Philosophy and Science

Humanities & Social Sciences
Course Code
PHIL 1190
Semester Length
15 weeks
Max Class Size
Method Of Instruction
Typically Offered
To be determined


Course Description
This course introduces students to the philosophy of the natural and social sciences. The course examines methodology, explanation, and the nature of the world revealed by scientific study. Students will explore how science differs from other forms of inquiry, and consider whether science operates with one method or many, whether method(s) in the natural sciences are appropriate for study in the social sciences, and the relationships between observation, evidence, hypotheses, and theories in the natural and social sciences.
Course Content

1. Methodology in the Natural and Social Sciences – is there a scientific method, demarcation of science from non-science, should method differ between nat and soc sciences, observation and theory-ladenness, experiment, induction, falsification, underdetermination, confirmation, naturalism, hermeneutics, reductionism, probability, theory change and progress in science.

2. Explanation in the Natural and Social Sciences – functional and structural explanation, rational choice explanation, social explanation and methodological individualism, causation, relationship between evidence and theory, justification, prediction, incommensurability, explanation of human behaviour and social structures, practices, institutions.

3.Objectivity in the Natural and Social Sciences – is objectivity possible? Is objectivity a desirable goal in the natural and social sciences?  How do conceptions of objectivity affect conceptions of fact and  value in the natural and social sciences?

4. Ontology in the Natural and Social Sciences- realism and antirealism, relationship between models and reality, existence of unobservables, social construction, metaphysical status of social structures.

5. Controversies in the Natural and Social Sciences – looking at e.g. anthropology, economics, evolutionary psychology, physics, biology, ecology, neuroscience.

Methods Of Instruction

The course will employ a combination of instructional methods, which may include lecture and discussion, student presentations, videos, or breakout activities.

Means of Assessment

Evaluation will be based on course objectives and will be carried out in accordance with Douglas College policy. The instructor will provide a written course outline with specific criteria during the first week of classes.
Any possible combination of the following which equals 100%:

Tests, quizzes, short written assignments    20% - 50%
Written class presentations, essays, essay exams  30% - 60%
Instructor's general evaluation 0% - 20%
(may include attendance, class participation,
group work, homework, etc.)


Three 10% tests: 30% 

Two 30% essays: 60%

Participation: 10%

Total: 100%

Learning Outcomes

The general objectives of the course are:

  1. To introduce students to a philosophical approach to scientific knowledge and the methodology of science.
  2. To encourage students to reflect critically about the epistemic basis and ontological consequences of claims made in the physical and social sciences.
  3. To enable students to develop more effective methods for making up their own minds about the interpretation of scientific claims in the wider philosophical contexts of epistemology and methaphysics.
  4. To encourage students to attempt a demarcation between science and other intellentual undertakings that appear scientific but are not scientific in nature.

Specific learning outcomes: by the end of the course, successful students should be able to:

  1. Demonstrate a clear understanding of the various philosopical approches to science, including but not limited to scientific realism, empiricism, instrumentalism etc.
  2. Explain and analyze the role of philosophical arguments in the development of various scientific disciplines.
  3. Apply the philosophical analyses developed to the knowledge-claims made by various "pseudo-sciences".
  4. Demonstrate an ability to develop their own arguments and reasoned defence of a position with regard to some of the controversies discussed
Textbook Materials

Philosophy of Science. Gillian Barker and Philip Kitcher, Oxford University Press, 2013.

The Philosophy of Science: Science and Objectivity. S George Couvalis, Sage Publications, 1997.

Philosophy of Science: The Central Issues. Martin Curd and J .A. Cover, W.W. Norton and Co, inc., 1998.

Why Beliefs Matter: Refections on the Nature of Science. E. Brian Davies, Oxford University Press,

Theory and Reality. Peter Godfrey-Smith, University of Chicago Press, 2003.

The Philosophy of Social Science Reader. by Francesco Guala and Daniel Steel, Taylor and Francis, 2013.

The Pseudoscience Wars: Immanuel Velinkovsky and the Birth of the Modern Fringe. Michael D.
Gordin, University of Chicago Press, 2012.

The Nature of Science: Problems and Perspectives. Edwin Hung, Wadsworth, 1996.

Philosophy of Science Complete: A Text on Traditional Problems and Schools of Thought. Edwin
Hung, Wadsworth, 2013.

The Sage Handbook of the Philosophy of Social Sciences. Ian C. Jarvie and Jesus Zamora-Bonil|a, Sage,

A Historical Introduction to the Philosophy of Science. John Losee, Oxford University Press, 2001.

Philosophies of Science: From Foundations to Contemporary Issues. Jennifer McErlean, Wadsworth,

Philosophy of Social Science: A Contemporary Introduction. Mark Risjord, Routledge, 2014.

Philosophy of Science: A Contemporary Introduction. Alex Rosenberg, Routledge, 2011.

Philosophy of Pseudoscience. Massimo Pigliucci and Maarten Boudiy, University of Chicago Press,

The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Science, 2nd. edition. by Stathis Psillos and Martin Curd.
Taylor and Francis, 2013.



No prerequisite courses.


No corequisite courses.


No equivalent courses.

Course Guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester / year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

Course Transfers

These are for current course guidelines only. For a full list of archived courses please see

Institution Transfer Details for PHIL 1190
Alexander College (ALEX) ALEX PHIL 1XX (3)
Athabasca University (AU) AU PHIL 2XX (3)
Capilano University (CAPU) CAPU PHIL 120 (3)
College of the Rockies (COTR) COTR PHIL 1XX (3)
Langara College (LANG) LANG PHIL 1103 (3)
North Island College (NIC) NIC PHI 1XX (3)
Okanagan College (OC) OC PHIL 1XX (3)
Simon Fraser University (SFU) SFU PHIL 144 (3)
Thompson Rivers University (TRU) TRU PHIL 1XXX (3)
Trinity Western University (TWU) TWU PHIL 380 (3)
University Canada West (UCW) UCW PHIL 1XX (3)
University of British Columbia - Vancouver (UBCV) UBCV PHIL 125 (3)
University of Northern BC (UNBC) UNBC PHIL 1XX (3)
University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) UFV PHIL 1XX (3)
University of Victoria (UVIC) UVIC PHIL 1XX (1.5)
Vancouver Community College (VCC) No credit
Vancouver Community College (VCC) VCC UNSP 1XXX (3)
Vancouver Island University (VIU) VIU PHIL 1st (3)

Course Offerings

Fall 2022

Start Date
End Date
- 07-Dec-2022
This section is offered in hybrid format. The class will meet in person for 2 hours per week, and students will complete additional course activities online.
New Westminster - South Bldg.
12:30 - 14:20