Science is a part of your life every day. The ideas and effects of science pervade our society, yet few people stop to think about the nature of science. Does science reveal a hidden reality, or does it just give us ways to manipulate things we see and touch? Does it give us the truth, or is it a game played for social status? What does it mean to say that some things are "unscientific"? And what are the roles of experiments, theory, and creativity in scientific knowledge? Can the history of philosophy and science give us insight into the nature of reality?
We'll investigate philosophical questions about the nature of science by looking at the history of science, and by looking at some philosophical arguments that set the standard for all subsequent philosophy of science. We'll study deep ideas about the nature of scientific knowledge developed Karl Popper, Carl Hempel, and other philosophers of science, and we'll investigate Thomas Kuhn's concept of a scientific "paradigm shift". Kuhn argued that scientific knowledge in any one area of science depends on other scientific knowledge, as well as on the culture within which scientists develop their ideas. The concepts and arguments that Kuhn, Hempel, Popper, and other philosophers of science developed provide the foundation for the deepest, most interesting debates about the nature of science today.
By the way, throughout the course, I try not to teach you what is the "right" way to understand science in general or particular parts of science. Rather, my goal is to help you understand the concepts and reasoning that others have used to understand science so that you will have more sophisticated tools for developing your own views about science.