Ph 31 Spring 2012 David Banach
Philosophy of Science
The Course: This course examines scientific knowledge: what it is, how it is reached, what it reveals about the world we live in, and what role it plays in human life. We will look at the origins of the idea of science and how it arose and what implications it has for human life and human culture. The course will concentrate on the role that mathematics has played in science and how this has affected the development of science. Some of the basic issues to be considered are:
1. What is Number?: What is the nature of mathematical reality and how does it relate to the world we live in?
2. Infinity: How does infinity manifest itself in the phenomena of the natural world, and what artifices have science and mathematics devised to describe infinity?
3. Time: What is time? How has science attempted to use mathematics to describe the structure of events and the causal relationships that govern them?
4. Realism: Do the mathematical structures used by science reflect that nature of reality independent of human perception, or does it reflect the structure of human consciousness or the contributions of our conceptual schemes?
5. Perception: Do we perceive reality directly? What role does observation have in Science?
6. Science and the Meaning of Human Life: How does science arise from the problems of human life? What implications do the theories of science have for the meaning of human existence? What role does science and technology play in human life?
These issues will be discussed in the context of historical and contemporary examples. We will look at the origins of mathematics and science in Greece, from Pythagoras through Zeno, Plato, Euclid, and Archimedes. Will also look at the application of these ideas to Astronomy in Ptolemy. Copernicus, Galileo, and Newton. The second half of the course will concentrate on illustrations from more modern work in quantum theory and relativity, geology, and evolutionary theory. Contemporary topics to be considered are:
A. The nature of space-time in Special and General Relativity.
B. The reality of sub-atomic particles in quantum theory and String Theory.
C. The facts of evolution: the evidence for evolutionary theory.
D. The implications of evolutionary theory for our conception of human consciousness and for the meaning of human existence.
E. Conceptions of time in Science and their development in the history of Geology.
F. Modern mathematical treatments of infinity and their application in the sciences.
G. The influence of science and technology on our conception of time. Phenomenological accounts of the implication of science on human consciousness and human life.
Grading: Your grade will be determined as follows:
20%-- Midterm Exam
35%-- Final Exam
30%- Assignments (There will be four. You must do the first one and then two of the other three. They can be found on our webpage)
15%-- Participation and Quizzes(Only after midterm)
Exams: There will be one midterm exam at the end of the first major section of the class. The final exam will be comprehensive.
Makeups: In order to makeup an exam you must have a written excuse for missing the exam. The exam must be made up within one week of your return to school (i.e., the last date covered by your excuse.) Quizzes may be made up without excuse within one week with a 20% penalty. Late assignments suffer a 10% penalty for each class meeting lat