Instructor: Dr. Henry J. Folse, Jr. Office Phone: 865-3940
Office: Bobet 414 Office Hours: Tues. & Thurs.: 3:30-4:45 p.m., or by appointment
Objectives of Course: This is a basic survey of the problems addressed in contemporary philosophy of
science. We will begin with the epistemic question of why scientific explanations are worthy of
acceptance or belief. This will require investigating what makes an explanation scientific, what
rationality governs, acceptance, change or rejection scientific theories. We will then turn to the
metaphysical issue of the relation between scientific theories and the nature of reality. How are we to
understand theories: as true descriptions of the causes of natural phenomena, or as constructions
adopted for their pragmatic successes? This will lead us to confront the central metaphysical question
of the relation between the highest epistemic attainments of our culture and the nature of reality. We
will conclude with an investigation of some of the central explanatory concepts of contemporary
physics and what, if anything, they tell us about the nature of reality and the knowledge it is possible for
human beings to have of it.
Prerequisites: There are no absolute prerequisites in this course, but it is strongly advised that students
have had at least two previous courses in philosophy before taking this course. Both Symbolic Logic
and Epistemology are useful courses for preparing the student for this course. This is NOT a common
curriculum course and will NOT count as credit towards the student's common curriculum requirement
in philosophy. This course is not required for philosophy majors, but it will, of course, count towards
the required elective hours for the major.
Texts: The following texts are available in the bookstore and should be purchased at once:
Klee, Robert, Introduction to the Philosophy of Science: Cutting Nature at Its Seams (New York:
Oxford University Press, 1997).
Klee, Robert, ed., Scientific Inquiry: Readings in the Philosophy of Science (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1999).
In addition, students should purchase at the Philosophy Department Office a photocopy of the
Commentary Text: Introductory Lectures on Empiricism in Philosophy of Science, as prepared for
Philosophy 300: Part I. Students will need to pay the cost of photoduplication to the departmental
NOTE: The following information should answer all your questions concerning attendance,
assignments, grading, and exams. You may assume all of the policies stated on this sheet are in effect
unless otherwise notified. Students are responsible for familiarizing themselves with these
requirements. You may assume that your assignments are as indicated on the accompanying syllabus
unless otherwise notified. After the first week of the semester, the instructor will NOT answer
questions concerning matters covered on this hand-out.
Class Attendance: In order to do satisfactory work in this class it is imperative to attend class on a
regular basis; however, attendance will not enter directly into computation of the final grade. Failure to
attend class, or regular tardy attendance, will inevitably weaken the student's chances for performing
well on exams, and thereby affect the final grade. Roll will be called only for the first few weeks of the
semester to familiarize the instructor with the students. If you do have a good reason for missing class
(e.g. serious illness), it is your responsibility to consult with the instructor to see to it that you know
what was covered during the class you missed. It is expected that students will attend class punctually,
however, if unforeseen circumstances make you late for class, you should still come late; half a class is
better than no class at all.
Study Assignments: Each class will cover a specific study assignment in the texts. In a course at this
level, readings are quite demanding: students should expect to be reading approximately 60 pages per
week. These readings are all written by contemporary authors, but some involve a modest degree of
technical discussion. You should budget at least 3 hours per week for reading the assignments of this
course. Failure to study carefully each day's assignment BEFORE coming to class will result in an
inadequate comprehension of the material covered in that class. Carried to prolonged periods, failure
to keep up with the assignments will reduce you to irremediable perplexity. DO NOT FALL BEHIND
IN YOUR ASSIGNMENTS! If you fail to understand the material after careful study, come to class
prepared with specific questions. If you miss class or fail to understand the material after the Instructor
has gone over it in class, then you should consult the Instructor as soon as possible during office hours,
or if that is not possible, by special appointment.
Class Discussion: This course will consist mostly of lectures intermixed with question and answer
exchanges between instructor and students. You should feel free to ask questions -indeed you are
urged to- any time perplexity strikes. The instructor cannot read the students' minds; other than your
questions he has no way of knowing how well or poorly you understand the material being covered.
DO NOT KEEP QUIET ABOUT WHAT YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND - ASK QUESTIONS
WHEN THE PARTICULAR PROBLEM YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND IS BEING DISCUSSED
IN CLASS. Students who wait until exam time to inform the instructor of their lack of understanding,
will have a poor chance of performing well on the exam.
Grades and Requirements
Examinations: There will be three take-home exams to be turned in approximately one week after
they are distributed. The first two of these exams will be during the semester, following Parts II and
IV; they will concern only those sections of the course which have preceded that exam. The final exam
following Part VI will be distributed on the last day of classes and will be due on the date specified by
the university for the final exam; it will include both questions concerned with Parts V & VI of the
syllabus and synoptic questions concerned with the course as a whole. The first two will consist of five
essay questions, the final will have six. Each question will require an approximately two page (typed
double spaced) essay in response. Questions will concern directly the readings and the class lectures.
By the date of the final exam, each student must have turned in essays in answer to any TEN of the
questions over the three exams. You must answer at least two (recommended: three) from each exam.
You will have at least one week from the distribution of each exam to the date to turn in essays. It is
expected that essays will be typed or printed by word-processor, and conform to the canons of good
English style, as well as exhibiting sound grammar, punctuation, and spelling. You may want to
consult with the Writing Across the Curriculum Lab for assistance in writing essays and the term paper.
Each essay will account for 7% of the student's grade.
Term Paper: Students are required to submit a term paper no later than the last class, Tuesday, May
5, by 5 p.m. Papers should be approximately 2000 words, i.e. 8 -10 pages, typed double-spaced, and
are expected to show significant evidence of research beyond materials covered in class. The term
paper should be a more extensive inquiry into some philosophical problem raised in the course or by
the questions discussed in class, but it should not be just a repeat of what has been said in lectures or
assigned readings. Again, it is recommended that the term paper be produced using word-processing
facilities. A handout listing various suggested topics and readings will be distributed in class, but
students should realize that the choice of topic is part of the learning experience that the term paper
assignment is intended to induce. Students should begin considering paper topic as early as possible
and should confer with the Instructor for permission and advice in pursuing the chosen topic. The term
paper will count for 30% of your grade.
Grading: A: 100-90 B+: 89-87 B: 86-80 C+: 79-77 C: 76-70; D+: 69-67 D: 66-60 F: 59-0