Spring 2023 - PHIL 144 D100

Introduction to Philosophy of Science (3)

Class Number: 7189

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo 2:30 PM – 3:20 PM
    AQ 3153, Burnaby

    Th 2:30 PM – 4:20 PM
    SSCC 9000, 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 covers central themes in the philosophy of science. We start with “inductivism”, or the thought that science is about generating grand theories from limited observations. We’ll talk about the challenges of this model (basically: you can’t be sure you aren’t just making stuff up) and some alternative models of science proposed in response to the challenges. We then look at Thomas Kuhn’s influential idea that scientific progress is not rational – that our preference for theory A over theory B isn’t because we have reasons to believe that theory A is closer to the truth than theory B. Finally, we look at some boundary patrolling around science, or the idea that some questions are “scientific” questions, while others (e.g. religious, philosophical) are not.


PHIL 144 may be applied towards the Certificate in Philosophy and Methodology of Science, 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).


  • Weekly group discussions (3% x 10) 30%
  • Every Monday, students work in groups to discuss a set of topics given by me at the start of class. Groups are then asked to present their answers to the class. Students receive full credit as long as they are present and participating. Aside from week 1 where there is no discussion, each student is allowed 2 absences.
  • Short writing assignments (10% x 4) 40%
  • They are like mini essays. Each is 2-3 pages long. You will be given prompts.
  • Midterm exam 30%
  • Mostly long answers. There is no final exam.



Philosophy of Science in the Twentieth Century by Donald Gillies

* This book has been ordered by the bookstore

ISBN: 9780631158646

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn

* A physical copy is not required. Excerpts will be provided on Canvas

ISBN: 9780226458120


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