During the four weeks of the course students will study the philosophy of science hand in hand with its application to a scientific case study: paleontology, or the study of fossils. Each week one tutorial will be devoted to the philosophical discussion of scientific issues and one tutorial to the implications of these discussions for how science is done in the context of fossil research. In week 1 an introduction to the philosophy of science will be given that will also address the empirical study of objects, logical positivism, the problems of inductivism, and issues concerning the (un) certainty of scientific claims. Parallel to that, students will investigate (in small groups) what kind of information different scientific disciplines (biochemistry; radiology; biology) can generate with respect to certain objects (fossils). Visits will be made to the Natural History Museum. Week 2 will be devoted to the idea of the theory-dependence of scientific observation and the philosophical concept of paradigms. Parallel to that, students will study the history of the (scientific) investigation of fossils, in order to investigate what role conflicting paradigms played in the past and present of fossil research. In week 3 a broader view on the production of scientific knowledge will be offered, placing science in a social context. The philosophical discussion will look at the role of worldviews in science and the ‘social turn’ that characterizes many of the recent approaches in the philosophy of science. Parallel to that, students will read primary sources that reveal the religious, political and epistemological presuppositions that shaped some of the most important developments of fossil research in the 19th century. In the fourth week students will write a short essay that should synthesize the insights gained during the first three weeks
The course aims at giving the students an overview of the main theoretical approaches within the philosophy of science; and teaches them skills to apply these approaches to the study of a concrete scientific discipline.
• The central textbook of the course is: Peter Godfrey-Smith, Theory and Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2003). ISBN 0-226- 30063-3. This book is available as an e-book in the University Library Maastricht, so that it can be used by all students at the same time. • Background information of the history of fossils can be found in: Martin J. S. Rudwick, The Meaning of Fossils: Episodes in the History of Paleontology, 2nd edition (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1985). ISBN 0-226-73103-0.