Last updated 04/15/2023 — accessed:

HPS 1653 / PHIL 1610 — Introduction to Philosophy of Science

Spring 2023 Syllabus and Schedule

LECTURES MW 1:00-1:50, CL 144 RECITATIONS as scheduled Mon 2:00-2:50, Tue 1:00-1:50, or Wed 2:00-2:50

(Prof.) Colin Allen <>
Office: CL 1109H
Office hours: Mondays 3:20-5:00 in CL 1109H and by appointment on Zoom
Canvas site:

Caitlin Mace <>
Office: CL 1126D
Office hours: Wed 11:30-12:30 and Friday 12:00-1:00

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 the 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. After the midterm we will revisit these issues by reading some of the primary literature, including some older classics and some more recent articles that showcase current approaches to these 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 to philosophy of science, 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 how to think about "the scientific method", whether the different sciences can be unified, the extent to which different kinds of "values" do and should enter into scientific reasoning, and how different positions on these issues affect our understanding of questions arising in specific sciences, such as whether string theory in physics is properly "scientific", or whether the mental states of animals can be investigated scientifically. We will begin reading a textbook presentation and end by reading original primary sources.

Course Delivery / Health & Safety

We begin the semester with in-person meetings, but the pandemic is not over, and the university's operating posture may change as specified at Even if you are comfortable unmasked, you are expected to be respectful or others who may choose to wear a mask for whatever reason.

Required Materials

Grading Basis

Grades will be based on three exams, in weeks 5, 10 and 15 (finals week) each worth 30% of the grade, and 10% assigned for participation and extra exercises assigned during recitation sections. The exams are scheduled as shown below.

  1. Monday Feb 6: MIDTERM 1 (30 points).
  2. Monday Mar 13: MIDTERM 2 (30 points).
  3. Thursday Apr 27: FINAL (30 points).
  4. Lecture/recitation participation (10 points).

Midterms and final may possibly have a take-home option, and if so, the work will be due via Canvas by midnight on the day before the scheduled examination, but will be accepted without penalty until 8 a.m. the next morning. THERE IS NO LATE OPTION -- if you miss the take-home deadline, you are required to take the exam in person. Genuine emergencies must be documented before alternative arrangements can be made. IF YOU KNOW OF A CONFLICT IN ADVANCE YOU MUST DISCUSS IT WITH THE INSTRUCTOR AT LEAST 14 DAYS BEFORE THE EXAM.

Some of you may find this guide to writing philosophy papers useful.

Letter grades will be based on the following scale:
[97-100, A+]   [94-96, A]   [90-93, A-]   [87-89, B+]   [84-86, B]   [80-83, B-]   [77-79, C+]   [74-76, C]   [70-73, C-]   [60-69, D]   [0-59, F]

A Note on Attendance

Attendance will not be formally monitored but some in-lecture/recitation activities will be graded for the purpose of determining participation scores, and will not be available for outside of class except in cases of excused absence. Lecture slides will be used intermittently during the semester and will only be made available after class, if they are used.

Schedule of Readings, Topics, and Major Assignments

The reading load is substantial compared to science classes, but fewer pages than you might be assigned in a literature or history course. Here's what a former student from this course in Fall 2019 wrote:

“Lots of reading, but it's worth it to work to understand it.”

Lectures and recitations, including certain class-time exercises will assume that you have done the reading for that day in advance. Reading philosophy is hard; it is less easy to skim-read than other kinds of content, so see my Guide to Reading, especially if you have not taken a philosophy class previously. Don't expect to be able to do it entirely on your own. If you reach something you just don't understand, that's perfect! — discuss it with your classmates and/or bring up with your TA or me.

In the schedule, B&K# refers to chapter # in the textbook by Barker & Kitcher.


DateTopic / EventReading Assignments

Mon 01/09 1. Introduction to the course Read this syllabus!
Wed 01/11 2. Science and Philosophy of Science • B&K. Preface+Chapter 1 (11 pages) low-quality scan in case you're waiting for access to the textbook
• Wolchover 2015 Quanta Magazine article "A Fight for the Soul of Science" (8 pages)

Mon 01/16 MLK day -- NO CLASS
Wed 01/18 3. Deduction, Induction, Abduction • B&K.1 (reread) and
• Douven 2017 Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on "Abduction" (2.5 page excerpt)

