Philosophy of Science and Ethics

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Philosophy of Science and Ethics

  • Host University

    Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

  • Location

    Amsterdam, The Netherlands

  • Area of Study

    Ethics, 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

    This course has two central components -- Philosophy of Science and Ethics -- which correspond to two main aims. In the Philosophy of Science unit, students will develop the ability to reflect critically on the nature and practice of science, with an emphasis on biomedical science. In the Ethics unit, students will explore various ethical issues raised by the practice of biomedical science and the use of products and technologies developed bi biomedical scientists. Students will learn how to critically read philosophical texts, which involves understanding the structure of the authors' arguments developing their own objections to or amplifications of the authors point of view. Students will also be encouraged to (a) apply the philosophical concepts they will learn to their own work and (b) to utilize clear and sound argumentation in their own thinking and writing.

    The philosophy of science unit will start with a discussion of the distinguishing features of science as a form of inquiry. Topics that will be covered include the nature of scientific reasoning and explanation and the relationship between scientific theories and reality (the realism/antirealism debate). We then shift to issues in the philosophy of biology and medicine. The relevant topics there include ontological status of race and gender, the nature of disease and health, and evidence-based medicine. Attention to the role that values play in these discussions will be paramount.

    The focus in unit two will be on ethical questions raised by the practice of biomedical science and the use of its products. After a very brief introduction to ethics and a discussion of moral relativism, we’ll closely explore several specific biomedical practices and technologies that raise ethical questions. There are roughly three themes we will discuss: (a) ethical issues in posed by research, (b) ethics of the use of new biomedical technologies, and (c) social aspects of biomedical research. The specific topics include the use of animal models, germline gene editing, human enhancement technology, and the social distribution of benefits and burdens of medical developments.

    Lectures, study group

    The grade for this course is made up of two components. 50% of your grade is based on the final exam. This exam will be a mixture of multiple choice and several short answer questions.

    The remaining 50% will be determined by two workgroup activities at 25% each. This will be a group activity culminating in a debates that will be held in the two workgroup sessions. The details of this activity will be covered during the first workgroup session and they will also be posted in Blackboard. All group members will share the same grades and must turn in a work diary to ensure that work was distributed roughly evenly. Each of these grades must be above 5,5. Re-examination is only possible for the exam.

Course Disclaimer

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

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