The way science works raises deep and pressing philosophical questions. Is there a way to demarcate science from non-science? How is scientific knowledge made reliable? Is it giving us access to reality or is it merely a tool for successful prediction? The so-called “analytic” project (following Barker & Kitcher’s terminology) within philosophy of science focused on these and similar (by now) classic issues: the demarcation of science, confirmation, realism, the nature of theories, their relations to each other, laws of nature and explanation. During the second half of the 20th century, the contingencies of history of science and the intermingling of science and society were increasingly taken seriously: What follows philosophically from looking at the history of science, in particular the study of scientific revolutions? If social values influence sciences, is that legitimate? In which sense, if any, is science itself social and political, and therefore normative?
Part I will introduce the classic issues and then focus on the more contemporary issues regarding history, value-ladenness and social structure of science. Part II and III will focus on the kinds of knowledge sciences produce, by discussing specific epistemic goals of scientists (i.e., explanation, modeling and prediction, and classification) and specific epistemic values in the background of scientific endeavors (i.e., unity, simplicity and objectivity).
By taking a philosophical stance, students will learn in this course how to think about sciences in a philosophical manner – that is, about science in general, but also regarding their respective own disciplines. They shall understand how particular sciences function epistemically and how they fit into their broader academic and social context.