Mon 01/23 4. The Analytic Project • B&K.2: Read at least the first two sections: "Demarcating Science" and "Confirmation" (22.5/36 pages)
• Read a few pages of Popper 1962 "Science: Conjectures and Refutations" (full article isassigned later)
Wed 01/25 5. Hypothetico-Deductive Method • Review/Finish B&K.2 (13.5/36 pages)
• Read a few pages of Hempel 1966 Ch2 of "Scientific inquiry: invention and test" (full article is assigned later)

Mon 01/30 6. The View from the Sciences • B&K.3 (27 pages)
• Read a few pages of Dietrich and Mitchell 2006 "Integration without unification" (to be finished later)
Wed 02/02 7. The View from the Sciences (cont'd) • finish reading B&K.3

Mon 02/06 — Midterm 1
Wed 02/08 8. Science, History & Society • B&K.4 (26 pages)
• Start reading Kuhn 1970 Structure of Scientific Revolutions excerpt (7 pages)

Mon 02/13 9. Science, History, and Society (cont'd) • Finish Kuhn excerpt
Wed 02/15 10. Critical Voices • B&K.5 (First three sections, 16 pages)
• Read about Barbara McClintock

Mon 02/20 11. Critical Voices cont'd • Finish B&K.5 (13 pages)
• Read a few pages (or more) of Lloyd 1995 "Objectivity and the Double Standard for Feminist Epistemologies" (full article is assigned in April)
Wed 02/22 12. Science, Values, and Politics • B&K.6 (27 pages)

Mon 02/27 13. Science Values and Politics (cont'd) • Review/finish B&K.6
• Read a few pages (or more) of Douglas 2000 "Values and Inductive Risk in Science" (full article is assigned in April)
Wed 02/29 Midterm Review Review all previous materials

Mon 03/06 Spring Break, no class!
Wed 03/08 Spring Break, no class!

Mon 03/13 — Midterm 2
Wed 03/15 14. Hypothetico-Deductive Method • Hempel 1966 Ch2 of "Scientific inquiry: invention and test" (16 pages)

Mon 03/20 15. H-D part 2 • Goodman 1955 "The new riddle of induction" (25 pages)
Wed 03/2216. Falsificationism • Popper 1962 "Science: Conjectures and Refutations" (21 pages)

Mon 03/27 17. Empiricism after Kuhn • Cartwright 1983 "Do Laws State Facts?" (14 pages)
Wed 03/29 18. Objectivity • Lloyd 1995 "Objectivity and the Double Standard for Feminist Epistemologies" (26 pages)

Mon 04/03 19. Values • Douglas 2000 "Values and Inductive Risk in Science" (20 pages)
Wed 04/05 20. Third Wave Sociology of Science • Collins 2019 "Elective Modernism" (23 pages)

Mon 04/10 21. Pluralism and Pragmatism • Dietrich and Mitchell 2006 "Integration without unification: an argument for pluralism in the biological sciences"
Wed 04/12 22. Scientific Ontology • Fuller 2018 "What are chronic diseases?" (22 pages)

Mon 04/17 23. Artificial Intelligence Karlan & Allen (2022) Engineered wisdom for learning machines
Wed 04/19 24. Review Q&A catch up!

**THURSDAY** April 27 — Final Exam

Statement about Academic Misconduct

Students in this course will be expected to comply with the University of Pittsburgh’s Policy on Academic Integrity. Any student suspected of violating this obligation for any reason during the semester will be required to participate in the procedural process as outlined in the University Guidelines on Academic Integrity. 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. This includes output taken from ChatGPT or other AI models. If you are unsure about the expectations for completing an assignment or taking a test or exam, be sure to seek clarification beforehand.

To learn more about Academic Integrity, visit the Academic Integrity Guide for an overview of the topic. For hands-on practice, complete the tutorial on Understanding and Avoiding Plagiarism.

Diversity and Inclusion

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 have a disability for which you are or may be requesting an accommodation, you are encouraged to contact both your instructor and Disability Resources and Services (DRS), 140 William Pitt Union, 412-648-7890,, 412-228-5347 for P3 ASL users, as early as possible in the term. DRS will verify your disability and determine reasonable accommodations for this course.

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 Pitt's Civil Rights & Title IX Compliance pages.

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, you may 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 may also be required to communicate about such issues 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.

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.

At certain times, lectures or portions of the lectures may be recorded by the instructor. Before starting recording, it will be announced to the class. Students who do not wish to be identifiable during such recordings may remain silent and obscure their faces either by turning off their own video feed if connected via Zoom or obscuring their faces if in the classroom.

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.