This course provides an introduction to Western history and philosophy of science. Students will be provided with a foundation for understanding how knowledge is created and validated in the natural and social sciences. The course introduces students to basic concepts in the history and philosophy of science in order to help understand where interdisciplinarity enters into research and policy and how it is challenged and challenging. Understanding different approaches and justifications for epistemologies and methodologies will allow students to critically evaluate the grounds upon which different experts make their knowledge claims in public policy fora. The lectures are followed-up with reading sessions where specific questions are raised in relation to understanding in social sciences with emphasis on implications for social ecological economics. At the end of the course students should understand the role of validating information and creating knowledge in a critical social science.
Starting from the basic question of what is science the course moves on to concepts of ontology, epistemology and methodology. The meaning of argumentation is explored and specifically induction and deduction. Theories of explanation in a scientific context are described. The course then covers the history of Western philosophy including Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Descartes, Locke, Hume and Kant. The history and philosophy of science is brought up to date with coverage of the Vienna Circle, the role of constructivism, theories of paradigm shifting and finally critical realism. One aim is to show how critical realism provides a pathway between naïve objectivism and constructivism. Topics are covered in lectures and through associated readings.
At the end of the course students will comprehend and be able to explain a range of terminology in philosophy of science. They will be aware of basic flaws associated with different approaches to creating scientific understanding and generating knowledge. The historical context within which ideas developed and how modernity arose is a key aspect of the course. The role of specific philosophers in the development of scientific thought will be learnt and students will be able to associate specific philosophical ideas with key individuals. The course aims to enable students to comprehend the different ontological and epistemological assumptions in different bodies of research today and as used by different disciplinary experts in addressing social and environmental problems. This will aid them in critical analysis of speakers, written work and policy documents. More generally they will question their own beliefs and start to develop a mode of critical thinking and analysis.
Absence from Class:
Any absence from class should be notified to the course tutor in advance. In addition, there is a basic pass/fail course attendance requirement. That is, you cannot miss more than 4 hrs of class (equivalent of two class sessions) over the entire semester. This allowance is for serious unforeseen circumstances and should not be used simply for taking time-off, job interviews, working, planned into holidays or similar. If ill provide a medical certificate.
- written assignments
- film night and discussion
- interactive engagement (answering questions, class discussions)
Please turn-off and do not use mobile communication devices or computers in class, you should be paying attention to the lecturer and class discussions not communicating externally. Do not think you can hide using such devices in class the lecturer can see very clearly and any infringement will affect you participation grade.
Evaluation criteria: written exam, class attendance and participation, discussion group preparation and ability to respond to questions and engage in discussions.
- 15% class project
- 15% participation
- 20% reading assignment
- 50% exam
Students who fail the exam are allowed one re-sit. The score of students who pass the re-sit is 51% (lowest possible pass-score). N.B. passing the exam is compulsory and failure to do so will mean you fail the course; there is one retake chance but (as noted above) you cannot score more than a pass on that.
Plagiarism is a serious offence and will result in your failing the course. Note software is used to check assignments in addition to normal assessment procedures.
This course is for SEEP M.Sc. students.