Fall 2018 - PHIL 144 D100

Introduction to Philosophy of Science (3)

Class Number: 2716

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo 12:30 PM – 1:20 PM
    SSCC 9000, Burnaby

    We 12:30 PM – 1:20 PM
    SSCC 9000, Burnaby

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Dec 13, 2018
    8:30 AM – 11:30 AM
    AQ 3181, Burnaby



An introduction to philosophical issues concerning the nature of science. Topics to be discussed include the distinction between science and pseudo-science, the nature of scientific method, the nature of explanation in the natural and social sciences, the phenomenon of scientific change, the relationship between scientific theory and observation, and the objectivity of social science. Students with credit for PHIL 244 may not take this course for further credit. Breadth-Humanities/Sciences.


This course aims to provide students with a thought-provoking introduction to some key philosophical issues in the sciences.  It will give them the opportunity to investigate crucial “meta-questions” about the nature, role, and practice of science.  These are not questions answerable by empirical means—rather, they concern foundational issues of method, value, and interpretation.  Possible questions include:  What is the value of science?  What distinguishes science from pseudo-science?  How do we confirm or disconfirm a theory, and what justifies our practice?  Is science objective?  How and why do scientists change their minds?  How and why ought they to change them?  Should we interpret the sciences as making literal claims about the nature of reality?  How do the various sciences (e.g., biology and physics) relate to one another?


PHIL 144 may be applied towards the Philosophy and Methodology of Science Certificate, the Certificate in Liberal Arts, and the Breadth-Humanities Requirement OR the Breadth-Science Requirement (but not both; student can choose which Breadth requirement to satisfy and plan enrollment in other courses accordingly).


  • Participation 20%
  • Two papers (15% and 25%) 40%
  • In-class midterm 10%
  • Final exam 30%


Written work for this course will be submitted via Turnitin, a third party service licensed for use by SFU. Turnitin is used for originality checking to help detect plagiarism. Students will be required to create an account with Turnitin, and to submit their work via that account, on the terms stipulated in the agreement between the student and Turnitin. This agreement includes the retention of your submitted work as part of the Turnitin database. Any student with a concern about using the Turnitin service may opt to use an anonymous identity in their interactions with Turnitin. Students who do not intend to use Turnitin in the standard manner must notify the instructor at least two weeks in advance of any submission deadline. In particular, it is the responsibility of any student using the anonymous option (i.e. false name and temporary e-mail address created for the purpose) to inform the instructor such that the instructor can match up the anonymous identity with the student.




As you may know, i>clickers can be used in different classes.  If you already have one, don’t buy another.  If you don't already have one, buy one knowing that you can use it in other courses, or just borrow one if you can bring it to every lecture and register it.  I>clicker 1 is fine for this course, as I ask only multiple-choice questions.  I>clicker 2 and i-clicker + are also fine, but Web-clicker is not.  Details available early in the term.  Bring your clicker to the very first lecture if you have it, but don’t fret about having one or registering it (until Week 2).


Writing Philosophy: A Guide for Canadian Students, 2nd edition. Lewis Vaughn and Jillian Scott McIntosh, Oxford University Press, 2013.  (ISBN 978-0-19-544674-6)

It Started with Copernicus: Vital Questions about Science. Keith Parsons, Prometheus Books, 2014, (ISBN 978-1-61614-929-1; there is also an e-book: 978-1-6164-930-7)

Once term is underway, the other required readings will be available on-line (password-protected, so only for registered students) via the class website.  This is much cheaper for you than a hardcopy anthology, though (i) you don’t get a cool hefty book for your shelf, (ii) you don’t get to flip through fascinating but unassigned articles, and (iii) you must exercise due diligence in accessing the readings and (preferably) printing them up.  If you would like to buy a good hardcopy anthology, I can advise, but I cannot guarantee that all readings would be from it.

Department Undergraduate Notes:

Thinking of a Philosophy Major or Minor? The Concentration in Law and Philosophy? The Certificate in Ethics? The Philosophy and Methodology of Science Certificate?
Contact the PHIL Advisor at philmgr@sfu.ca   More details on our website: SFU Philosophy

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://students.sfu.ca/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html