PHIL 341 Philosophy of Science

Fall Semester 2013 | Day | Burnaby


INSTRUCTOR: N. Fillion (Nicolas.fillion at


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 is to give you conceptual tools to exert critical thought in this respect. No prior background in science is assumed for this course, but a willingness to examine abstract problems, arguments, and theories will be required.


The readings discussed in class will be based on the following:

  • Balashov, Y. & Rosenberg, A. (Eds.), Philosophy of Science: Contemporary Readings, Routledge, London and New York, 2002, ISBN 978-0415257824
  • Additional material will be posted on the course website (in PDFs).


Late penalties for assignments will be 20% per day. Exceptions will be granted according to university regulations only. The evaluations include no exams and any sort of trickery. Their respective natures and weights will be the following:

  1. Participation: a) attending, not sleeping, not texting, and paying attention in class = 5%; b) commenting of the drafts from two students = 5%. Total 10% of grade
  2. Two (2) homework assignments. Total 10% of grade
  3. Term project in five parts: a) Choice of problem/topic = 5%; b) Report Examination on Literature = 5%; c) Explanation of the problem/topic selected, with brief literature review (4-5 pages) = 15%; d) Presentation = 10%; e) Final project (12-15 pages) = 45%. Total 80% of grade

 Students will be required to submit written work to, which is a plagiarism-detection website.

Prerequisites: PHIL 100, PHIL 210 or 214; and one of PHIL 201 or 203, or COGS 200.