Science, Technology, and Values

Spring 2014

This course has two sections, one graduate and one undergraduate, with slightly different requirements:

  • PHIL 4310: Philosophy of Technology
  • HUHI 6351: History and Philosophy of Science and Technology

Course Updates

Find updates on the course by checking the Updates feed on the course website or the Twitter hashtag #UTDSTV. Feel free to ask public questions about the course or continue the discussion after class using that hashtag as well.

Syllabus (PDF)

Class Schedule

  1. What are science and technology? How do they work? Why do they require values?
  2. The Value of Science
  3. Existential and Materialist Critiques of Technology
  4. A Pragmatist Theory of Science and Technology
  5. What are the aims of science and technology? Which problems should we try to solve?
    • Due: UG Project Proposals, Engineering Ethics Article
  6. How do we produce data ethically?
    • Due: Grad Paper Proposals
    • Grad Paper Presentations: Group 1
  7. How should we frame potential solutions?
    • Grad Paper Presentations: Group 2
  8. How do we decide that we have the right solution? (I) Accepting scientific hypotheses.
  9. Spring Break – No Class
  10. How do we decide that we have the right solution? (II) Ethical and political considerations in designing artifacts.
    • Due: Annotated Bibliography (Grad & UG)
    • Grad Paper Presentations: Group 1
  11. A critique of the Internet.
    • Grad Paper Presentations: Group 2
  12. The effect of sexism in tech culture and the tech industry.
    • Due: Grad Paper Abstract
    • Grad Paper Presentations: Group 3
  13. The effect of corporate influences on science.
    • Due: Grad Conceptual Outline
    • Grad Paper Presentations: Group 1
  14. Project Work Days – No class
  15. Can we take a more deliberate, appropriate, and responsible approach to science and technology?
    • Grad Paper Presentations: Group 2
  16. What can we learn from the past?
    • Due: UG Reflection papers and documentation for Service Learning Project
    • Grad Paper Presentations: Group 3

Finals Week:

  • PHIL 4310 (UG) – 5/6, Tuesday – 8:00PM – 10:45PM (JO 4.102)
    • Group Presentation of Service Learning Project
    • Due: UG Final Reflections on Ethics Advising Project
  • HUHI 6351 (Gr) – 5/12, Monday – 8:00PM – 10:45PM (JO 3.532)
    • Final Paper and Dossier Due, Final Presentation


The first assignment on each list is worth roughly twice what the other assignments are worth. (Also, see below on “Citizenship Points.”)

Graduate section

1. Research paper – 8000 words or less
2. Research records – Full annotated bibliography, search records, reading notes, etc.
3. Research reports – Periodically during the semester, students will have to give preliminary reports to the class on the progress of their research project, and another report at the end.
4. Discussion questions – Due 24 hoursbefore class begins, by email.
5. Attendance and participation

Undergraduate section

1. Service learning project
2. Ethics advising project
3. Discussion questions – Due 24 hours before class begins, by email
4. Attendance and participation

Course Description

The technosciences are objective, value-free, rational, and inevitable: these are the myths that this course will question. Our human values and social concerns have deep connections to science and technology. This course will explore those connections from a variety of philosophical perspectives. The development of science and technology involves personal, social, and political decisions. In this course, you will learn to question whether those developments are responsible and appropriate.

Course Objectives

Some objectives should be shared by all courses: to enjoy and celebrate the life of the mind, to help the student grow, mature, become more interesting, become a better person, etc. Here is what I hope you will achieve in this course in particular:

  • Students will come to better understand the nature of science and technology and the role of values therein.
  • Students will demonstrate an awareness of the contingency in our choices about technical design, scientific progress, and change in technical and scientific paradigms, as well as the role of choice and thus responsibility in those processes.
  • Students will think critically and deliberately about the role of science and technology in our lives, in general and in the case of particular scientific and technical achievements.
  • Students will become a positive force for socially responsible scientific and technological development.
  • Students will learn to do research in the mode of history and philosophy of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine.
  • Students will develop abilities to read and write about complex texts.
  • Students will demonstrate effective written and oral communication skills

That will be quite enough for one semester, I should think.


All students will will need to obtain a copy of the following book:

All students will also need to obtain a copy of “In the Beginning was the Command Line” by Neil Stephenson, which can be had:

These books are required for graduate students:

You should also consider picking up the following two introductory texts, as they help provide an overview of the main fields for this class:

These texts are all on order at Off Campus Books. All other readings will be provided electronically. You are required to bring all relevant readings to class for discussion. You should bring readings in a distraction-free format, whether that be physical printout, ebook reader, or laptop with internet access shut off. The ability to mark up a book (or an essay) is indispensable to active reading. Therefore, you must choose a way of reading that permits annotation. For some, that will mean paper copies and pencil. For others, you know well how to annotate on PDF or your ebook reader.

Course Policies

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