PHIL 560 A: Seminar In The Philosophy Of Science

Meeting Time: 
W 3:30pm - 5:20pm
SAV 408
Andrea Woody headshot
Andrea Woody

Syllabus Description:

Scientific Methods and Methodology


In this seminar we will survey philosophical analyses of the methods of science, reading works that discuss (1) how we should characterize the methods of science, (2) how we should make sense of particular components of method, such as measurement, replication, or randomization, and (3) the most fruitful lines of approach for contemporary accounts of methodology.  We will begin with classic writings by Karl Popper and Pierre Duhem that frame almost all existing philosophical work on scientific methodology.  Then we will turn to particular issues in contemporary philosophy of science, looking at Hasok Chang’s work on measurement, the Harry Collin’s “experimenter’s regress”, and quite recent discussions of the role of “big data”.  Finally, we turn to issues concerning the social structure of science, including Helen Longino’s procedural account of objectivity, more formal work investigating the division of cognitive labor, and discussions of the nature of interdisciplinary collaboration. Throughout the term we will be grappling with a general question: Is contemporary methodology of science (or the sciences) possible, and if so, what should it look like?



1. Weekly readings: Students are asked to read materials prior to attending class. 

2.  During weeks 2-4 and 6-8, each student will be required to present the central ideas of some particular reading to the class.  We will sign up for this duty early in the term.

3. In week 5, each student will be asked to generate a short summary of one article and a short single-point critique of another article.  These will be shared on the course Canvas site.

4. Students are asked to submit a research prospectus (1-2 pages) to the instructor in week 7 of the term.  The document will describe the suggested topic for research, outline anticipated lines of analysis, and list a preliminary set of source materials.

5. In the final weeks of the course, each student will be asked to give a brief presentation of their research (10-15 minutes) to the other members of the seminar.

6. Each student will be required to write a substantial term paper (10-20 pages) on a topic approved by the instructor in relation to the prospectus submitted in week 7.  The paper will be due during exam week, by 3pm on March 19.

Last updated: 
July 22, 2016 - 9:11pm