Philosophy of Science Survey: Study Guide

Below is a list of student learning objectives for each week. In each exam, you will be tested only on these objectives, so this page serves as a study guide for the exams. This page will be updated periodically to reflect our progress in the course. In order to keep up with the course, by the end of each week, you should be able to do the tasks listed.

If you have any question, don’t hesitate to email me at (or through the email tool on Blackboard).

By the end of each week below, you should be able to what is listed. The lectures and the questions given in the lectures are designed to help you achieve these objectives. So be sure to review the lectures and do the questions to test your mastery.

Week 2

  1. Define the concept of a worldview.
  2. State some core beliefs of the Aristotelian worldview.
  3. Explain the jigsaw puzzle metaphor for a worldview.
  4. State some core beliefs of the Newtonian worldview.
  5. Explain the idea of indirect evidence (coherence with a worldview).
  6. Explain why the common-sense nature of a worldview and its beliefs is not good evidence that they are correct.
  7. State the popular misconceptions about facts, truth, and their relations to science.
  8. Explain the correspondence theory of truth, with an example.
  9. Explain the individualistic coherence theory of truth, with an example.
  10. Explain the science-based (group) coherence theory of truth, with an example.
  11. Explain the distinction between the definitional question of what truth is and the epistemological question of how we come to know truth.
  12. Explain how the correspondence theory makes the epistemological question difficult.

Week 3

  1. Define the concept of a fact (in the technical sense used in this course).
  2. Give some examples of facts in the Aristotelian worldview.
  3. Explain the difference between empirical facts and conceptual facts, using the pencil examples.
  4. Explain why the categories of empirical and conceptual facts are not clear-cut. In other words, explain why a fact can be both empirical and conceptual.
  5. Describe the schema of confirmation and disconfirmation reasoning (in the simple forms).
  6. Give an example of confirmation reasoning, either from science or from everyday life.
  7. Give an example of disconfirmation reasoning, either from science or from everyday life.
  8. Explain the notion of auxiliary hypotheses.
  9. Describe the schema of disconfirmation reasoning that incorporates auxiliary hypotheses.
  10. Explain why confirmation reasoning cannot prove a theory in the sense of guaranteeing the theory’s truth.

Week 4

  1. Explain the thesis that what is tested in science is a body of beliefs rather than an isolated hypothesis.
  2. Explain the concept of a crucial experiment.
  3. Explain why crucial experiments are nearly impossible, according to Quine and Duhem.
  4. Explain the concept of underdetermination of theories by evidence.
  5. Describe the main characteristics of the axiomatic method.
  6. Describe the main characteristics of falsificationism (as understood as a method of science).
  7. Describe the hypothetico-deductive method.
  8. Briefly explain why, in light of what we have learned so far, the textbook view of the scientific method is misleading.
  9. State in general terms the central question that animates the problems of induction.
  10. Explain Hume’s problem of induction using the sunrise example.
  11. State the uniformity principle.
  12. Explain Hume’s argument that the uniformity principle itself is supported only by induction.
  13. Explain Hempel’s raven paradox, using DeWitt’s example of quasars or Hempel’s own example of ravens.

Exam 1 covers Weeks 2–4.

Week 5

  1. Explain Popper’s concept of falsifiability (as a property of a theory).
  2. Describe Popper’s example of a falsifiable theory.
  3. Describe an example (your own or Popper’s) of an unfalsifiable theory.
  4. Explain DeWitt’s concept of falsifiability (as a person’s attitude toward theories).
  5. Illustrate DeWitt’s concept of falsifiability with an example (such as DeWitt’s own).
  6. Describe how astrology is in fact falsifiable in Popper’s sense.
  7. Explain how DeWitt’s concept of falsifiability applies to astrologers’ attitude toward astrology.
  8. Explain what it means to have a disagreement over standards of evidence.
  9. Explain prediction, explanation (in the minimal sense), and understanding as things that we use scientific theories for.
  10. State instrumentalism and realism as attitudes about the aim of scientific theories.
  11. Describe examples of theories or models that do not accurately describe reality (as the realist demands) but which are successful at prediction and explanation.

Week 6

  1. State the Aristotelian beliefs about the shape, motion (stationary), and location of the Earth.
  2. Describe the structure of the Aristotelian universe, especially the order of celestial bodies.
  3. Describe the characteristics of the sublunar region in the Aristotelian universe.
  4. Describe the characteristics of the superlunar region in the Aristotelian universe.
  5. Describe the basic tenets of Aristotelian teleology.
  6. Explain the difference between teleological and mechanistic explanation, with examples.
  7. Provide an Aristotelian teleological explanation of why a rock falls.
  8. Describe Ptolemy’s arguments for the belief that the Earth is spherical (focus on passages [1] and [5]).
  9. Describe Ptolemy’s argument against the belief that the Earth is flat (focus on passages [4] and [6]).
  10. Describe Ptolemy’s common-sense argument against the belief that the Earth is in motion.
  11. Describe Ptolemy’s argument from stellar parallax.
  12. Describe Ptolemy’s common-sense argument for the belief that the Earth is at the center of the universe.