific entities
What is a disease? What is philosophy?
Realism about psychological entities