version 2019-11-06

HPS 1653 / PHIL 1610 Introduction to Philosophy of Science     

Fall 2019 syllabus and schedule

LECTURES MW 1-1:50 RECITATIONS as scheduled: M2, T1, or W2

(Prof.) Colin Allen <>
Office: CL 1109H
Office hours: T 1:45-2:45 and W 2-3 (and by appointment)

Dasha Pruss <>
Office: CL 1126E
Office hours: T 2-3 and W 3-4 (and by appointment)

Course Description

The aim of this course is to provide a broad survey of some the most fundamental and general questions in philosophy of science, and to cultivate your ability to think through these difficult questions in a clear and critical way. The course is divided in two main parts. In the first part, we follow a text-book presentation of key questions such as: "What is science?", "Is there a unique scientific method?", and "Is science aiming at true theories, or does it only aim at theories that are consistent with observable phenomena?" We tackle these questions by looking at issues such as problem of induction and the nature of scientific explanation. We critically assess the main philosophical views surrounding these questions and issues, and we consider the relevance of historical and sociological approaches to the philosophy of science. In part two, we will focus on some recent primary literature that showcases current approaches to these classic issues. Throughout the course we will be concerned with applications of these general concerns to particular issues in the physical sciences, the life sciences, and the cognitive sciences.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this course you should have a broad understanding of the key issues and approaches in the last 100 years of philosophy of science up to the present day. You will gain more than a passing familiarity with empiricism, logical positivism, the demarcation problem, the problems of induction, the nature of scientific explanation, scientific laws, scientific realism, causal reasoning, scientific revolutions, historical and sociological challenges, naturalistic approaches to the philosophy of science, and feminist perspectives on science. This basis will enable you to read the primary literature and to begin to engage in ongoing debates over such issues as the place of string theory in physics, whether the different sciences can be unified, and whether consciousness in humans and animals can be studied scientifically.

Required Materials

In the reading schedule below "PGS.#" and "Kuhn.#" refer to chapter # in the respective books. Other readings are referred to by author name and date. Note that reading schedule from 10/30 onwards may be rearranged.

Grading Basis

Grades will be based on in-class/recitation participation, including quizzes and exercises, two writing assignments, a midterm, a final.

  1. In-class participation (10 points)
  2. Oct 1, first Writing Assignment due (15 points). 2-3 pages
  3. Oct 23 MIDTERM (25 points)
  4. Nov 22 Second writing assigment due (25 points). 5-8 pages.
  5. Dec 12 4-6pm FINAL (25 points)

A Note on Attendance

Attendance will not be formally monitored but some in class/recitation activities will be graded and will not be available for credit otherwise, except in casses of excused absence. Lecture slides will be used variably during the semester and will only be made available after class if they are used.

Schedule of Readings and Presentations


In-class exercises will assume that you have done the reading in advance. Reading philosophy is hard, so see my Guide to Reading, especially if you have not taken a philosophy class previously.

