Making Philosophy of Science Relevant for Science Students

Centre for Science Studies, University of Aarhus (2012)
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Abstract

Since 2004, it has been mandated by law that all Danish undergraduate university programmes have to include a compulsory course on the philosophy of science for that particular program. At the Faculty of Science and Technology, Aarhus University, the responsibility for designing and running such courses were given to the Centre for Science Studies, where a series of courses were developed aiming at the various bachelor educations of the Faculty. Since 2005, the Centre has been running a dozen different courses ranging from mathematics, computer science, physics, chemistry over medical chemistry, biology, molecular biology to sports science, geology, molecular medicine, nano science, and engineering. We have adopted a teaching philosophy of using historical and contemporary case studies to anchor broader philosophical discussions in the particular subject discipline under consideration. Thus, the courses are tailored to the interests of the students of the particular programme whilst aiming for broader and important philosophical themes as well as addressing the specific mandated requirements to integrate philosophy, some introductory ethics, and some institutional history. These are multiple and diverse purposes which cannot be met except by compromise. In this short presentation, we discuss our ambitions for using case studies to discuss philosophical issues and the relation between the specific philosophical discussions in the disciplines and the broader themes of philosophy of science. We give examples of the cases chosen to discuss various issues of scientific knowledge, the role of experiments, the relations between mathematics and science, and the issues of responsibility and trust in scientific results. Finally, we address the issue of how and why science students can be interested in and benefit from mandatory courses in the philosophy of their subject.

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