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Unit Overview


Does science provide a guide to reality? Should we believe in the existence of black holes, electrons and quantum particles simply because science tells us to? Is there a single characteristic that distinguishes science from other intellectual endeavours? This unit examines some of the deep philosophical issues that arise when reflecting on the nature and purpose of scientific inquiry. Topics covered may include, but are not limited to: logical positivism; falsificationism; rival theories of scientific method; the possibility of a ‘demarcation criterion' distinguishing science from non-science; influential arguments for and against scientific realism; the nature of scientific revolutions and progress in science; feminist and sociological challenges to the status of science; the nature of scientific explanation; and issues surrounding reduction and the ‘unity of science'.

6 points
(see Timetable)
Semester 1UWA (Perth)Face to face
Details for undergraduate courses
  • Level 2 core unit in the Science and Technology in Society major sequence
  • Level 2 option in the Philosophy; Philosophy, Politics and Economics major sequences
  • Level 2 elective

Students are able to (1) independently interpret philosophical texts; (2) locate philosophical ideas in their historical context; (3) evaluate philosophical positions, including identifying counter-examples and identifying and questioning their basic assumptions; (4) express ideas in a clear and precise manner; (5) construct persuasive arguments; (6) demonstrate strong written communication and research skills; (7) demonstrate familiarity with key terms, positions, and arguments in philosophy of science; (8) demonstrate an understanding of how philosophical issues arise inevitably from the study and practice of science; and (9) identify and critically evaluate metaphysical and epistemological assumptions underlying various conceptions of scientific inquiry.


Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) quizzes; (2) assignments; and (3) participation. Further information is available in the unit outline.

To pass this unit, a student must: (a) achieve an overall mark of 50 per cent or higher for the unit; and (b) achieve the requisite requirements(s) or a mark of 50 per cent or greater, whichever is higher and specified in the unit outline, for the assignments component.

Student may be offered supplementary assessment in this unit if they meet the eligibility criteria.

Unit Coordinator(s)
Professor Rob Wilson
Unit rules
24 points of Level 1 units
PHIL2270 Philosophy of Science
Contact hours
lectures: 2 hours per week (for 12 weeks)
workshops: 1 hour per week (for 12 weeks)
  • The availability of units in Semester 1, 2, etc. was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change.
  • All students are responsible for identifying when they need assistance to improve their academic learning, research, English language and numeracy skills; seeking out the services and resources available to help them; and applying what they learn. Students are encouraged to register for free online support through GETSmart; to help themselves to the extensive range of resources on UWA's STUDYSmarter website; and to participate in WRITESmart and (ma+hs)Smart drop-ins and workshops.
  • Unit readings, including any essential textbooks, are listed in the unit outline for each unit, one week prior the commencement of study. The unit outline will be available via the LMS and the UWA Handbook one week prior the commencement of study. Reading lists and essential textbooks are subject to change each semester. Information on essential textbooks will also be made available on the Essential Textbooks. This website is updated regularly in the lead up to semester so content may change. It is recommended that students purchase essential textbooks for convenience due to the frequency with which they will be required during the unit. A limited number of textbooks will be made available from the Library in print and will also be made available online wherever possible. Essential textbooks can be purchased from the commercial vendors to secure the best deal. The Student Guild can provide assistance on where to purchase books if required. Books can be purchased second hand at the Guild Secondhand bookshop (second floor, Guild Village), which is located on campus.
  • Contact hours provide an indication of the type and extent of in-class activities this unit may contain. The total amount of student work (including contact hours, assessment time, and self-study) will approximate 150 hours per 6 credit points.