Science: Good, Bad and Bogus: Philosophy of Science - ARTS2388

Faculty: Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

School: School of Humanities and Languages

Course Outline: School of Humanities & Languages

Campus: Sydney

Career: Undergraduate

Units of Credit: 6

EFTSL: 0.12500 (more info)

Indicative Contact Hours per Week: 3

Enrolment Requirements:

Prerequisite: 30 units of credit at Level 1

Excluded: HPSC1200

CSS Contribution Charge: 1 (more info)

Tuition Fee: See Tuition Fee Schedule

Further Information: See Class Timetable

Available for General Education: Yes (more info)

View course information for previous years.


Subject Area: Philosophy

The nature and reliability of knowledge is a perennial question at the heart of the philosophy of science. What is knowledge? What is truth? What is science? Is there a scientific method? How does science differ from other belief systems and other forms of inquiry? Is ESP real? Why are astrology and 'creationism' widely considered to be pseudo-sciences? Are there other, equally valid forms of knowledge besides the scientific one? Is there a conflict between science and religion?

This course places such questions in a historical context including the Pre-Socratic origins of Western Science in Ancient Greece, Descartes and the 17th Century Scientific Revolution and British Empiricists Locke, Berkeley and Hume. Was the Church of the 17th Century wrong in condemning Galileo? Questions such as these will be raised in this course because they provide an interesting vehicle for raising some of the central problems concerning the nature of science.

This history will be background for particular focus on the ‘Logical Positivists (Empiricists)’ in the early 20th Century – the Vienna Circle, following Ludwig Wittgenstein. The course will introduce key ideas concerning the nature of science and its methods, including the nature of observation and evidence, theories and laws, explanation and prediction. We will look at a number of major philosophical views concerning the nature of knowledge and justified belief, and the demarcation between genuine science and non-science or various forms of pseudoscience and 'metaphysics'.

These philosophical attempts to understand the nature of science led to a major re-evaluation following the work of Thomas Kuhn on the Structure of Scientific Revolutions and the course will examine the directions that philosophy of science took in this post-positivist period, including the sociological approaches of ‘science studies’ and the widespread public debates in the ‘Science Wars’.

A central consideration will be the nature of rational thought and the place of critical inquiry in life including broader implications of a scientific outlook in our lives, especially in the moral, political and educational spheres.

Philosophy of Science

Study Levels

UNSW Quick Links