PP3SVR-Science, Values and Reality

Module Provider: Philosophy
Number of credits: 10 [5 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Spring term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2020/1

Module Convenor: Prof John Preston

Email: j.m.preston@reading.ac.uk

Type of module:

Summary module description:

This module enables you to gain a critical understanding of key arguments and issues in the philosophy of the natural sciences, combining historical awareness of influential writings and perspectives from the history of philosophy until the present-day. (Note that Part 3 modules in the Department of Philosophy are driven by student interest: the University will not allow us to run any that do not enrol enough students). 


The programme of study in Philosophy is specifically designed to introduce you to progressive intellectual challenges and to consolidate your previous experience at each new level. This module fits into our graduated, supervised programme for developing independent-learning skills. It builds upon our Part 2 epistemology module, and demonstrates that science, far from being monolithic, typically contains, and progresses as a result of, diversity and dissent. While not presupposing any background in science, it introduces students to basic issues in the history and philosophy of science. 

Assessable learning outcomes:

Students will gain an overview of one of the central threads in the Western philosophical tradition, and should be able to connect what they have learnt with other aspects of philosophy, notably epistemology and metaphysics. The object of the course is not just to impart factual information but to encourage students to develop their own critical perspective on the issues. By the end of this module, you will be able to give a critical account of developments in the philosophy of natural scienc e, especially some of its most central and prominent debates and figures, including Karl Popper, Thomas Kuhn, Paul Feyerabend, Mary Hesse, Bas van Fraassen, and Nancy Cartwright. 

Additional outcomes:

Outline content:

The main topics covered on the module are: the rationality of science, scientific methodology, the interpretation of scientific theories (the realism/anti-realism debate), and the roles of values in science. 

Indicative Reading List: 

A.Rosenberg, Philosophy of Science: A Contemporary Introduction, (London: Routledge, 2000). 

S. Okasha, Philosophy of Science: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2002)

S. Psillos & M. Curd (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Science (London: Routledge, 2008). 

S.French, Philosophy of Science: Key Concepts, 2nd edition (London: Bloomsbury, 2016). 

Global context:

Science is our species’ most important suite of ways of gaining knowledge and understanding of the world around us. This module enables students to answer questions about its nature, its role, and the extent to which we should accept or believe in the conclusions scientists arrive at. 

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

The module is taught by lectures and seminars. Students are expected to attend 10 hours of lectures and 5 hours of seminars during the term in which the module’s classes take place. All students are required to write a single essay from a list of questions supplied by the module convenor. Students are encouraged to be active in all classes, asking questions and trying to answer the questions posed by others. A reading list and the essay-assignment questions will be provided at the start of the module on the module’s BlackBoard site. 

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 10
Seminars 5
Guided independent study:      
    Wider reading (independent) 40
    Advance preparation for classes 10
    Essay preparation 25
    Reflection 10
Total hours by term 0 0
Total hours for module 100

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 100

Summative assessment- Examinations:


Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

One written assignment, due in week 11 of the term in which the module is taught. 

Formative assessment methods:

Penalties for late submission:

The Module Convenor will apply the following penalties for work submitted late:

  • where the piece of work is submitted after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for that piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day[1] (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.
The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at: http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/qualitysupport/penaltiesforlatesubmission.pdf
You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

Assessment requirements for a pass:

A mark of 40% overall. 

Reassessment arrangements:

Written assignment, to be completed in August/September.

Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

Last updated: 4 April 2020


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