Skip to main content

Unit information: Philosophy of Science in 2018/19

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Philosophy of Science
Unit code PHIL30049
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Lena Zuchowski
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Philosophy
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit examines central issues in contemporary general philosophy of science. It would complement units offered in philosophy of particular sciences but is designed as a stand-alone unit focusing on scientific methodology and epistemology. Topics studied include: falsificationism and induction; probability and Bayesian confirmation; scientific explanation; scientific revolutions; underdetermination; laws of nature; realism versus antirealism; science and risk. The unit does not assume either previous study of philosophy of science or experience of studying science, although it does demand a willingness to become familiar with illustrative examples, from science, of the philosophical issues. Suggested initial background reading: Philosophy of Science: A Very Short Introduction, Samir Okasha (2002, OUP).

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of the unit, students will be expected to be able to:

  1. Identify and discuss key debates within the philosophy of natural science. Topics include Scientific Confirmation, Explanation, Underdetermination, Scientific Revolutions, Probability and Bayesian approaches, Laws, Realism.
  2. Critically assess arguments made in the relevant philosophical literature.
  3. Explain, in a written argument, the strengths and weaknesses of positions taken within these debates.
  4. Communicate these arguments with clear, fluent writing.
  5. Develop and demonstrate research skills.

Teaching details

1 x 2-hour lecture and 1 x 1-hour seminar per week.

Assessment Details

Formative: one 2500 word essay designed to test the intended learning outcomes. (Tests ILOs 1 - 5)

Summative: one 3-hour unseen exam designed to test the intended learning outcomes. (Tests ILOs 1-4)

Reading and References

Key Reading:

Alexander Bird and James Ladyman (eds) Arguing About Science