ple_trans.gif (1181 bytes)









Philosophy 203: Scientific Reasoning


Instructor Lee C. Archie Office Hours
Office LC M33 MWF 10:00-11:00
Telephone (864) 388-8383 TTh 11:00-12:30
Email ICQ 14365150
Philosophy Home Page
Scientific Reasoning Discussion List
Philosophy Chat
Philosophy FAQ

I look forward to talking to each of you about our scientific reasoning. You are warmly encouraged to stop by my office to discuss classroom lectures, ideas, or problems. If the stated office hours do not fit your schedule, other times can be arranged.


I. M. Copi and Keith Burgess-Jackson, Informal Logic (Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1996).

Recommended Reading: Kathleen Dean Moore, Inductive Arguments: Developing Critical Thinking Skills (Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall/Hunt, 1995).

Course Description

General Aims

The general purpose of this course is to introduce some of the main problems of inductive logic, including

  • What are the differences between arguments and explanations?
  • What are the differences between deductive and inductive reasoning?
  • What are the common fallacies in scientific reasoning?
  • What are the techniques for definition and classification in science?
  • What are hypothetical reasoning and the patterns of scientific discovery?
  • What are the presuppositions of experimental inquiry?
  • What are the main patterns of scientific investigation?
  • What are crucial experiments and ad hoc hypotheses?

Inductive reasoning (scientific reasoning) has many similarities with the kind of reasoning used by Sherlock Holmes in the works by A. Conan Doyle. This kind of reasoning involves the claim, not that reasons give conclusive evidence for the truth of a conclusion, but that they provide some support for it. This course complements Philosophy 103: Introduction to Logic, but you need not have taken that course to do well in the Scientific Reasoning course. They are entirely independent courses.

A unique feature of the course is the study of some examples of pseudoscience. Other examples studies are taken from Scientific American, American Scientist, Science, Nature, and Science News.

The heart of the course, however, emphasizes the inquiry into the basic methods of inductive or probabilistic inquiry, and the investigation of techniques for solving problems under uncertainty. You will learn some of the most effective methods of inquiry, analysis, and criticism in the fields of the physical, social, and political sciences.

This study of scientific reasoning involves a survey of the methods of induction and experimental inquiry. Classical and contemporary inductive logics are considered with a special emphasis on justification, conditional arguments, testing theoretical hypotheses, causal hypotheses, decision analysis, Mill’s Methods, and the "logic" of scientific discovery.

Providing a rational reconstruction of the methods of science is one of the most difficult areas of research in philosophy and science. Many of the fundamental problems have not yet been satisfactorily solved, and many of these problems appear at an elementary level of the subject. No scientist claims absolute knowledge; the foundations of science change and are reformed as an on-going process as paradigms change. Even though science is only probabilistic knowledge, it is knowledge in a genuine sense. Deductive knowledge, on the other hand, is, in a significant sense, trivial because it relies on the meaning of symbols, words, syntax, and convention.

Although the different sciences you study in college utilize different methodologies of inductive logic (scientific reasoning), the underlying schemata are presupposed by instructors and usually not explicitly formulated for the student. This course provides the skills necessary for understanding the nature, scope, and limits of the methods used in those courses. In sum, Philosophy 203: Scientific Reasoning not only provides an introduction to the various methodologies of the social and natural sciences but also fulfills the General Education Core Curriculum requirement for logical and analytical thought.

The class periods are composed, for the most part, of lecture, case studies, simulations, and problem solving.

Specific Aims

The specific purposes of Scientific Reasoning are:

[1] to learn to identify inductive arguments, to evaluate and counter them, and to construct good arguments,
[2] to obtain the ability to relate arguments to one another and to judge the relative strength of different kinds of inductive arguments,
[3] to analyze different techniques of definition and kinds of meaning in the sciences,
[4] to obtain the ability to identify common mistakes in scientific reasoning and to reconstruct inductive generalizations,
[5] to gain skill in evaluating scientific explanations and patterns of investigation,
[6] to recognize the differences between the inductive and deductive sciences and how they differ from the pseudo sciences,
[7] to recognize the difference between a priori presuppositions and a posteriori principles,
[8] to study classic, influential, and abiding methods of experimental inquiry into the nature of causation,
[9] to understand how natural processes can be systematically discovered and clarified through experimental design and crucial experiments,
[10] to apply usefully the several methods of inductive reasoning in everyday life and ordinary language.


previous.gif (1225 bytes) next.gif (1159 bytes)

CGI and Java scripts programmed by
Please send corrections or suggestions to
Please see the disclaimer concerning this page.