Philosophy 351/551

Prof. Warren Schmaus

Science and Values

Office: At home

TR 11:15 - 12:30



Office Hours:  By appointment 



Web Site:




TENTATIVE Course syllabus



Is science value-free? The traditional ideal is that science is built on objective evidence and is independent of subjective moral or political values. The value-neutrality of science is thought to be important, since medicine and engineering as well as government policy regarding things like pandemics and climate change are – or should be! – based on it. However, we cannot hope to promote this ideal simply by encouraging scientists to be objective and unbiased with regard to the evidence. 


From a logical point of view, scientific claims cannot actually be confirmed or disconfirmed on the basis of evidence alone. Instead, scientists tend to choose those theories that explain the largest number or variety of facts, are the most precise, the most consistent, the most promising, or the simplest. These considerations are what philosophers call “epistemic values.” But what happens if scientists cannot agree which of these values are the most important, or which theory exemplifies these values best? Could there be rational alternatives in science that are shaped by different values? And if epistemic values can influence science, can political, moral, religious, and social values influence it as well? Should they?


Thomas Kuhn was one of the first to raise the problem that there is no way to measure progress if scientists cannot reach agreement about values. In order to guarantee progress, the next generation of philosophers then sought alternative theories of scientific rationality. Sociologists, on the other hand, taking their cue from Kuhn, argued that what counts as scientific knowledge depends on social and cultural values and that there are no right or wrong answers. More recently, philosophers such as Ian Hacking, Philip Kitcher, and Helen Longino have articulated views of the pursuit of scientific knowledge that take into account the role of social values in science but that do not have the relativist implications of previous sociological theories of knowledge.


Hacking examines the thesis of the contingency of scientific development, asking whether science, under different conditions, could have taken alternative paths that would have been just as progressive. Like Hacking, Kitcher thinks social values affect the questions science asks more than the answers it finds. He seeks a more democratic way of setting research agendas that would allow more people with a wider range of values to play a role. Longino maintains that such a democratic process is essential for not only deciding which questions to ask but also what answers to accept.  Only those societies governed by a certain set of democratic norms are able to produce genuine or objective knowledge.



Required Texts:


            Hacking, Ian.The Social Construction of What? ISBN 9780674004122

            Kitcher, Philip. Science, Truth, and Democracy. ISBN 9780195165524

            Kuhn, Thomas S. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Fourth edition. ISBN 9780226458120

            Longino, Helen. The Fate of Knowledge. ISBN 9780691088761


And several journal articles on my web site, including:


            Kitcher, Philip. Reply to Helen Longino. Philosophy of Science 69 (Dec. 2002) 569-72.

            Kitcher, Philip. The Third Way:  Reflections on Helen Longino's The Fate of Knowledge.  Philosophy of Science 69 (2002):549-59.

            Longino, Helen. Science and the Common Good: Thoughts on Philip Kitcher's Science, Truth, and Democracy. Philosophy of Science 69 (Dec. 2002) 560-68.

            Longino, Helen. Reply to Philip Kitcher. Philosophy of Science 69 (Dec. 2002) 573-77.



Course requirements:




3 500-word essays, 10 points each, 2/16, 3/9, 3/30


30 %

8 – 10 Surprise Quizzes


10 %

Class Participation


10 %

Research Project:



50 %



Proposal:  Title, description, bibliography

6 %




4-page progress report, with bibliography

12 %



4/22 – 5/6

Class Presentation

12 %



Exam week

8-10 page final paper

20 %




100 %




Same as above but with a longer, 15-20 page final paper, held to a higher standard.


Class Participation and Attendance:


Classes will be conducted through Blackboard Collaborate Ultra. Although I will try to remember to record each class, I would prefer students to participate during the regularly scheduled time for the class. However, because I respect your privacy, I will not require students to have their cameras on. It's up to you. Also, as a matter of courtesy not only to me but also to your classmates, one should keep one's mic muted unless one wishes to ask a question or make a comment. This eliminates background noise. You can of course also use the chat function to participate in class.


