PHIL 144  Introduction to the Philosophy of Natural and  Social Science

Fall Semester 2011 | DAY


INSTRUCTOR     Jill McIntosh, WMC 5606



Required:  (Items 1 through 4 are available through the Book Store)

  • 1.  Custom Courseware
  • 2.  Copernican Questions: A Concise Invitation to the Philosophy of Science. Keith Parsons, McGraw-Hill, 2006
  • 3. Writing Philosophy: A Guide for Canadian Students.  Lewis Vaughn and Jillian Scott McIntosh, Oxford University Press, 2009
  • 4.  i>clicker *
  • 5.  Possibly, works posted on-line or put on reserve.

* 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.  That said, you do not need to own the one you use, but you do need one (the same one) that you can bring to every lecture.  Once term is underway, you will go on-line to link the clicker to your student id to receive credit for its use in this class.  So, borrowing one is fine, but it is your responsibility to ensure you have it when you need it (every lecture) and that you have logged on to link (“register”) it for this class.  You cannot share one with somebody registered in this class—in any given class, a particular clicker can be linked to only one student.  However you get your clicker, it must have a visible original serial number on the back in order for you to link it to your student id.



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? 



  • Participation: 20%
  • First essay: 15%
  • Midterm: 15%
  • Second essay: 25%
  • Final exam: 25%


Note: Students will be required to submit written work to for plagiarism-checking and also, possibly, for anonymous peer review or as the basis for class discussion.

Note: Philosophy 144 may be applied toward one of the B-Science and the B-Humanities requirements (choice of the student, provided s/he is not a Philosophy Major) and to the Certificate in Liberal Arts.

Note: Philosophy 144 has no prerequisites.