Spring 2023 - PHIL 341 D100

Philosophy of Science (3)

Class Number: 7180

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Th 2:30 PM – 5:20 PM
    WMC 3535, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    Either one of: PHIL 201 or 203; or both of PHIL 100, 100W, or 300, and COGS 200.



A study of the nature of scientific enquiry, classificatory systems, laws and theories, the role of observation in science, the demarcation between science and non-science, causality, the status of theoretical constructs, and teleological explanation.


Philosophy of science is a discipline that studies the nature, methodology and scope of scientific inquiry. Traditionally, it deals with topics such as the demarcation between science and pseudo-science, the nature of scientific explanation, the logical structure of scientific theories, the empirical confirmation of scientific theories, the significance of scientific revolutions, the nature of scientific laws, etc.  

Why study philosophy of science? Whether you are a science student or not, you encounter claims on a daily basis whose validation comes from being "scientific.'' You are to a large extent socially expected to give your assent to claims alleged to be scientific. As a matter of fact, science is today's most powerful social institution in that it alone has the power to change beliefs en masse over very short periods of time. Nowadays, adding the epithet ``scientific'' to an assertion lends it the highest degree of credibility. Accordingly, it is important to refine our conception of what science is, is not, does, does not, can do, can't do, etc. The objective of this introductory course in philosophy of science is to give you conceptual tools to exert critical thought in this respect. No prior background in science or philosophy is assumed for this course, but a willingness to examine abstract problems, arguments, and theories will be required.  

Now, it is often claimed that the best way to understand the nature and methodology of science is by doing science: Why appeal to philosophy to discuss science? Aren't scientists the most qualified people to discuss the scientific method? Such claims ignore the diversity of practices of scientific justification across the fields. As O. Neurath once said, “[t]here is no scientific method. There are only scientific methods. And each of these is fragile; replaceable, indeed destined for replacement; contested from decade to decade, from discipline to discipline, even from lab to lab.” Philosophers of science try to find the objective principles that give grounds to the particular ``methods'' that scientists adopt at different time, for different problems, in different disciplines. Thus, philosophy of science studies the common conceptual ground justifying the adoption of particular ``methods'' in different circumstances. Accordingly, for the same reason that you can be good at riding a bike without knowing how you achieve it, you can be good at doing science without knowing exactly why what you're doing is right. It is in this respect that philosophy of science constitutes a valuable type of enquiry on the nature, methodology, and scope of science.


This course introduces students to logical methods of reasoning and analysis with the objective of enhancing analytical skills.

PHIL 341 is a required course for the Philosophy and Methodology of Science Certificate


  • Participation 5%
  • Commentaries 5%
  • Final project developed in 5 parts over the course of the semester (Part 1: 5%, Part 2: 5%, Part 3: 20%, Part 4: 10%, Part 5: 50%; 90%



No textbooks required.


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

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 philcomm@sfu.ca   More details on our website: SFU Philosophy

New elective grade policy : P/CR/NC, pilot project in place from Spring 2021 to Summer 2023. List of exclusions for the new policy. Specifically for Philosophy: 

  • Students can use a P or CR to satisfy any requirement for a major, joint major, honours, or minor in Philosophy (with the exception of Honours tutorials).
  • Students can use a P or CR to satisfy any prerequisite requirement for any PHIL course.
  • Students can use a P (but not a CR) to satisfy any requirement for the Ethics Certificate, or the Philosophy and Methodology of Science Certificate.
  • Philosophy Majors and Honours students can use a P (but not a CR) to satisfy any WQB requirement.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website http://www.sfu.ca/students/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