4095 Philosophy of Science
ao.Univ.Prof. Dr. Gabriele Mras
Contact details
Weekly hours
Language of instruction
02/14/22 to 03/06/22
Registration via LPIS
Notes to the course
Subject(s) Doctoral/PhD Programs
Day Date Time Room
Wednesday 03/09/22 05:00 PM - 07:00 PM TC.4.13
Wednesday 03/16/22 05:00 PM - 08:00 PM Online-Einheit
Wednesday 03/23/22 05:00 PM - 08:00 PM Online-Einheit
Wednesday 03/30/22 05:00 PM - 08:00 PM D4.0.039
Wednesday 04/06/22 05:00 PM - 08:00 PM D4.0.039
Wednesday 04/27/22 05:00 PM - 06:30 PM D4.0.039
Wednesday 05/04/22 05:00 PM - 08:30 PM D4.0.127
Wednesday 05/11/22 05:00 PM - 08:30 PM D4.0.039
Wednesday 05/18/22 05:00 PM - 07:00 PM Online-Einheit

Philosophy of science is concerned with the foundations, methods and implications of science. Philosophy of science sometimes overlaps with metaphysics, ontology and epistemology, but has to be distinguished from these other sub-disciplines of philosophy.

         It raises questions about the aims of science, how to draw the distinction to non-science (including religion).  (Karl Popper famously regarded this as the central question of a philosophy of science). It reflects on the potential distinction between "predictions" and "explanations" and raises questions concerning a dependency of the concept of "explanation" on the concept of "causal relation". (The Logical Empiricists thought that could give an account of "explanation" independently of "causal relation"). Philosophy of science is concerned with the grounds of the validity of scientific reasoning (hypo-deductive accounts, confirmation theories, instrumentalism etc.), how to understand "evidence", connected with it a possible reduction of theoretical terms to observational terms, and the problem of the "theory-dependency" of observation. 

Part A of this course:

We will begin with the concepts of "science", "truth","valid inference" and "proof", "epagoge", different conceptions of "evidence", briefly cover some misconceptions concerning “induction”, and will then read and discuss David Hume’s paradigmatic analysis of the structure of “empirical reasoning” in his "Enquiry"; i.e. the infamous problem of induction, i.e. the problem concerning the possibility of justifying necessity claims "from" "out of" experience, at all;  Then we will continue with John Stuart Mill’s conception of causality (i.e. his distinction between "necessary and sufficient conditions") in his "Logic”, his “method of agreement and disagreement”and the concepts of “necessary” and “sufficient” conditions will be explicated; the consequences of not being able to justify “factual necessity” will be pursued and the moral drawn from it will be discussed. As more modern approaches in the philosophy of science we will be concerned with two kinds of confirmation theory that have been defended in the 20th century: verifiability and falsifiability. A very brief look into the idea "paradigm changes" will finish our part A. 

In part B of this course

we will look at different methodological approaches in the science of economics. As you all know: the understanding of what economics is, is much discussed (in particular recently). "Is economics an inductive/deductive, neither-nor science (because it applied confirmation theory)?" "Does/can economics put forward strict laws or just tendencies, does it use causal term, if so, on what grounds?" "Is economics a normative science?" Authors discussed will be:  Smith, Mill, Arrow, Knight, Friedman, Blaug, Hausman, Sen, Stiglitz, Piketty.

Learning outcomes

Participants of this course are supposed to get familiar with the nature of scientific knowledge; i.e. what is to be acquired is knowledge about what distinguishes scientific claims from (mere) opinions, metaphysical statements or assertions of faith.

A. At the end of this course one ought to be able to analyse and evaluate the most influential approaches of the philosophy of science and the ways in which main following questions have been pursued. In more detail: This course will help to understand the significance and will make familiar with answers to the question:

  1. What is the potential support of a scientific claim?
  2. What are the validity requirements for the formulation of a scientific theory? 
  3. What is meant by “evidence”
  4. What are the ways in which scientific claims could be used in order to formulate predictions?
  5. What exactly is meant by “hypo-deductive” account?
  6. In which way does the formulation of a hypothesis depend on (1) and (2)?
  7. What is a “demarcation-line”? What are “pseudo-sciences”?

