PHIL 4550 Philosophy of Science and Technology
Adam Briggle Class Location: ENV 190
Office: ENV 225G Class meeting time: TR 12:30-1:50
Phone: 940-565-2266 OH: TR 9:30-11:00 or by appointment
This course casts a critical eye on the defining phenomena of our age: modern science
and technology. We will explore the meaning of science and technology and their
relationship to society, politics, and culture. The first two parts of the course turn the
kaleidoscope to look at science and technology from different perspectives. After the
mid-term exam, the last part of the course asks the question: What is the relationship
between science and values? Throughout the course and in our final papers, we will
reference contemporary events in health, environment, security, education, media, and
1. A broader and deeper understanding of the many ways of conceptualizing and
evaluating science and technology.
2. The ability to use this understanding to think critically and creatively about
science and technology and their relation to your life and society.
3. A keen ability to analyze and evaluate claims made by scientists and engineers as
well as claims made about science and technology in the media, in political
debate, and in the marketplace.
Evaluation (see Assignments section below for more detail)
25% Participation and pop quizzes
25% Mid-term exam
25% Final exam
25% Final paper
Writing Center http://www.engl.unt.edu/facilities/facilities_university_writing.htm
Student Code of Conduct
--- (Required) Readings in the Philosophy of Technology, 2nd. ed. (2009), edited by
David Kaplan, Rowman and Littlefield.
--- *Additional reading materials (marked with an asterisk below) can be found on the
course blackboard site.
R Aug. 26: Modern Times (Charlie Chaplin, 1936); and questions and Sarewitz assigned
T Aug. 31: Course overview and Manufactured Landscapes (Baichwal, 2006)
Part I: Snapshots of Modern Science
R Sep. 2: Daring
* selections from Francis Bacon, Renee Descartes, and Immanuel Kant
T Sep. 7: The Death of Metaphysics
*A.J. Ayer, selections from Language, Truth, and Logic (1936)
R Sep. 9: Falsificationism and Holism
*Karl Popper, “Falsificationism” (1957) and W.V. Quine from “Two Dogmas of
Empiricism” (1953) and “Posits and Reality” (1966)
T Sep. 14: Paradigms
*Thomas Kuhn, selections from The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1963)
T Sep. 21: Anarchy
*Paul Feyerabend, “An Argument against Method” (1978)
R Sep. 16: Constructivism
*David Bloor, “The Strong Programme in the Sociology of Science” (1976)
R Sep. 23: Feminism
*Sandra Harding, “Feminist Science Criticism” (1986)
T Sep. 28: Mediation
Bruno Latour, “Laboratories,” in Kaplan pp. 534-551 (1987)
R Sep. 30: The View from Nowhere
*Donna Haraway, “Modest Witness” (1997)
Part II: Snapshots of Modern Technology
T Oct. 5: New Power, New Responsibility
Hans Jonas, “Technology and Responsibility,” in Kaplan pp. 173-184 (1974)
R Oct. 7: Enframing
Martin Heidegger, “The Question Concerning Technology,” in Kaplan pp. 9-24
T Oct. 12: A Comfortable Unfreedom
Herbert Marcuse, “The New Forms of Control,” in Kaplan pp. 34-42 (1964)
R Oct. 14: Determinism
Langdon Winner, “Do Artifacts have Politics?” in Kaplan pp. 251-263 (1986)
T Oct. 19: Indeterminism
Andrew Feenberg, “Democratic Rationalization,” in Kaplan pp. 139-155 (1992)
R Oct. 21: Evil Institutions
*Ivan Illich, selections from Deschooling Society (1970)
T Oct. 26: Networks
Bruno Latour, “A Collective of Humans and Nonhumans,” in Kaplan pp. 156-167
R Oct. 28: Devices and Things
Albert Borgmann, “Focal Things and Practices,” in Kaplan pp. 56-75(1984)
T Nov. 2: Sex with Robots and Other Posthuman Fantasies
Ray Kurzweil, “Twenty-first Century Bodies,” in Kaplan pp. 361-374 (1999)
Review and Mid-term Exam
R Nov. 4: Review
T Nov. 9: Exam is due
Final paper topic approval must happen by Nov. 10
Part III: Science and Ethics
R Nov. 11: Emotivism
*A.J. Ayer, “Critique of Ethics and Theology” (1936)
T Nov. 16: Cornucopia
*Vannevar Bush, selections from Science—the Endless Frontier (1945)
R Nov. 18: Norms Intrinsic to Science
*Robert K. Merton, “The Normative Structure of Science” (1942)
T Nov. 23: Bad Apples or Bad System?
*William Broad and Nicholas Wade, “Fraud and the Structure of Science” (1983)
R Nov. 25: No Class, Thanksgiving Break!
T Nov. 30: Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t Ma Baby?
*Jacob Bronowski, selections from Science and Human Values (1956)
R Dec. 2: Theory of the Real
*Martin Heidegger, “Science and Reflection” (1954)
T Dec. 7: Facts and Values
*Leo Strauss, “Natural Right and the Distinction Between Facts and Values”
R Dec. 9: Artificial Wine
*Albert Borgmann, “The Problem of Technology” (1984)
Evaluation of your performance will be based on four assignments.
1. Participation and pop quizzes (1/4)
The class will feature both small and large group opportunities for letting your
voice be heard. Your participation should adhere to basic principles of civility,
respect, and open-mindedness.
I will administer quizzes to ensure attendance stays high and to assess our
comprehension of the material. They will be short and, if you do the reading, they
will be relatively painless.
Missing more than three classes during the semester will adversely impact your
grade. Thoughtful comments that critically engage the reading material, your
peers, or the lectures will positively influence your grade. My classroom upholds
the ideals of civil exchange, open-mindedness, respect, and courage. You are
encouraged to think radical thoughts and play the devil’s advocate as long as you
can do so respectfully.
2. Mid-term exam (1/4)
1,500 word (+/- 100) essay covering material from parts I and II, written at home
and turned in for class on Tuesday Nov. 9th The essay will be a response paper
written to one of four questions crafted by Adam. The goal is to assess your
comprehension of the material by your ability to analyze and synthesize it.
3. Final exam (1/4)
Cumulative short answer and essay. Scheduled for Tuesday Dec. 14th 10:30 a.m.
to 12:30 p.m.
4. Final paper (1/4)
3,000 words (+/- 150), excluding bibliography.
Can be authored alone or in pairs. If team-authored, you can choose either to
accept the same grade or indicate which sections were written by which student.
Briefly describe an issue of contemporary social relevance and analyze and assess
it using some of the concepts and norms learned in class. Cite at least one thinker
discussed in class.
Due by 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 12th