PHIL 144 Introduction to the Philosophy of Natural and Social Science

Fall Semester 2013 | Day | Burnaby


INSTRUCTOR: J. McIntosh, WMC 5606 (jillmc at


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?


(1 through 4 are available through the Book Store)

  1. Custom Courseware: Selected Readings
  2. Custom Courseware: Copernican Questions: A Concise Invitation to the Philosophy of Science. Keith Parsons, McGraw-Hill, 2006
  3. Writing Philosophy: A Guide for Canadian Students, 2nd edition. Lewis Vaughn and Jillian Scott McIntosh, Oxford University Press, 2012
  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, or just borrow one if you can bring it to every lecture. I>clicker 1 is fine for this course, as I ask only multiple-choice questions. Later versions, such as i>clicker 2 should work fine, too, but Web-clicker will not. Details available in the first two weeks of class. Bring your clicker to the very first lecture if you have it, but don’t fret (until Week 3).


  • Participation -  20%       
  • First essay - 15%
  • Second essay - 25%      
  • In-class midterm - 15%
  • Final exam - 25%

 Students will be required to submit written work to for plagiarism-checking; also, other sites may be used for anonymous peer review or as the basis for class discussion. Details by the end of Week 3.

Prerequisites: Philosophy 144 has no prerequisites. Philosophy 144 may be applied toward one of the B-Science and the B-Humanities requirements, and to the Certificate in Liberal Arts.