Philosophy of Science (PHIL 20617)
University of Notre Dame, Fall 2017

Scientific theories have enjoyed much success. They afford us tremendous power to predict and explain phenomena in the world around us. In light of this power, you might wonder why it is these theories are so successful. This question invariably leads to others. For instance: how much do our chosen theories tell us about the world—must the unseen entities referenced by scientific explanations exist? And just what counts as a “scientific explanation” anyhow? This course will equip you with the tools necessary to begin answering these questions. We will survey classic and contemporary debates in the philosophy of science, including: the reality of unobservable entities posited by theories; the nature of scientific explanation; how we choose between competing theories; and how we confirm existing theories. We will also consider applications to examples from the physical sciences. However, this course is self-contained. No previous familiarity with any particular physical or mathematical theory is required.