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Philosophy for Science 1: What the World Must Be Like

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Philosophy for Science 1: What the World Must Be Like

<p>Science is a ‘methodology’ - a particular way of observing, describing and explaining – a way of addressing the one BIG question: “What must the world be like, that it produce the phenomena we

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Science is a ‘methodology’ - a particular way of observing, describing and explaining – a way of addressing the one BIG question: “What must the world be like, that it produce the phenomena we observe?” At first blush, this question seems simple enough; but it turns out to be fiendishly difficult to answer. This 3 part course is an attempt to construct a clearer, more coherent conceptual framework for making sense of the physical world.

  • Part 1 - What the World Must Be Like: We identify/specify what the world must be ‘like’ to be at all describable.
  • Part 2 – The Language and Logic of Science: We specify the ‘structure’ of the physical world, investigate the business of observation; identify its scope and limitations; and develop a vocabulary in terms of which to describe what we might find.
  • Part 3 – Making Sense of it All: We distil from our observations of worldly affairs the fundamental elements of ‘reality’; develop a theory of ‘ways of knowing’; and construct a ‘reasonable’ model for making sense of the physical world.


COURSE REQUIREMENTS
Though rigorous and intellectually demanding, this series is designed for a lay audience and no prior knowledge of philosophy, mathematics or physics is assumed. However, it is a series, and later meetings draw extensively on concepts and terminology presented in earlier ones. Students are strongly encouraged to start at the beginning, rather than joining the series part-way through.


SUGGESTED READING

  • Armstrong, David M.: A Theory of Universals (Cambridge: CUP, 1978)
  • Ayer, A. J.: Language, Truth and Logic (Penguin, 1990)
  • Ayer, A. J.: Metaphysics and Common Sense (Macmillan, 1973)
  • Ayer, A. J.: The Problem of Knowledge (Penguin, 1990)
  • Boghossian, P.: Fear of Knowledge: Against Relativism and Constructivism (Oxford University Press, 2006)
  • Broad, C. D.: Scientific Thought (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1923)
  • Chalmers, Alan F.: What Is This Thing Called Science?, 4th ed’n (Hackett Publishing/Qld University Press, 2013)
  • Hobbes, Thomas (1655): De Corpore (London: John Bohn, 1839)
  • Popper, Karl: The Logic of Scientific Discovery (London and NY: Routledge, 2002)
  • Quinton, Anthony: The Nature of Things (Routledge, 1980)
  • Reichenbach, Hans: The Philosophy of Space and Time (New York: Dover, 1958)
  • Ridley, B. K.: Time Space and Things, 3rd ed’n (Cambridge: Canto, 1995)
  • Ridley, B. K.: On Science: Thinking in Action (Routledge, 2001)
  • Schopenhauer, Arthur: On the Principle of Sufficient Reason, 4th ed’n (1891), tr. Karl Hillebrand (New York: Prometheus Books, 2006)
  • Smart, J. J. C.: Philosophy and Scientific Realism (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1963)
  • Whitehead, A. N.: An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Natural Knowledge (Cambridge University Press, 1919)


COURSE OUTLINE

  • The Philosophical Foundations of Science
  • What’s Going On – Change
  • When and Where is it Happening? – Time and Space
  • What’s Doing It? – Entities and their properties, Identity
  • How is it Doing It? – Events, Least Action, Causation, Recursion


PLANNED LEARNING OUTCOMES
By the end of this course, participants will be conversant with:

  1. the philosophical foundations and logical structure of the ‘scientific method’
  2. the concepts of “physical” and “reality”, and their role in Science
  3. the foundational concepts of dynamism (change), and heterogeneity (difference)
  4. the concepts of time and space, events and entities, motion and interaction
  5. the concepts of locality, continuity and isotropy; and why spacetime is ‘3+1’ dimensional
  6. the principles of Least Action, Equipoise, causation; and recursion
  7. the manifold implications of all of the above!