History and Philosophy of Science

Books | Schedule | Assignments | Grades | Policies

Course Information

Course Number: HIST/PHIL 3328
Meeting Time and Location: Monday & Wednesday, 11:30am-12:45pm, FO 3.222
Office Hours: TBD
Appointments: Sign up for appointments

Course Description

Science plays an enormously influential role in our society. As a social institution, it commands enormous respect and social influence, as well as vast sums of funding. It produces results that are greatly sought after, for both good and ill. At the same time, science generates great controversy when it collides with various religious, economic, and educational agendas. The adjective “scientific” garners almost immediate respectability to whatever it is applied, and, in some circles, it is a prerequisite for being taken seriously. Yet to many it also bespeaks alienation, abstraction, and a void of meaning, useless in our attempt to understand values. Some even deride science as mere ideology and power-mongering, as sexist, racist, or elitist.

Science is open to interpretation and critique; as a result, it stands in need of explanation, elaboration, justification, limitation, or change. History and philosophy of science attempt to understand how and why science works, to explain its successes and occasionally uncover its failures, to interpret its results, and to discover, what, if any, are its limits. Historians and philosophers of science also try to situate science in the broader scheme of human activities and social institutions, and to understand the way in which our particular cognitive, social, political, and moral situation impacts its development.

In this course, we will focus on five key texts in the history and philosophy of science, some classics in the field, others more recent but nonetheless landmark work. Through these texts, we will try to better understand what counts as science and explore whether we can demarcate science from non-science or pseudo-science. We will ask what the aim of science is, what it is trying to produce. We will explore a variety of challenges to our common ways of understand how and why science works. We will explore the too-often ignored connections between the scientific process and our ethical and political values, attempting to determine whether and to what extend such human values play a role in science, and to what extent such a role is legitimate and compatible with the objectivity or reliability of scientific knowledge.

For the purposes of this course, we will construe science broadly to include natural and social sciences, engineering, technological development, mathematics, and medicine.

Student Learning Objectives

  1. Students will become familiar with the basics of how science works, both contemporary and historical, and the philosophic issues science raises.
  2. Students will demonstrate a knowledge of major concepts and works in history and philosophy of science from 1957 to present.
  3. Students will engage thoughtfully with and dialogue about readings in history and philosophy of science.
  4. Students will think critically about the role of science in society.
  5. Students will demonstrate effective written and oral communication skills.

Required Books

Books will be available at Off Campus Books, not the UT Dallas Campus Bookstore. Please purchase the editions ordered there or linked below.

  1. Thomas Kuhn, The Copernican Revolution
  2. Ian Hacking, Representing and Intervening
  3. Hasok Chang, Inventing Temperature
  4. Paul Feyerabend, Science in a Free Society
  5. Heather Douglas, Science, Policy, and the Value-Free Ideal

Schedule of Readings and Assignments

You should start on the reading early — each set of readings is discussed twice.

