HPSC2101 & HPSC2901 (advanced) - Introduction to Philosophy of Science: What Is This Thing Called Science?

Semester 2 -2013


Prerequisites: 24 credit points of Junior units of study
This is a qualifying unit of study for History and Philosophy of Science Senior units of study
6 credit points
Three lectures (3x 1-hour), plus one tutorial (1x 1-hour) per week
(see timetable)
Assessment: essays, tutorial work, tests

Note: Unless enrolled in the Talented Student Program or 24 junior units with a distinction average have been obtained, departmental permission is required for enrolment in HPSC2900 (advanced)



What Distinguishes Science from Other Forms of Knowledge?

Does Science Enable Us to Know Reality?



What distinguishes creationism from evolutionary theory, or astrology from astronomy, if anything? Should we believe that today's theories are improvements on those that preceded them? And how do we know that what we see and do in scientific practice reflects what is really out there? This course critically examines the most important attempts to define the 'scientific method', to draw a line dividing science from non-science, and to justify the high status and reliability generally accorded to scientific knowledge. The 'philosophies of science' studied include Popper's idea that truly scientific theories are 'falsifiable', and that certain theories are unfalsifiable 'pseudo-science'; Kuhn's proposal that science consists of a series of 'paradigms' separated by 'scientific revolutions'; and Feyerabend's 'anarchist' claim that there are no objective criteria by which science can be distinguished from pseudoscience. The course also explores contemporary theories about the nature of science including the experimental method; underdetermination; scientific explanation; theory confirmation; realism; social values in science; sociological approaches to understanding science; and scientific change.


In This Unit of Study We Will Discuss:

  • Science versus Pseudoscience
  • The Scientific Method
  • Scientific Progress
  • Sociopolitical Influences on Science
  • Is Science is Value Free
  • Can We Have Certainty about Our World?