B. It is designed in such a way that those, who attend it, will be able to apply criteria of validity, will be able to draw inferences from a whole system of claims, will be be able to adress questions of how to match empirical singular consequences as they will be able to adress normative questions in their scientific investigations, too. 

It is essential for following this course to understand and appreciate the difficulties and dilemmas involved in pursuing scientific questions.

Attendance requirements

PART A: the philosophy of science part of this course 

1st intro + what is philosophy of science.  2nd session: (logic and the concept of entailment), 3rd: (empirical reasoning and the problem of induction), 4th: (John Stuart Mill on causation), 5th (Logical analysis and the principle of verifiability and The principle of falsifiability and the concept of ‚pseudo sciences’),

last session: MC test

PART B: The sessions before exam : discussion of your papers on the applied philosophy of science


Teaching/learning method(s)

Part (A): One part of this course consists in various questions, problems, accounts in the philosophy of science. A summary of the main arguments in every session will be provided on LearnWU as well as lecture slides. The primary literature can be found in the folder „course literature“. It is not expected that you read all the literature uploaded. 

To ensure that the main points of part (1) are understood, there will be „weekly assignments“ connected with the accounts to be studied. You will get a personal feedback to these assignments. In addition there will be MC questions in order to check your knowledge (with automated feedback). 

Part (B): The other part of this course consists in the application of various methodological approaches in economics. Here will have plenty opportunity to discuss questions of application on the basis of your paper (that has to be turned in 2 days before our meeting). Depending on wether we’ll see each other in person, the presentation of your paper will be organized.

Part (B)  is primarily focused on analyzing particular arguments of the texts your paper is concerned with You should therefore quote in your paper passages from the book/chapter/article you analyze. If we are still online, we we all have to have a chance to look at the papers prior to our online discussions.


Requirements and Assessment:

  1. Weekly assignments (5) 5 x 15 points max. 75 points
  2. 1 Paper: 75 points max.
  3. MC exam (60 questions) : 60 points max.

MC Test: max 60 points

Excellent (1): 54 - 60 points
Good (2): 48 - 54 points
Satisfactory (3): 35 -  47 points
Sufficient (4): 22 - 34 points
Fail (5): <22

In total: max 210 points

Excellent (1): 200 - 210 points; 
Good (2): 175 - 198 points
Satisfactory (3): 140 - 173 points;
Sufficient (4): 115 - 138 points; 
Fail (5): <115 

The MC Test has to be positive for a positive grade.

Prerequisites for participation and waiting lists

Some knowledge in philosophy for sure would be helpful, but is not required. 

Recommended previous knowledge and skills

Just follow your interest in pursuing scientific questions!

Availability of lecturer(s)

ao.Univ.Prof.Dr. Gabriele M. Mras
Building D4, 3rd floor, room number D4.3.020
Tel.: 01-31336-4257

Administration: Bettina Gerdenich
Tel.: 01-31336-4166



Please study the requirements and the assessment information carefully :

  • a. the text in "the lecture parts" and the “lecture slides” will cover the whole course
  • b. in “assignments” ( “assignment 1” ... ) you will find a number of open questions to be answered weekly. Please upload your answers as an extra file in “Assignments/Aufgaben”. Deadline? See "assignment 1" /"Aufgaben". ATTENTION: There are weekly deadlines (see Learn) : assignments have to be uploaded at time. assignments that are sent to Ms. Gerdenich or to me because they cannot be uploaded anymore will not be graded. 
  • c. MC questions: answer the MC questions in respect to the weekly lecture topic. 
  • d. in “paper topics” you will find the paper topics for the last two sessions. Decide which paper topic you choose 2 weeks after the 1st session the latest. Inform us about your decision in "foren".  Your Name – The Title of the Text – Date of Your Presentation. 
  • e. Final MC/SC-test: 60 questions (60 minutes)
  • f. contribution in discussion sessions +  points through raising and answering questions of your colleagues in the “foren”: max 1.5 points (0, 5 point for raising a question or answering a question of a colleague of yours).

