Honors Class Field Trip to Bone Lab at Denver Museum of Nature and Science (Spring 2015)

PHILOSOPHY 1400 (100)

“Philosophy and the Sciences”

(Spr 2017)

Time: MW 12-12:50 pm

Room: Hale 230


Professor:                     Carol Cleland (with Erich Riesen Teaching Assistant)

Office:                         HLMS 282 (EXT 2-7619)

Office Hours:               M 2:30-3:30 pm, W 1:30-2:30 pm & by appointment


Required Books:

1.         Godfrey-Smith, Theory and Reality

2.         Weart, The Discovery of Global Warming

3.         Selected Readings on

a.         D2L:


b.         Class web page (PHIL 1400, “Additional Materials and Links”):   




             1.         Reading Assignments:  You are responsible for having read and thought about the                             assigned material before coming to class. Philosophy is not easy; this process may                             take several hours.  “Study Questions” (see above link) will accompany most readings.                           Their purpose is to help you learn to read philosophy and to think philosophically.                              Exams will be based upon these questions. 


2.              Evaluation:

a.         2 Short papers and 3 quizzes:

1.         Short papers:  Topics will be assigned in sections on a Wednesday and             due the following Wednesday. Short papers should be 3-4 pages long                 (typed, double-spaced, normal font). Each is worth approximately 15%             of your grade (for a total of 30%).  Paper topics will be assigned on Feb                 22 (due March 1) and April 5 (due April 12).


2.         Quizzes: Will consist of one essay question. You will have 25 minutes to             answer it.  Each is worth approximately 10% of your grade (for a total of             30%).  Quizzes will be given in sections on Feb 8, March 15, April 26.


            b.         Final Exam or Term Paper option (not both): 

1.         Final Exam:  held in this room on Wed, May 10, from 4:30-7 pm. Bring             2 bluebooks. The final exam is designed to be completed in 2 hours                     and will consist of essay questions like those on the quizzes. It is worth             approximately 40% of your grade.


2.         Term paper:  7-10 pages (normal font, double-spaced, typed). Topics                 must be cleared with your TA by April 19; anyone who fails to do this             automatically defaults to taking the final exam. Final papers are due no             later than the end of the first hour of the final exam. It is worth                             approximately 40% of your grade.


Note: I do not automatically give make-up exams or accept late papers. If you believe that you have a good excuse, get my permission (not your TA’s) before the assignment is due. After the due date has passed, you will need a note from a physician or Dean.


            c.         Borderline grades:  Improvement over the course of the semester, and regular                         attendance and  participation in discussion sections will be used to determine                             grades  in borderline cases, which frequently occur!


            d.         Plagiarism:  This is a serious violation of the honor code and will be reported to                         the authorities.  The penalties are much more severe than receiving a failing                             grade. Bottom line:  Don’t do it.


            e.         Students with disabilities:  We are happy to accommodate all student                                     disabilities  that are confirmed by CU’s Disability Services.  You will need to                                 register with them (303-492-8671) and provide us (especially your TA) with                                 official notification from them of your particular needs. Please do this within                             the first two weeks of classes.


Course Description:

The subject of this course is science. Its purpose is to introduce students to contemporary philosophical thought about the nature of science. We begin with questions such as the following: What is the “scientific method" and does it differ from other methods for obtaining knowledge? In what does the objectivity (unbiased observation?) and rationality (logic?) of science consist? In what sense can science be said to make progress? Is historical science (paleontology, etc.) inferior to experimental science? Do theoretical entities such as electrons and DNA really exist or are they just useful fictions for organizing observations into powerful theoretical systems for purposes of prediction and explanation? To bring these difficult philosophical issues to life, we will discuss a number of exciting scientific discoveries, puzzles, and debates including the nature of space and time in Einstein’s general theory of relativity, the problem of making good sense of quantum mechanics within the framework of classical physics, the empirical status of string theory (which supposedly provides the long awaited “unified field theory” in physics), the debate over the cause of the end-Cretaceous mass extinction (65 million years ago) and end-Permian mass extinction (250 million years ago), and contemporary thought about the origin and evolution of life on Earth. We will end with a critical discussion of the history and current status of scientific thinking about global warming.