Second Philosophy and Testimonial Reliability: Philosophy of Science for STEM Students

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In this paper, I describe some strategies for teaching an introductory philosophy of science course to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) students, with reference to my own experience teaching a philosophy of science course in the Fall of 2020. The most important strategy that I advocate is what I call the “Second Philosophy” approach, according to which instructors ought to emphasize that the problems that concern philosophers of science are not manufactured and imposed by philosophers from the outside, but rather are ones that arise internally, during the practice of science itself. To justify this approach, I appeal to considerations from both educational research and the epistemology of testimony. In addition, I defend some distinctive learning goals that philosophy of science instructors ought to adopt when teaching STEM students, which include rectifying empirically well-documented shortcomings in students’ conceptions of the “scientific method” and the “nature of science.” Although my primary focus will be on teaching philosophy of science to STEM students, much of what I propose can be applied to non-philosophy majors generally. Ultimately, as I argue, a successful philosophy of science course for non-philosophy majors must be one that advances a student’s science education. The strategies that I describe and defend here are aimed at precisely that end.
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Archival date: 2021-05-31
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