Every assessment part of this course (the foren part is no requirement) has to be positive. 




MC Test

The exam will be held on the online platform MyLEARN of this course: „Distance Exam Philosophy of Science“ 

The exam consists out of MC and SC questions. There will be a total of 60 questions. You must start the exam at 5:00 p.m. (It will not pop up before 17:00!) You will have exactly 60 minutes until 6:00 p.m. to complete it. As you know:  It is not allowed to use any course material, any written down information, and/or any additional devices. It is not allowed to ask your colleages questions on MS Teams etc. .. 

There will be NO possibility to revise a given answer. So, please, do not skip any questions to look ahead what the rest of the questions might be ... You cannot answer the questions later! When you are finished, you do not have to submit your answers, the folder called „the exam" will close automatically.

We highly recommend that you have a thorough look at the “Technical Checklist” to minimize any potential technical problems

Please log into MyLEARN at least 5 minutes before the start of the exam. So you should have enough time to familiarize yourself with the exam environment and to complete the Pre-Check in.

In case of any Internet issues during the exam, please send us an email with the subject “error”. I will be reachable via 31336-4257 the entire time of the exam.

Unit details
Unit Date Contents
1 09.03.2022: 17:00-19:00

Intro into class, information about assignments, papers, MC test, opportunity to ask questions about the structure of this course. Our first meeting will be competely devoted to questions about the course structure, the assignments, the final MC test, assessment criteria, attendance, paper topics only. 

2 16.03.2022: 17:00-20:00

A) DEDUCTION: Validity and Soundness

  1. "What corresponds to an analytic and what to a synthetic statement?"
  2. What is meant by "deduction" or “valid reasoning”?
  3. What is the difference between validity and soundness?
  4. What is a syntactic definition of validity?
  5. What are examples of the fallacy of the “undistributed middle”?
  6. What is the modern axiomatization of valid inferences?

Required Readings:


3 23.03.2022: 17:00-20:00


  1. David Hume's analysis of empirical reasoning.
  2. Hume’s notion of “cause”
  3. The famous “riddle of induction”
  4. Causal relations and factual necessity
  5. Consequences of Hume’s “riddle of induction”

Required Readings:




  1. John Stuart Mill on ‚induction‘ and ‚deduction‘
  2. Mill”s “method of agreement and disagreement”
  3. John Stuart Mill’s distinction between “necessary” and “sufficient conditions”
  4. Mill’s method of experimental enquiry
  5. Mill’s view of scientific progress

Required Readings:


4 30.03.22: 17:00-20:00


1. The idea of confirmation vs. the aim of proving a theory to be true.

  • The "Vienna Circle" and the principle of verifiability.
  • What is verifiability? What are singular consequences of hypothetical statements? What is meant by "reduction of general sentence to observational sentences"?
  • What are the basic properties of observation sentences or "protocol sentences"?

2. The distinction between meaningful and meaningless sentences.

  • Rudolf Carnap's criticism of metaphysics.
  • The "protocol sentence-debate" in the mid-30ies of the 20th century.

Required Readings:


    5 06.04.22: 17:00-20:00


    1. Karl Popper's principle of falsifiability.

    • Falsifiability in contrast to verifiability.
    • What is the problem of the "demarcation principle" as suggested by the "Vienna Circle"?
    • What is modus tollens?

    2. The Problem of The Empirical Basis

    • What are "basic sentences"?
    • The distinction between justified, true, verified, falsified, verifiable, falsifiable, corroborated scientific statements.
    • The theory / observation dichotomy.
    • is Popper's method of “falsifiability” really so much better than “verifiability”?

    3. The Popper - Lakatos - Kuhn - Controversy

    Required Readings:


    6 27.04.22: 17:00-18:00

    MC Exam — the plan is to do the MC exam online; but if you prefer we can do it in class, too! 

      7 04.05.22: 17:00-20:30

      F) Papers/discussion: application of the philosophy of science


      8 11.05.22: 17:00-20:30

      to be continued: discussion of papers


      9 18.05.2022: 17:00-19:00

      to be continued: discussion of papers


      Last edited: 2022-05-17