M 1/8 Introduction
W 1/10 Discuss Kuhn Ch 1
(focus on pp. 1-8, 25-7, 36-44)
Reading Journal – Bring 1 copy
M 1/15 MLK Jr. Day – No Class
W 1/17 Discuss Kuhn Ch 1-4
(focus on pp. 45, 50-55, 59. 73-84, 95-114, 127-133)
Reading Journal – Bring 4 copies
M 1/22 Discuss Kuhn Ch 2-4 Peer Responses
W 1/24 Discuss Kuhn Ch 5-7 (focus on pp. 134-136, 155-17, 181-187, 200-231, 261-265) + handout Reading Journal
M 1/29 Discuss Kuhn, Ch 5-7, handout Peer Responses
W 1/31 Discuss Hacking, Intro, Ch 1-6 Reading Journal
Special Lecture: Mark Johnson 7:30pm
M 2/5 Discuss Hacking, Intro, Ch 1-6 Peer Responses
W 2/7 Discuss Hacking, Ch 7-10  Reading Journal
 M 2/12  Discuss Hacking, Ch 7-10 Peer Responses
 W 2/15  Discuss Hacking, Ch 11-16 Reading Journal
Box Project Interim Reports Due Friday 2/17 at 11:59pm
M 2/19 Discuss Hacking, Ch 15-16 Peer Responses
 W 2/21  Discuss Chang, Ch 1-2 Reading Journal
Special Lecture: Stephen Asma
 M 2/26  Discuss Chang, Ch 1-2 Peer Responses
 W 2/28  Discuss Chang, Ch 3-4 Reading Journal
Special Lecture: Rae Armantrout
 M 3/5  Discuss Chang, Ch 3-4 Peer Responses
 W 3/7  Discuss Chang, Ch 5-6 Reading Journal
3/12-3/16 Spring Break – No class
M 3/19  Discuss Feyerabend, Preface, Part One Reading Journal
 W 3/21  Discuss Feyerabend, Preface, Part One  Peer Responses
 M 3/26  Discuss Feyerabend, Part Two Reading Journal
 W 3/28  Discuss Feyerabend, Part Two Peer Responses
Special Lecture: Sandy Russ
Box Project Interim Reports Due Friday 3/30 at 11:59pm
 M 4/2  TBD (handout)  Reading Journal
W 4/4  TBD (handout)   Peer Responses
M 4/9 Discuss Douglas, Ch 1-3 Reading Journal
 W 4/11 Discuss Douglas, Ch 1-3  Peer Responses
 M 4/16  Discuss Douglas, Ch 4-5  Reading Journal
 W 4/18  Discuss Douglas, Ch 4-5  Peer Responses
Special Lecture: Vlad Glaveanu
 M 4/23  Discuss Douglas, Ch 6-8, Epilogue  Reading Journal
 W 4/25  Discuss Douglas, Ch 6-8, Epilogue  Peer Responses
 Finals Box Project Final Presentations Box Proj Personal Reflections

Grades and Assignments

Assignment Categories

  1. The Box Project – Group project
  2. Reading journals – 2 pages / wk
  3. Weekly peer responses – 4-6pp / wk
  4. Attendance and participation
  5. Special Lectures and Events

Grading Criteria

This course uses a form of grading based in adult learning theory called “specifications grading.” On that theory, adults learn better in a flexible and low-threat but interesting and challenging learning environment. High expectations are important for your success. This course creates such an environment and expectations, allowing you to direct your learning in a way that meets your personal learning objectives. Every assignment is simply graded “satisfactory/unsatisfactory,” though “satisfactory” here is more closely associated with competence or mastery that barely scraping by. The conditions for satisfactory work will be clearly specified for each assignment. There will be no partial credit — every passing grade shows some level of genuinely competent work.

Grades will be determined by satisfactory performance to the following specifications:

  • For a D in this course:
    1. 8 reading journals
    2. 10 responses
    3. No more than 6 absences
  • For a C in this course:
    1. 10 reading journals
    2. 15 responses
    3. 2 Box Project Interim Reports
    4. Box Project Final Presentation
    5. No more than 4 absences
  • For a B in this course:
    1. 12 reading journals
    2. 20 responses
    3. 2 Box Project Interim Reports
    4. Box Project Final Presentation
    5. Course participation assessment
    6. No more than 3 absences
  • For a A in this course:
    1. 14 reading journals
    2. 25 responses
    3. Journal progress assessment
    4. 2 Box Project Interim Reports
    5. Box Project Final Presentation
    6. Box Project Personal Reflection
    7. Course participation assessment
    8. No more than 2 absences


Some flexibility is added to the course via the “token” system. You each begin the semester with 2 tokens. Tokens can be spent in the following ways:

  1. Free reading journal
  2. Free response
  3. Free absence
  4. 24 hour extension on Box Project reports (1 token per group)
  5. Revise an unsatisfactory Box Project interim report (2 tokens per group)

Tokens can be earned in the following ways:

  1. Attend a Special Event and write a report (1 point each, max 5)
  2. Exemplary participation (1-3 points)

Tokens also determine whether you have a plus or minus added to your grade:

0 tokens
minus (-)
1-3 tokens
4+ tokens
plus (+)

Course Policies