Coordinates Thursdays from 2 to 4 PM in room 021 of Ludwigstrasse 31.
Lecturer Tom Sterkenburg. Contact me at; visit me in room 126 of Ludwigstrasse 31.
Course description

The epistemology of science is concerned with the notion of scientific knowledge, and the justification for common claims and conceptions about scientific knowledge. One natural such conception is that in the course of history our total body of scientific knowledge has, in fact, been expanding. But what exactly does this growth of knowledge consist in, if indeed we can uphold this conception at all? Or more specifically, in what sense, if at all, does scientific knowledge grow when obsolete or refuted theories are replaced by new ones?

In this course we will study and discuss two classical monographs that deal with these questions.

Contents and material

We read Progress and Its Problems: Towards a Theory of Scientific Growth, by Larry Laudan (1977), and The Advancement of Science: Science Without Legend, Objectivity Without Illusions by Philip Kitcher (1993).

See the below schedule for details.


The course is worth 9 ECTS. Your grade will be determined by a term paper at the end of the course. The term paper treats of a theme we have discussed in the course, and has a length of about 5000-6000 words.

In addition, you are required to submit at least three questions for discussion (and any desired number of questions for clarification) by the day prior to each lecture. A discussion question ideally comes in the form of indicating some aspect of the text (ranging from the level of a single passage to the level of the whole book) you find problematic, implausible, and/or confusing; and a brief motivation why you think so.


Date Topic Material Assignment
Thu Oct 18 Introduction.
Thu Oct 25 Laudan (1977). Prologue; ch. 1.
Thu Nov 1 NO CLASS: All Saints' Day.
Thu Nov 8 Laudan (1977). Ch. 2; ch. 3 up to page 95.
Thu Nov 15 Laudan (1977). Chs. 2–4.
Thu Nov 22 Laudan (1977). Chs. 5–6.
Thu Nov 29 Laudan (1977). Chs. 6–7; epilogue.
Thu Dec 6 Kitcher (1993). Chs. 1–2.
Thu Dec 13 Kitcher (1993). Ch. 3.
Thu Dec 20 Kitcher (1993). Ch. 4.
Thu Jan 10 Kitcher (1993). Ch. 5.
Thu Jan 17 Kitcher (1993). Ch. 6.
Thu Jan 24 Kitcher (1993). Ch. 7, sects. 1-6.
Thu Jan 31 Kitcher (1993). Ch. 7, sects. 7-10.
Thu Feb 07 Wrap-up. Ch. 8, sects. 1, 13, and 24; envoi.
Mon Mar 25 Deadline term paper.