PHIL 3550: Philosophy of Science

Spring 2012

Important Items to Note:

Paper Assignment posted

Unit 4 and Final Exam: Wed 4/25 at 12:30pm

Reading Schedule

Homework Schedule

Instructor: Mike Schulte

Course Textbooks:

Introductory Readings in the Philosophy of Science (3rd Edition)
Editors: Klemke, Hollinger, Rudge
ISBN: 978-1573922401

What is This Thing Called Science? (3rd Edition) (required sections on reserve)
Author: David Chalmers
ISBN: 0-87220-452-9

The primary course text will be the Klemke, Hollinger, and Rudge book. We will also read selections from the Chalmers book. Additional readings will be made available through the web or through the library course reserves site.

Contact Information: The best way to reach me is by e-mail. In the event of an emergency, you may contact me at the phone number listed. All e-mail correspondence should use your WMU e-mail account. I will generally reply to e-mails within 36 hours. Though I will often reply within just a few hours of your original message, this will not always be feasible.

(Phone number omitted on web version)

Office Hours: I will be available for regular office hours to assist you in the course. If your schedule does not permit you to attend these scheduled hours, we can set up an appointment at a mutually convenient time.

Office Location:Moore Hall, room 3021
Office Hours:Monday 1:55pm-2:45pm (after class)
Tuesday and Thursday 2pm-2:30pm
Other times by appointment

For quick questions, I am usually available before and after class. Students are encouraged to make an appointment as necessary. Walk-ins are welcome, though I am often away from my office.

Course Description: This course is a philosophical exploration of the basic concepts, methods, and aims of the natural sciences. The course explores issues such as confirmation, explanation, reduction, and the observation/theory dichotomy through philosophical analysis and case studies. The detailed analyses of historic and contemporary scientific practice will include teaching of the relevant science.

Course Requirements: This course meets Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of each week from 1:00pm to 1:50pm except for scheduled holidays. Late work will not generally be accepted without a medical excuse. If you arrive late for an exam or quiz, you will generally not be given extra time to finish the assignment to compensate for your late arrival.

Grading: There will be four unit exams (50 minutes) and one final exam (during the final exam week session, alongside the fourth regular exam). There will also be regular reading quizzes and occasional homework problems. The weights of these components are as follows:

Quizzes (Average):0.28
Homework Problems (Average):0.12
Unit Exam Scores:0.12 each (0.48 total)
Final Exam:0.12

Quizzes: There will be regular quizzes, and each quiz will be based on the reading that is due for the day. Quizzes will typically consist of one or two questions. No makeup quizzes will be given. Quizzes missed for excused absences will be omitted from the final grade calculation (with no penalty) as long as the number of missed quizzes is not excessive. Quizzes missed for unexcused absences will be counted as assignments not completed (see grading scheme below).

Homework Problems: Throughout the semester you will receive occasional homework problems. These will be designed to match the types of questions that you can expect to see on the exams (see below). Problems will typically be assigned two lectures before they are due. You are not expected to spend more than 30 minutes on each problem. In fact, you are encouraged not to do so!

Unit Exams: Each exam will be four pages long. The first page will contain several short answer questions. The second page will consist of a question or two regarding one key concept from the unit. The third page will consist of a compare/contrast question based on two or three of the readings from the unit. The fourth page will involve a practical application of some sort. The final exam will be four pages in length, will have a similar structure, and will be given during the same session as the fourth unit exam. The final exam will be cumulative.

Exam Schedule (Tentative):

First Unit Exam: Monday, February 6, 2012
Second Unit Exam: Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Third Unit Exam: Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Fourth Unit Exam and Final Exam: Wednesday, April 25, 2012 (in regular classroom)

Grading Scheme: The following grading scale (subject to change) will be used for this course:

3.75 and above A 1.75-2.24 C
3.25-3.74 BA 1.25-1.74 DC
2.75-3.24 B 0.75-1.24 D
2.25-2.74 CB below 0.75 E

I reserve the right to give a negative score (as low as -4) for assignments not submitted or submitted but done poorly.

Grade Reconsideration: Grade reconsideration requests must be made in writing within one week of the return of the assignment. The written request must explain what is to be reconsidered and why reconsideration is appropriate. The original, unaltered work must be included with the request. Under no circumstances will I lower a grade as a result of this reconsideration process.

Academic Integrity: You are responsible for making yourself aware of and understanding the academic policies and procedures in the Undergraduate or Graduate Catalogs (found online, that pertain to Student rights and responsibilities. These policies include cheating, fabrication, falsification and forgery, multiple submission, plagiarism, complicity, and computer misuse. If there is reason to believe you have been involved in academic dishonesty, you will be referred to the Office of Student Judicial Affairs. You will be given the opportunity to review the charge(s). If you believe you are not responsible, you will have the opportunity for a hearing. You should consult with me if you are uncertain about an issue of academic honesty prior to the submission of an assignment or test.

Accommodation for Disabilities: Any student with a documented disability (e.g. physical, learning, psychiatric, vision, hearing, etc.) who needs to arrange reasonable accommodations must contact Disability Services for Students at the beginning of the semester. You can contact Disability Services for Students by phone at (269) 387-2116 or by e-mail at Once DSS has determined appropriate accommodations, please contact me at your earliest convenience so that I can arrange to provide those accommodations.