Topics in the Philosophy of Science
REVOLUTIONS IN SCIENCE
This course is an investigation of how scientific theories change over time that pays special attention to Thomas Kuhn’s idea of “revolutionary” change in science. The course will effectively be a Kuhn sandwich: we will begin with some introductory material, move on to a close reading of Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, and finish by addressing a few of the many questions raised by Kuhn’s work: is political change a good metaphor or model for scientific change? Can we explain scientific change scientifically? Can studying the history of science negatively impact scientific practice? Should the existence of revolutionary change in the history of science undercut our faith in the truth of modern science? Throughout the course we’ll be continually looking at whether theory change is “rational,” whether science is “progressive” in any important sense, and whether science can be seen as converging on a “final” or “fundamental” theory of everything.
Basic Course Structure
This course will be structured as a seminar. For each class (after the first) there will be two required readings, along with a list of recommended (optional) readings. At the beginning of each class two students will be selected at random, each giving a ten (10) minute verbal summary of one of the articles for that day. After the presentations are over, students will discuss the issues raised in the readings, under guidance from the instructor.
Student evaluation will be based on:
- In-Class Presentation (10%)
- Non-Critical Reading Summary (5% x 4 = 20%)
- Critical Reading Summary (10%)
- For-and-Against Assignment (20%)
- Final Essay (40%)
Presentation – 10%
Each assigned reading will be introduced at the beginning of class through a verbal presentation by a randomly selected student. This will ensure that every student is prepared to contribute to subsequent class discussions. These presentations will not need to provide a perfect summary of the material in order for the student to get a perfect grade. The goal will be to demonstrate that one has read and thought about the article by summarizing its main argument and discussing some confusions or objections.
Non-Critical Reading Summary – 5%
Students will be required to produce four different one page (approximately 250 word) summaries of an argument found in the readings. The goal will be to concisely reconstruct the specified argument without providing any critique or assessment of that argument.
Critical Reading Summary – 10%
Students will be required to produce a two page (approximately 500 word) summary of one of the readings. The goal will be to concisely summarize the relevant article by outlining its main argument and to then evaluate this argument.
For-and-Against Assignment – 20%
Students will be required to write two four page essays (approx. 1000 words each). One essay will build the strongest case possible in favour of Kuhn’s picture of scientific change. The other essay will build the strongest case possible against Kuhn’s picture. The essays do not need to address each other, but should attempt to capture both the appeal of Kuhn’s picture and its more disconcerting aspects, respectively.
Final Essay – 40%
Students will be required to write a final essay of eight to ten (8-10) pages in length (approximately 2000-2500 words) on a topic of their choosing related to the course material. Topics must be discussed with and approved by the instructor in person at least three weeks prior to the due date.
Week 1 – The Problems with Scientific Revolutions
Lipton, “The Truth about Science”
Hacking, Representing and Intervening, Ch.1
Week 2 – Logical Empiricism and Falsificationism
Popper, “Science: Conjectures and Refutations”
Ayer, Language, Truth, and Logic
Week 3 – The Structure of Scientific Revolutions – Part I
Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Preface, Ch. 1 and 2
Kuhn, “The Historical Structure of Scientific Discovery”
Week 4 – The Structure of Scientific Revolutions – Part II
Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Ch. 3, 4, and 5
Lavoisier, Elements of Chemistry, preface
Week 5 – The Structure of Scientific Revolutions – Part III
Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Ch. 6, 7, and 8
Einstein, “On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies”
Week 6 – The Structure of Scientific Revolutions – Part IV
Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Ch. 9, 10, and 11
Heisenberg, Physics and Philosophy
Week 7 – The Structure of Scientific Revolutions – Part V
Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Ch. 12, 13, postscript
Porter, “The scientific revolution: a spoke in the wheel?”
Week 8 – Kuhn, after Structure
Kuhn, “Commensurability, Comparability, Communicability”
Kuhn, “Objectivity, Value Judgment, and Theory Choice”
Leahey, “The Mythical Revolutions of American Psychology”
Week 9 – Social and Political Revolutions – A Model for Science?
Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto, selections
Zagorin, “Theories of Revolution in Contemporary Historiography”
Marcos, Our Word is Our Weapon
Week 10 – Sociology of Scientific Knowledge and Feminist Science Criticism
Bloor, Knowledge and Social Imagery, Ch.1
Harding, Whose Science? Whose Knowledge?, Ch.1
Lloyd, “Science and Anti-Science: Objectivity and its Real Enemies”
Feyerabend, “How to Defend Society Against Science”
Week 11 – Sociology of Scientific Knowledge in the History of Science
Brush, “Should the History of Science be Rated X?”
Shapin and Schaffer, Leviathan and the Air-Pump, selections
Shapin, “The Sociology of Scientific Knowledge”
Biagioli, Galileo Courtier
Week 12 – Theory Change and Scientific Realism
Larry Lauden, “A Confutation of Convergent Realism”
John Worrall, “The Best of Both Worlds”
Arthur Fine, “Science Made Up”
Bas van Fraassen, The Scientific Image, Ch.1 and 2