Philosophy of Natural Sciences

Maynooth University

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Philosophy of Natural Sciences

  • Host University

    Maynooth University

  • Location

    Dublin, Ireland

  • Area of Study

    Natural Sciences, Philosophy

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

  • Course Level Recommendations


    ISA offers course level recommendations in an effort to facilitate the determination of course levels by credential evaluators.We advice each institution to have their own credentials evaluator make the final decision regrading course levels.

    Hours & Credits

  • ECTS Credits

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview

    The aim of this module is to present a historical and a systematic account of the philosophy of science. Historically we shall be moving from antiquity to the early modern period, and systematically we shall discuss modern theories of scientific method and practice, where notions such as progress, experiment, theory, observation, discoveries, continuities, breaks, paradigms, and revolutions play a key role. The conceptual shift from a scientific approach with is based on causes, to a scientific account of natural phenomena by means of universal and mathematical laws, and from qualitative to quantitative explanations, will be explained historically by recourse to the ideas of thinkers from Aristotle to Galileo. Our systematic discussion will include some classical theories in the philosophy of science by Karl Popper, Thomas Kuhn, Imre Lakatos, and others.

    Learning Outcomes:

    On successful completion of the module, students should be able to:
    -Distinguish 'philosophy of science' from 'science' in matters of methods and practices, while dealing with the questions: what is the role of the philosopher of science? what should be the relations between philosophy of science and hard-core science?
    -Elaborate on the process of transition of worldviews in ancient, medieval, and early modern scientific contexts. The question here is: what can an awareness of the process of transition in scientific worldviews indicate to us?
    -Appreciate the Aristotelian science in terms of teleology, essentialism, causes and causality, elements, movements, while looking at the questions, in what sense Aristotelian science can be regarded as 'modern' and in what sense it is not 'modern'.
    -Discuss the transition to the Newtonian worldview, its achievements and limitations.
    -Analyse the scientific revolution of the 17th century by using Popper's theory of conjectures and refutations addressing question such as what is a scientific progress, what is the connection between scientific activity and education, what is the role of history in science, what is the connection between history of science and philosophy of science and how Popper criticized the analytic philosophy of science.
    -Discuss the theory of evolution and its developments, from 1859 to the present day in relation to the science and religion debate which emerged in response to the theory of evolution.
    -Discuss Husserl's phenomenological critique of scientism and the mathematization of nature and appreciate the analytic approach to the philosophy of science, and philosophy's role as second order description.
    -Appreciate Hume's contribution to the philosophy of science (the problem of induction) and John Stuart Mill and Karl Popper's proposed solution to this 'scandal of science'.

    Teaching & Learning methods:
    24 lecture hours (12 weeks x 2 lecture hours per week); 4 tutorial hours; directed reading, reflection, discussion and writing.

    Continuous Assessment detail(s): 5% = Attendance at Tutorials. 15% = Presentation. 20% = Tutorial Essay-Assignments (c. 1,000 words) 60% = Final Essay-Assignment (c. 2,000 words).

Course Disclaimer

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

Credits earned vary according to the policies of the students' home institutions. According to ISA policy and possible visa requirements, students must maintain full-time enrollment status, as determined by their home institutions, for the duration of the program.

ECTS (European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System) credits are converted to semester credits/quarter units differently among U.S. universities. Students should confirm the conversion scale used at their home university when determining credit transfer.

Please reference fall and spring course lists as not all courses are taught during both semesters.

Please note that some courses with locals have recommended prerequisite courses. It is the student's responsibility to consult any recommended prerequisites prior to enrolling in their course.