History and philosophy of sciences

A.Y. 2021/2022
Overall hours
FIS/08 M-FIL/02 M-STO/05
Learning objectives
The course aims to provide students with the basics of epistemology and general philosophy of science as well as with the essential traits of the most significant debates that have shaped it. An interdisciplinary approach will be applied and examples from various scientific disciplines and their history will be examined during classes.
Expected learning outcomes
Knowledge and understanding
At the end of the study path, the graduate
1. masters the basic concepts and fundamental themes characterising philosophy of science
2. knows the fundamental elements of science methodology and can connect them with appropriate historical cases.
3. can discern the various kinds of scientific reasoning and understand the validity of arguments brought by her/his own and others.

Ability to apply knowledge and understanding
At the end of the study path, the graduate
1. can critically analyze a text concerning past scientific problems as well as in epistemology and philosophy of science
2. can analyze debates within the philosophy of science with appropriate historical connections
3. can outline the state of the art in relation to a problem in this discipline
4. can apply the methodological tools acquired to solve theoretical and practical problems
Course syllabus and organization

Single session

Lesson period
Second semester
Course syllabus
The course discusses fundamental topics of epistemology and general philosophy of science through case studies from the history of diverse scientific disciplines. In the first part of the course we shall pay particular attention to the following themes: methodology of scientific enquiry, nature and role of conventions in science, mutual relationship between experimentation and theorization, the problem of demarcation between science, pseudoscience and other domains of human thinking, the notion of scientific change and scientific revolution, the structure of scientific explanation, social aspects of scientific enterprise. In the second part of the course students will be asked to take part in on-line reading and sharing comments on Mendel's "Experiments in plant hybridisation" (1865). To this end, a Social Annotation Platform will be used.
Prerequisites for admission
Specific preliminary notions are not required. However, it is assumed that, in addition to their preparation in evolutionary biology, students have a secondary school knowledge of elementary notions of mathematics and physics.
Teaching methods
Frontal lectures, group activities, discussions (in particular: on-line reading and shared comments groups of a Darwinian key-text in the evolutionary theory). When appropriate, multimedia supports are utilized. If possible, compulsory as well as optional didactic materials (e.g. slides discussed during classes) are uploaded on the Website/MS Teams channel of the course.
Teaching Resources
P. Godfrey-Smith, Theory and Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science, University of Chicago Press, Chicago 2021.
L.L. Cavalli-Sforza, Genes, Peoples, and Languages, University of California Press, Berkeley et al. 2001 (and subsequent editions).
G. Mendel, Experiments in plant hybridisation, Harvard UP, Cambridge 1950; the text will be made available on-line for group reading and comments via a Social Annotations Platform
Assessment methods and Criteria
Students are tested in a twofold way: 1) oral exam; 2) participation to reading and shared comments groups (on-line) on a key-text in the history of the life sciences.
Point 1 is intended to assess the knowledge and understanding of the theoretical and conceptual basics of the philosophy of science as well as of the main turns in the history of the theory of evolution. A relevant issue for the assessment will be the ability to integrate knowledge and handle complexity, and formulate judgements with incomplete or limited information. Point 2 is intended to assess understanding capacities of a scientific text as well as the ability to make judgment and apply knowledge. In both cases appropriateness of language and communication skills are considered for grading.
M-FIL/02 - LOGIC AND PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE - University credits: 0
M-STO/05 - HISTORY OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY - University credits: 0
Lessons: 48 hours
Professor: Guzzardi Luca
Educational website(s)
Wednesday, 10.30-13.30. (During Coronavirus-emergency, student meetings only per MS Teams; please, contact me in advance, should you prefer other platforms, e.g. Skype)
Department of Philosophy