PHI-20020 - Philosophy of Science
Coordinator: Sophie Allen Tel: +44 1782 7 33364
Lecture Time: See Timetable...
Level: Level 5
Credits: 15
Study Hours: 150
School Office:

Programme/Approved Electives for 2023/24


Available as a Free Standing Elective






Barred Combinations


Description for 2023/24

This module introduces you to some general topics in the philosophy of science. What is science and can we distinguish science from other forms of enquiry? What are scientific theories about? Do scientists discover what there is in the world, or are scientific theories tools with which we predict and explain? Is there a scientific method, and what does it involve? How are scientific theories, models or hypotheses confirmed or rejected? What is the relationship between evidence and theory? Does science make progress? And if so, how does it progress? Is scientific enquiry free from social, political, and cultural influences?
Topics which will be discussed include the nature of scientific explanation, the relationship between the sciences, probability, causation, laws of nature (and whether there are any), and the major philosophical movements in the philosophy of science of the last 150 years. There will also be the chance to explore how philosophical concepts and analysis can be applied (and perhaps mis-applied) to on-going and historical examples of scientific research, with examples drawn from physics (quantum theory and cosmology), chemistry, biology, and even geology.
This module will not presuppose any prior philosophical or scientific knowledge.

The module aims to introduce students to the main concepts, questions and debates in the area and to enable them to develop their own views on a range of key issues in the philosophy of science

Talis Aspire Reading List
Any reading lists will be provided by the start of the course.

Intended Learning Outcomes

make use accurately of the terminology specific to philosophy of science: 1,2
present clearly and analyse important positions in the philosophy of science: 1,2
evaluate and present their own views of key arguments and positions in the area; be able to give examples from the history of science to illustrate philosophical questions: 1,2
select particular aspects of a fundamental problem and research a range of answers with a view to assessing them in a concise essay; understand the main traditions in contemporary philosophy of science, and their historical development
: 1,2
present clearly and concisely in writing the material introduced and discussed in the course and reflect independently and in an informed way on the positions discussed: 2
independently engage with scientific research, at least on a non-technical level, in order to recognise the occurrence of and to appreciate the relevance of some of the philosophical problems discussed in the course: 2
explain how philosophical allegiance to a wider philosophical movement (e.g. logical empiricism) influences and constrains the range of answers which can be given on narrower philosophical points (e.g. the nature of scientific explanation): 1,2
understand and explain how the social, cultural and political environment may affect the progress of science, and to give examples of these influences: 2
demonstrate knowledge of some important issues, positions and arguments in the philosophy of science; explain and evaluate accounts of the relationship between evidence and theory: 1,2

Study hours

This is a one-semester module taught on the basis of:
- 10 1-hour weekly lectures
- 10 1-hour weekly seminars
Breakdown of study hours:
Lectures: 10 hours
Seminars: 10 hours
Seminar preparation: 32
Preparation for video: 48
Preparation for exam: 50

School Rules


Description of Module Assessment

1: Assignment weighted 50%
A video project on a topic from the first part of the course
Students will be asked to make a 10-15 minute video to explain and discuss a philosophical problem chosen from a list of questions provided in the module guide; the questions will be draw on material studied in the first part of the module. A wide range of presentation styles will be acceptable, with details and suggestions given in the module guide. Students will be encouraged to be creative in their presentation while also being clear and precise in what they say. They will have the option of appearing in person on the video, providing an audio explanation, or producing the video in such a way that the visuals convey the explanation. In view of this wide range of options, this assessment should be suitable for most students. Alternative assessment will be provided for students whose learning support needs make the production of a video exceptionally difficult. In this case, students should see the module convenor to discuss alternatives.

2: Open Book Examination weighted 50%
2 questions to be answered from a choice in two hours of a 28 hour assessment window
Students will have an assessment window of 28 hours to choose two questions from a list of six and submit answers to KLE. Suggested writing time is 2 hours, excluding references and proof-reading. Questions will focus on topics discussed in the second part of the module. Further guidance and suggested preparatory reading will be available on KLE.