DateTopicReading Assignments
Mon 08/26 Overview
Wed 08/28 What is Science? PGS.1 and Quanta Mag
Mon 09/02 Labor day - no class
Wed 09/04 Logic & Empiricism PGS.2 and Hempel 1966 "Chapter 2: Scientific inquiry: invention and test"
Mon 09/09 Induction & Confirmation PGS.3 and Goodman 1955 "The new riddle of induction"
Wed 09/11 Falsification PGS.4 and Popper 1962 "Science: conjectures and refutations"
Mon 09/16 Normal Science PGS.5 and Kuhn.I-V
Wed 09/18 Revolutionary Science PGS.6 and K.VI-IX
Mon 09/23 Extending Kuhn Kuhn X-XIII and Hoyningen Huene 1998 "On Thomas Kuhn's philosophical significance"
Wed 09/25 Lakatos, Laudan, Feyerabend PGS.7 and watch
Mon 09/30 catch up!
Wed 10/02 Sociological Challenge PGS.8 and Collins “Elective Modernism” or “The Sociology of Knowledge”
Mon 10/07 Feminist Phil Sci PGS.9 and Lloyd “Objectivity and the double standard for feminist epistemologies”
Wed 10/09 Naturalism PGS.10+11 and Schickore “More Thoughts on HPS: Another 20 Years Later”
Mon 10/14 Sci Realism PGS.12 and Cartwright: “Do the Laws of Physics State the Facts?”
Wed 10/16 catch up!
Mon 10/21 Review
Wed 10/23 MIDTERM
Mon 10/28 Explanation PGS.13
Wed 10/30 More Explanation PGS.13
Mon 11/04 Bayesian Confirmation Theory PGS.14
Wed 11/06 Bayesian Confirmation PGS.14
Mon 11/11 Bayesian Confirmation PGS.14
[optional Norton 2010 "Challenges to Bayesian Confirmation Theory]
[optional Glymour 1980 "Why I am not a Bayesian"]
Wed 11/13 Empiricism + Realism + Naturalism? PGS 15
Mon 11/18 Genes, Genomes, Diseases 2004 Stotz et al. "How biologists conceptualize genes"
Wed 11/20 Genes, Genomes, Diseases 2004 Stotz et al. "How biologists conceptualize genes"
Mon 12/02 Science & Philosophy: a dialogue with Prof. David Finegold, Dept, of Human Genetics tba
Wed 12/04 Final Review
Thu 12/12 Final Exam 4-5:50

Statement for Students with Disabilities
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal anti-discrimination statute that provides comprehensive civil rights protection for persons with disabilities. Among other things, this legislation requires that all students with disabilities be guaranteed a learning environment that provides for reasonable accommodation of their disabilities. If you believe you have a disability requiring an accommodation, please visit Pitt Student Affairs Disability Resources and Services for further information.

Statement about Academic Misconduct

University and Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences rules concerning academic misconduct will be rigorously enforced in this class. As a student at Pitt, you are expected to adhere to the standards and policies detailed in the School's Academic Integrity Code. When you submit assignments with your name on them in this course, you are signifying that the work contained therein is all yours, unless otherwise cited or referenced. Any ideas or materials taken from another source for either written or oral use must be fully acknowledged. If you are unsure about the expectations for completing an assignment or taking a test or exam, be sure to seek clarification beforehand. All suspected violations of the Code will be handled according to School and University policies. Sanctions for academic misconduct may include a failing grade on the assignment, reduction in your final grade, a failing grade in the course, among other possibilities, and must include a report to the Dean of Students.

Diversity and Inclusion

The University of Pittsburgh does not tolerate any form of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation based on disability, race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, genetic information, marital status, familial status, sex, age, sexual orientation, veteran status or gender identity or other factors as stated in the University’s Title IX policy. The University is committed to taking prompt action to end a hostile environment that interferes with the University’s mission. For more information about policies, procedures, and practices, see:

I ask that everyone in the class strive to help ensure that other members of this class can learn in a supportive and respectful environment. If there are instances of the aforementioned issues, please contact the Title IX Coordinator, by calling 412-648-7860, or e-mailing Reports can also be filed online: You may also choose to report this to a faculty/staff member; they are required to communicate this to the University’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion. If you wish to maintain complete confidentiality, you may also contact the University Counseling Center (412-648-7930).

Copyright Notice

Materials provided for the course may be protected by copyright. United States copyright law, 17 USC section 101, et seq., in addition to University policy and procedures, prohibit unauthorized duplication or retransmission of course materials. See Library of Congress Copyright Office and the University Copyright Policy.

Statement on Classroom Recording

To ensure the free and open discussion of ideas, students may not record classroom lectures, discussion and/or activities without the advance written permission of the instructor, and any such recording properly approved in advance can be used solely for the student’s own private use.

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