History & Philosophy of Science

University of Utah, Department of Philosophy, Fall 2011

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General Information


Professor Jonah Schupbach


M, F, 2-3pm
(or by appointment)


M, W, F, 12:55-1:45pm
MBH 302
8/22/2011 - 12/9/2011



From the Course Catalogue: "PHIL 3350 History and Philosophy of Science (3 credit hours) Theories about the aims and methods of science and discussion of the historical development of science. Examples from history of science illustrate different views about science. Topics may include the relations between the sciences and between science and religion."

In more detail: This course offers a historically informed examination of some of the central issues in the philosophy of science. We begin by discussing the very nature and definition of science. Then, with particular cases from the history of scientific thought in mind, we explore some of the most important questions that philosophers of science discuss today. We will study philosophical problems connected with thought experiments, confirmation and disconfirmation of theories, falsifiability and pseudoscience, induction, explanation, empirical equivalence and underdetermination, realism, and other related themes.


By the end of this course and successful completion of all course requirements, the student will be able to do all of the following:



Course Materials


Weekly class times: In typical weeks (where we have all three scheduled class times and no tests, etc.), the usual procedure will be to treat each Monday and Wednesday class as discussion-based lecture and each Friday's class as a discussion and review section. I intend for my “lectures” to draw heavily upon student input and dialogue, and our “discussion section” times will often consist of group activities. Thus, students will be expected to participate throughout the entire class time each week.

Readings: Although I will assign plenty of reading that helpfully summarizes the writings of the great thinkers we will discuss, most of our readings in this course will come straight from those thinkers themselves -- Aristotle, Ptolemy, Copernicus, etc. That means that the reading in this course will often be difficult, but it also means that if you do it carefully and come to understand it, you will be rewarded! To keep up with this course and to get the most out of our class times, you must do the assigned reading slowly and carefully before each class time. I cannot stress enough that you will not be able to do well in this course unless you take the reading requirements seriously! Given that this is the case, and given the difficult nature of many of our readings, I have taken some measures to help you along with the readings. Most importantly, I will provide you with reading guides. These guides will give you advice on (a) the material on which you should most focus, (b) the order in which you should do the various readings as well as when you should have them done by, and (c) how you should understand key concepts that occur in the readings. In addition, these guides will give you a list of questions to think about as you do the reading. Please do follow these guides closely each week as you do the assigned reading.


Timothy McGrew, Marc Alspector-Kelly, and Fritz Allhoff (eds.), Philosophy of Science: An Historical Anthology (Wiley - Blackwell, 2009).

Richard DeWitt, Worldviews: An Introduction to the History and Philosophy of Science, 2nd Edition (Wiley - Blackwell, 2010).

Albert Einstein and Leopold Infeld, The Evolution of Physics: From Early Concepts to Relativity and Quanta (Touchstone, 1938).

  • Note that this book has not changed in content since its original publication in 1938 -- with the exception of a new foreword by Walter Isaacson added in the most recent 2007 printing. The cover, on the other hand, has changed many times. The upshot is that you can buy whatever printing of this text that you like, regardless of whether the cover looks like the one pictured here.
  • Should be available at the University Campus Store.
  • Online: [Simon & Schuster] [Amazon] [Barnes & Noble]

COURSE Requirements


Attendance is required in this course. By not coming to class, students will be hurting their own final course grades in several ways. First off, and most obviously, such students will miss important course content; as a consequence, students who miss class will not do as well on tests or in class discussion. Secondly, students who miss class will be likely to miss other important course requirements that do directly count for a portion of one's final grade. This includes unannounced quizzes as well as participation.


(10% of final grade)

Learning will come much more easily to everyone, and the course will be far more enjoyable if students actively participate in their education! That is why I emphasize student participation and discussion in the classroom. I expect students to bring questions, ideas, and insights to class and to be prepared to share them. Of course, if you're not attending class, then you're not participating very well either; thus, remember that poor attendance will negatively affect this part of your final grade. Also, note that the value of your contribution to class times will depend on whether and how well you have done the assigned reading ahead of time.


(30% of final grade)

This course is part history and part philosophy. Either way you look at it, it needs to be reading intensive. Our primary sources for learning are the readings that we will work through from week to week. Thus, it is absolutely crucial that you are doing the readings very carefully before class. Accordingly, I will help you all by writing up reading guides for each week's texts. In order to make sure that you are doing the reading and doing it well, I reserve the right to pop a quiz on you over the reading material from time to time and as much as I like. Quiz questions are intended to be easy for those who have carefully read the required text, and they will often simply consist of a question pulled directly from that week's reading guide.


(3 x 20% of final grade each)

Each exam will consist of some combination of multiple-choice, short answer, and essay questions. The exams will cover significant ideas and arguments treated in the course -- those covered in the readings and class times. We will spend one full class time reviewing the relevant material together before each exam. Check the course calendar and schedule for exam dates, times, and locations.


Final letter grades will follow a standard 10-point scale: 98-100 A+, 92-98 A, 90-92 A-, 88-90 B+, 82-88 B, 80-82 B-, etc.

Policies, etc.


Students will not be allowed to make up missed quizzes or tests without a valid reason excusing them and evidence of that reason (e.g., sickness and a doctor’s note).


Please turn off your electronic devices during class. This very much includes your cell phones! If you absolutely feel like you have to have your tablet or laptop with you to take notes during class, please talk to me outside of class to attain permission.


All students are expected to adhere to the standards of academic honesty. Any student engaged in cheating, plagiarism, or other acts of academic dishonesty, would be subject to disciplinary action. Students should refer to the University of Utah Student Code for a description of academically dishonest behavior and a summary of the disciplinary actions that the University will take in punishing students who do not adhere to the standards described therein.


The University of Utah seeks to provide equal access to its programs, services and activities for people with disabilities. If you will need accommodations in the class, reasonable prior notice needs to be given to the Center for Disability Services, 162 Olpin Union Building, 581-5020 (V/TDD). CDS will work with you and the instructor to make arrangements for accommodations. All information in this course can be made available in alternative format with prior notification to the Center for Disability Services.