27984 - Philosophy of Science (LM)

Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2018/2019

Learning outcomes

Philosophy of science analyzes scientific knowledge, its aims and conceptual foundations. Main topics of concern for philosophers of science are: the nature, use and role of scientific laws and theories, the structure of explanation, prediction and various forms of scientific inference in the costruction of scientific knowledge. The course gets the student familiar with the most vividly debated issues in contemporary philosophy of science, on the basis of the msot recent literature.

Course contents

The course will deal with contemporary conceptions of scientific explanation and causation. The first part of the course (first four weeks) will present the current debate on scientific explanation, discussing a range of different perspectives put forward in philosophy of science (nomological explanation, functional explanation, unificatory explanation, the pragmatics of explanation, causal explanation). Starting from some accounts on causal explanation, the second part of the course (from week 5 to week 8) will focus on the notion of causation, considering the major approaches to causation currently debated. The analysis of the - intertwined, but distinct - debates on explanation and causation will lead to some reflections also on scientific pluralism, in its different versions (week 9), and on the elaboration and use of models (week 10).  

The course will start on September 24th and will take place on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, 11-13, Aula E, via Zamboni 34


Compulsory readings:

R. Campaner and M.C. Galavotti, La spiegazione scientifica: modelli e problemi, Archetipolibri-CLUEB, 2012

R. Campaner, ed., La causalità tra filosofia e scienza, Archetipolibri, seconda edizione 2012.

Students who do not know Italian can read:

S. Psillos, Causation and Explanation, Acumen, 2002.

W.C. Salmon, Four Decades of Scientific Explanation, 1989.

As an introduction to philosophy of science:

M.C. Galavotti and R. Campaner, Filosofia della scienza, Egea, 2017


J. Ladyman, Understanding Philosophy of Science, Routledge, 2002

Further suggested readings:

Kellert, S.H., Longino, H. and Waters, K., (eds) Scientific Pluralism, Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science, XIX, University of Minnesota Press, 2006

Magnani, L. and Bortolotti, T., (eds) Handbook of Model-Based Science, Part A: "Theoretical Issues in Models", Springer, 2017.

Teaching methods

The course will consist in a series of lectures. Students will be encouraged to deliver short presentations and research works on the issues addressed in the course

Assessment methods

The examination is a written test. The student is required to write a short essay (4000-4500 words) on one of the issues addressed in the course. The test aims to assess the attainment of the expected learning outcomes, evaluating whether the student masters the contemporary debate on scientific explanation and causation, and the core notions that are required for discussing the main issues concerning their nature and role.

The student’s capacity of dealing with the vocabulary, the basic notions and the technical terms introduced in the course will be evaluated.

The attainment of a comprehensive and detailed perspective, the acquisition of in-depth knowledge of the relevant texts, an ability to make critical use of the arguments that have been introduced in the course, clear presentation and an appropriate use of technical language will result in excellent grades. The attainment of adequate knowledge of the contents without an autonomous capacity of critical elaboration and a generally correct but not totally flawless use of technical language will result in good grades. The attainment of limited knowledge and/or rote learning of the contents, absence of synthetic and/or analytic capacities and correct use of non-technical language only will result in lower grades. The attainment of very limited and superficial knowledge of the contents and/or inaccurate use of language will allow only the minimum pass grade. Poor knowledge of the contents, seriously inaccurate use of language and a lack of familiarity with the literature discussed in the course will lead to the failure of the examination.

Teaching tools

Power point slides will be used during lectures.

Further materials (papers) will be uploaded in the course website.

Office hours

See the website of Raffaella Campaner