In this course, we will examine the recent history of philosophical perspectives on scientific inquiry. We will begin at the turn of the twentieth century with logical positivism, a view that attempted to employ newly available logical methods to justify scientific practice. By rationally reconstructing scientific theories to expose their logical dependence upon observable phenomena, the positivists hoped to explain the authority of science. But does such rational reconstruction elide explanations of how one scientific theory develops from another? In the second unit, we will examine how post-positivistic philosophers attended to the history of science, rejecting a common, purely logical basis upon which scientists theorize as a distorting fiction. Instead, perhaps the kinds of knowledge and methods between scientific ages are so different as to constitute entirely different worldviews. In the last three units, we will discuss recent challenges to scientific paradigms. We will ask such questions as: Can philosophy of science encompass all sciences, or is it more helpful to concentrate on particular kinds of science? If so, why? Are scientific theories and methods subject to social and political critique (e.g., by feminism)? And are there unique philosophical methods for evaluating science, or is philosophical inquiry continuous with scientific inquiry?
- Teacher: Elizabeth Sperry