PHILOSOPHY 236 - HONORS PHILOSOPHY: SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTIONS

COURSE INFORMATION


Instructor: Dr. Henry J. Folse, Jr.                                                                                     Office: Bobet 414
Office Hours: Tues. & Thurs. 3:30-4:45                                                                           Office Phone: 865-3940
email: folse@loyno.edu

TEXTS:

Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 2nd or 3rd Ed., (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1970).
[Appears as SSR on accompanying syllabus]

Ian Hacking, Representing and Intervening, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983).
[Appears as R&I on accompanying syllabus]

Larry Laudan, Science and Values (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984).
[Appears as S&V on accompanying syllabus]
 
 

GOALS AND OBJECTIVES


How does a scientific account of natural phenomena come to be accepted? What justifies our belief in the scientific account of nature? What is the goal of scientific inquiry? How is scientific inquiry related to "truth"? What is the nature of scientific progress in our understanding of the natural world? In spite of the dominant role science plays as a cognitive authority in the modern world, answers to questions such as these are highly controversial. Many commonly accepted answers to them were dramatically challenged in Thomas Kuhn's now classical work of 1962, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, which is without doubt one of the most influential books to have been published in the last 50 years. While Kuhn's work did not cause this upheaval in thought, it was at the center of the storm when its fury broke and thus is a major touchstone in the volatile debate which has occupied philosophers, historians, and social critics in the decades since. Here we will begin with an examination of the consensus on these questions prior to Kuhn's work, proceed to a careful reading of Kuhn's book itself, and then survey the literature which it has unleashed. In short this course is designed to examine the somewhat chaotic present state of one of the most influential debates in late twentieth-century intellectual history, which has set the stage for how we understand nature and our knowledge of it in the 21st century.. It will take you to the frontiers of one of the most wide ranging philosophical debates of this century, to an exciting arena where today's scholars wage their intellectual battles. It should not only make you conversant with contemporary intellectual currents in a variety of disciplines, but also help awaken you from any dogmatic complacency in what you believe both with respect to scientific knowledge and the relativistic philosophical views which attack it.
NOTE: The following information should answer all your questions concerning attendance, assignments, grading, and exams. You may assume all of the policies stated on this sheet are in effect unless otherwise notified. Students are responsible for familiarizing themselves with these requirements. You may assume that your assignment is as indicated on the accompanying syllabus unless otherwise notified. After the first week of the semester, the instructor will NOT answer questions concerning these matters.
 
Class Attendance: In order to do satisfactory work in this class it is imperative to attend class on a regular basis; however, attendance will not enter directly into computation of the final grade. Failure to attend class, or regular tardy attendance, will inevitably weaken the student's chances for performing well on exams, and thereby affect the final grade. Roll will be called only for the first few weeks of the semester to familiarize the instructor with the students. If you do have a good reason for missing class (e.g.serious illness), it is your responsibility to consult with the instructor to see to it that you know what was covered during the class you missed. It is expected that students will attend class punctually, however, if unforeseen circumstances make you late for class, you should still come late; half a class is better than no class at all.

Study Assignments: Each class will cover a specific study assignment in the texts & handouts. Assignments are given on the accompanying syllabus together with the topic for that day's class. Failure to study carefully each day's assignment BEFORE coming to class will result in an inadequate comprehension of the material covered in that class. Carried to prolonged periods, failure to keep up with the assignments will reduce you to irremediable perplexity. DO NOT FALL BEHIND IN YOUR ASSIGNMENTS!

Class Discussion: This course will consist mostly of lectures intermixed with question and answer exchanges between instructor and students or between the students themselves. From time to time the instructor will put questions to the students as a way of making points to be covered. No formal mechanisms for discussion will be adopted. However, you should feel free to ask questions any time perplexity strikes. The instructor cannot read the students' minds; other than your questions he has no way of knowing how well or poorly you understand the material being covered. DO NOT KEEP QUIET ABOUT WHAT YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND - ASK QUESTIONS WHEN THE PARTICULAR POINT YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND IS BEING DISCUSSED IN CLASS. Students who wait until exam time to inform the instructor of their lack of understanding, will have a poor chance of passing the exam.

Midterm Examination: A midterm exam will be administered after completing SSR, as indicated on the accompanying syllabus. It will consist of five essay questions of which the student will select three, and will cover only parts I & II of the course, which it immediately follows. (20%)

Final Exam: There will be a take-home final exam to be distributed on the last day of class, to be turned in by TUESDAY, MAY 10, by 5:00 p.m. Note: there is no classroom exam scheduled for the date specified by the University. (40%)

Take-Home Essays: Two 2-3 page (typed, double-spaced) essays will be required following Parts I, and III. Each will be in answer to a specific question distributed in class following the in-class exam. These essays will require your reflection on what you have learned, and application of that knowledge to specific problems in the history of science. They will be due one week from the date of distribution. Each will count for 20% of your semester grade.  These take-home essays are to be turned in on the dates specified on the accompanying syllabus. It is expected that essays will be typed or printed by word-processor, and conform to the canons of good English style, as well as exhibiting sound grammar, punctuation, and spelling. It is a good idea to compose your essays using a word-processor; consult with the Writing Across the Curriculum Lab or Academic Computing Services for availability of machines and programs well before the assignment is due. Each of these take-home essays will count for 15% of your semester grade.

Grading: A: 100-90; B+: 89-87; B: 86-80; C+: 79-77; C: 76-70; D+: 69-67; D: 66-60; F: 59-0