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Course Description

Catalog Course Description

``A survey of the methods of induction and experimental inquiry. Classical and contemporary inductive logic are considered with special emphasis on justification, conditional arguments, testing theoretical hypotheses, decision analysis, Mill's Methods of Induction, epistemic probability, and the ``logic'' of scientific discovery. Three semester hours.'' From the Lander University Catalog 2002-2003


Irving M. Copi and Keith Burgess-Jackson, Informal Logic. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1996.

Purpose of the Course

The general purpose of this course is to introduce some of the main problems of inductive logic and to focus on distinguishing good reasoning from poor reasoning. The approach is two-sided: (1) the analysis and classification of fallacious reasoning and (3) the analysis and construction of correct reasoning.

Objectives of the Course

The general aims of our scientific reasoning course are
  1. What are the differences between arguments and explanations?
  2. What are the differences between deductive and inductive reasoning?
  3. What are the common fallacies in scientific reasoning?
  4. What are the techniques for definition and classification in science?
  5. What are hypothetical reasoning and the patterns of scientific discovery?
  6. What are presuppositions of experimental inquiry?
  7. What are the main patterns of scientific investigation?
  8. What are crucial experiments and ad hoc hypotheses?

Specific Skills Achieved

Upon completion of this course, all students should be able to
  1. demonstrate basic skills of Internet research, email, Majordomo Discussion Lists, and Message Boards,
  2. distinguish clearly among factual, attitudinal, and verbal disputes in science,
  3. construct premisses and conclusions for inductive arguments,
  4. identify the common fallacies in scientific discourse,
  5. evaluate various types of scientific reasoning,
  6. identify the differences between good science and pseudoscience.
  7. understand the essential role of definition and event description in scientific analyses, and
  8. understand the limitations of current theories of the patterns of experimental inquiry and the logic of discovery.

Narrative Description of the Course

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. Many other examples studied are topics 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 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, as well, 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.

Course Procedures

The methods used to obtain these ends 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 pseudosciences,
  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.
In this course you will gain skill in asking interesting, productive, and insightful questions and will analyze scientific passages to obtain facility in the clear, complete, and methodological undstanding of their content. You will also learn effective methods of analysis and criticism in the evaluation of inductive argumentation.

Teaching Methods

We adopt specific techniques recommended by many educators, namely lecture, discussion, review tests and quizzes, a paper, homework, and computer applications, including word-processing, online discussion list, message boards, chat, and online supplementary material.
next up previous contents index
Next: Course Requirements Up: COURSE SYLLABUS Philosophy 203: Previous: Essential Information   Contents   Index
Lee Archie 2003-01-18