Class participation and attendance will count towards another 10 % of your grade.


Office Hours:


Office hours will be held online and by scheduled appointment. Just send me an email ( so we can set up a time. I will then create a session in Blackboard Collaborate Ultra for office hours.




The three 500-word essays will be based on material covered in class. For each assignment, you will choose and write about one of the three or four questions I will ask. 


I will be providing notes on the web for all of the classes, which should help you with the short essays as well as the quizzes. Take your web browser to the web site named above. There you will find this syllabus with highlighted links to lecture outlines (in parentheses), paper topic assignments, and a guide to paper writing. The URL for this syllabus is also linked to the Blackboard course page. 


All written work, including the essays, the research proposal, the progress report, and the final paper, are to be double-spaced and in a readable 11 or 12-point font, and submitted as Word documents as email attachments. Please, no pdfs. Name the file after yourself, so I don't get 20+ Word documents with a name like "first essay." Students whose written work is not up to college level will be requested to seek assistance at the Writing Center, to be arranged with Prof. Naum Neskoski (


Plagiarized work receives a failing grade and cannot be made up, and will be reported to the university committee on academic honesty. 




In addition, there will be approximately 8 quizzes, which typically consist of 7 true-and-false questions and one 3-point question that requires a written answer.  Your average quiz grade will count for 10 % of your final grade.


I will email a copy of the quiz to everyone in the class 15 minutes before class starts. Students should then return it to me with their answers within the first 10 to 15 minutes of that class. Just like the essays, return it to me as an email attachment, naming the file after yourself to avoid confusion. After I receive everyone’s quiz, I’ll go over the answers in class, as they often provide important clues for the essays, which are worth considerably more towards your grade.


Students may make up missed quizzes only if they have an excused absence. Valid excuses concern things that are outside a student’s control, such as an out-of-town trip by a sports team or ROTC unit, an illness, or other medical problem. It is the student’s responsibility to inform the professor ahead of time when the student knows he or she will be absent from class. 


Research Project:


Every undergraduate student will be responsible for a library research paper of about 8 - 10 pages and a 10 -15 minute presentation based on that paper. Graduate students ae expected to write a 15-20 page paper and give a 15-20 minute presentation. The topic should be relevant to the issues raised in this course.  A list of suggested topics is linked to this syllabus on the web.  Alternative topics may be worked out with the professor.


A librarian from Galvin Library, Ms. Nichole Novak, will visit our online class on March 2 to introduce you to some of the research tools available to you. She has also prepared an online research guide for philosophy papers:


This research project will proceed through a series of guided stages, each of which shall contribute towards your grade for the course. 


·                  First each student will turn in a project proposal, including a tentative title, a one-paragraph description of the topic to be investigated, and a tentative bibliography of at least three peer-reviewed sources of the sort we learned about during our visit from the librarian. This will be returned with comments by the professor. 

·                  The next stage will be a progress report of about 1000 words, in either paragraph or outline form. It should also include the current bibliography on a separate page. You may think of this progress report as serving as the basis of the class presentation. 

·                  The third stage is a class presentation. Students will send me a power point or pdf document ahead of time, which I will distribute to the class and upload to Blackboard Collaborate Ultra. You'll be promoted from a participant to a presenter on the day of your presentation. Presenters should try to reserve a few minutes at the end for questions. Grades will be based on content.

·                  Comments on this progress report and class discussion generated by your class presentation will then provide you with feedback for writing your final paper. The final research paper is due on the day scheduled for the final examination for this course and serves in place of it.


Disability Accommodations:


Reasonable accommodations will be made for students with documented disabilities. In order to receive accommodations, students must obtain a letter of accommodation from the Center for Disability Resources and speak with me about it as soon as possible. The Center for Disability Resources is located in Suite 3F3-1, 10 W 35th St. You can also call them at 312-567-5744 or email them at



Readings and Assignments:




Topics, Readings, and Written Assignments


1/19 T

Introduction to Course (intro).

