Philosophy of Science and Technology

Dr. Harry P. Reeder

I. Objectives: No philosophical background is required or presumed for this course. The course will consider the methodology of scientific investigation, with its effect upon the problems of the proper objects of scientific inquiry, and of scientific development. The following questions will provide the focus of the course: Is any question a scientific one? If not, how can we separate scientific questions from non-scientific ones? And, given the vast changes in "the scientific outlook" over the years, can we find a fixed methodology to act as a proper guide for further research? Finally, what are the roles of induction, deduction, and mathematics in the natural sciences?

II. Format: After an introduction to the nature and practice of philosophy of science, there will be a short "historical background" to modern science, tracing the discussion of scientific method back to ancient Greece. Then we will discuss two influential modern views of scientific methodology in detail: those of Sir Karl Popper and Thomas S. Kuhn. Because of the nature of philosophy, it is essential for students to attend every class, and to come prepared to discuss the assigned readings; if you must miss a class it is your responsibility to get notes from someone else. Because the exams will include material from the lectures it is also essential for students to TAKE NOTES in class (pen and paper!); I have noticed an alarming trend of students failing to take notes, and it has adversely affected their grades. Philosophy is not a spectator sport!

III. Texts: H. Reeder, Logic Notes (to be handed out in class)
H. Butterfield, The Origins of Modern Science (B)
K. Popper, Objective Knowledge (P)
T.S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (K)
The following article will be on e-Reserve: Richard H. Price and Kip S. Thorne, "The Membrane Paradigm for Black Holes," Scientific American, April, 1988, pp. 69-77.

IV. Assignments: (Graduate assignments differ) There will be two exams, two short homework assignments, and a final exam. The two exams will each be worth 20% of the course mark. The two homework assignments will each be worth 10% of the course mark. The final exam will be worth 40% of the course mark. See Tentative Course Calendar for due dates. Final exam at time scheduled by the university.

The two homework assignments will consist of 2 to 3 pages. In these critiques, the student is asked to criticize some element of the philosopher's view (to argue why they are wrong at a particular point). These assignments will help to prepare the student for the final exam. The exams will be a combination of objective and short-essay questions. The final exam question(s) will be handed out in the final class session. Students may study for the exam, and prepare one 3x5" index card (both sides) with notes, outlines, quotations, etc. to bring to the final exam. The 3x5" card must be handed in with the final exam.

LATE ASSIGNMENTS will not be accepted, except in extraordinary (and documented) circumstances.

V. Attendance and Drop Policy: Attendance of EVERY class is a minimum requirement of this course. The work done in class in mostly NOT repeated in the text. Each student is responsible for getting notes and announcements from class that he/she has missed. The instructor cannot drop students from the class. To drop, a student must fill out a drop slip (and then in accordance with university rules).

VI. Academic Dishonesty: It is the philosophy of the University of Texas at Arlington that academic dishonesty is a completely unacceptable mode of conduct and will not be tolerated in any form. All persons involved in academic dishonesty will be disciplined in accordance with University regulations and procedures. Discipline may include suspension or expulsion from the University.

"Scholastic dishonesty includes but is not limited to cheating, plagiarism, collusion, the submission for credit of any work or materials that are attributable in whole or in part to another person, any act designed to give unfair advantage to a student or to the attempt to commit such acts." (Regents' Rules and Regulations, Part One, Chapter VI, Section 3.2, Subdivision 3.22)

VII. Americans With Disabilities Act: The University of Texas at Arlington is on record as being committed to both the spirit and letter of federal equal opportunity legislation; reference Public Law 9311—The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as amended. With the passage of new federal legislation entitled Americans with Disabilities Act—(ADA), pursuant to section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, there is a renewed focus on providing this population with the same opportunities enjoyed by all citizens.

As a faculty member, In am required by law to provide "reasonable accommodation" to students with disabilities, so as not to discriminate on the basis of that disability. Student responsibility primarily rests with informing faculty at the beginning of the semester and in providing authorized documentation through designated administrative channels.

VIII. Aid for Students: The University of Texas at Arlington supports a variety of student success programs to help you connect with the University and achieve academic success. They include learning assistance, developmental education, advising and mentoring, admission and transition, and federally funded programs. Students requiring assistance academically, personally, or socially should contact the Office of Student Success Programs at 817-272-6107 for more information and appropriate referrals.

IX. Tentative Course Calendar:
Reading Assignment
Written Assignment
1 Logic sheets What is Philosophy? What is the Philosophy of Science? How to study? What can Philosophy do for science? Basic logic
2 Logic sheets The logic of science: induction vs. deduction
3 K-Ch. 1-2; P-Appendix 1 Outline of the views of Popper and Kuhn
4 B-Ch. 1-3 History of Science: Pre-Socratics to Aristotle
5 B-Ch. 4-7 History of Science: Copernicus to Bacon
6 B-Ch. 8-10 Exam 1 History of Science: Descartes to Positivism
7 B-Ch. 11-12 History of Science: the modern predicament
8 P-Ch. 1, 2, 5 Popper
9 P-Ch. 3 Popper critique Popper
10 P-Ch. 6 Popper
11 K-Ch. 3-6 Kuhn
12 K-Ch. 7-9 Exam 2 Kuhn
13 K-Ch. 10-12 Kuhn
14 K-Ch. 13, Postscript Kuhn critique Kuhn
15 Review Kuhn

Back to the top

Go back to Professor Reeder's Home Page

Go to Philosophy and Humanities Web Page