1/21 R

Science: A Historical Perspective. Kuhn, Structure, chapters 1 – 5; recommended: introductory essay pp. vii – xxv.  (Kuhn1).

1/26 T

Anomalies and Crises in Science.  Kuhn, Structure, chapters 6 – 8; recommended: introductory essay pp. xxvi – xxvii (Kuhn 2).

1/28 R

Tuesday's assignment, cont'd.

2/2 T

Scientific Revolutions. Kuhn, Structure, chapters 9 – 10; recommended: introductory essay pp. xxvii – xxix (Kuhn3). FIRST ESSAY WILL BE ASSIGNED.  DUE:  2/16. 

2/4 R

Scientific Revolutions and Progress. Kuhn, Structure, chapters 12 – 13 and postscript sections 5 – 6; recommended:  introductory essay pp. xxx – xxxvii (Kuhn4).

2/9 T


2/11 R

What is Social Construction? Hacking,The Social Construction of What? ch. 1, 2 (Hacking1, Hacking2).

2/16 T

The Construction Metaphor, cont'd. Hacking, Social, ch. 2 (skip pp. 40-49) (Hacking2).FIRST ESSAY DUE.

2/18 R

Construction in the natural sciences. Hacking, Social, ch. 3 (Hacking3).   SECOND ESSAY WILL BE ASSIGNED. DUE:  3/9.

2/23 T

Construction in the natural sciences, cont'd. Hacking, Social, ch. 3 (Hacking3).

2/25 R

Forms of Knowledge. Hacking, Social, ch. 6 (Hacking6).

3/2 T

Class visit by Nichole Novak, librarian.

3/4 R

Forms of Knowledge, continued. Hacking, Social, ch. 6 (Hacking6).

3/9 T

Science and Objectivity. Kitcher, Science, Truth, and Democracy, ch. 1, 3, 5 (Kitcher1). SECOND ESSAY DUE.

3/11 R

Science and the Search for Significant Truth. Kitcher, Science, ch. 6 – 7 (Kitcher2). THIRD ESSAY WILL BE ASSIGNED. DUE:  3/30.

3/16 T

Should everything be studied? Kitcher, Science, ch. 8 – 9 (Kitcher3). PROPOSALS DUE.

3/18 R

Well-Ordered Science. Kitcher, Science, ch. 10 (Kitcher4).

3/23 T

Subversive Truth. Kitcher, Science, ch. 11 – 12 (Kitcher5).

3/25 R

Anti-Science Arguments.  Kitcher, Science, ch. 13 (Kitcher6). 

3/30 T

Who decides?  Kitcher, Science, chapter 14; Longino, “Science and the Common Good;” Kitcher, “Reply to Longino” (Kitcher7). THIRD ESSAY DUE.

4/1 R

The Social and the Rational. Longino, The Fate of Knowledge, ch. 1, 4 (Longino1).

4/6 T

Socializing Cognition  Longino, The Fate of Knowledge, ch. 5 (Longino2).

4/8 R


4/13 T

Socializing Knowledge and Wrongheaded Knowledge. Longino, Fate, ch. 6 -7 (skip pp. 165 – 73) (Longino3, Longino4).PROGRESS REPORTS DUE.

4/15 R

Wrongheaded Knowledge. Longino, Fate, ch. 7 (Longino4).

4/20 T

Longino’s Conclusion and debate with Kitcher. Longino, Fate, chapter 9; Kitcher, “The Third Way;” Longino, “Reply to Kitcher” (Longino5).

4/22 R

Student presentations.

4/27 T

Student presentations, cont’d.

4/29 R

Student presentations, cont’d.

5/4 T

Student presentations, cont’d.

5/6 R

Student presentations, cont’d.