PHIL 3120: Perspectives on Science and Mathematics
Spring 2012


Course Objectives
This course will explore a selection of topics and episodes in the history of Western science and mathematics, with a view towards achieving four broad, interlocking goals: to provide students with an overview of the history and philosophy of science and mathematics; to enable students to put these perspectives into pedagogical contexts; to promote intellectual curiosity and critical thinking skills; and to improve studentsí presentation and writing abilities.

Learning Outcomes

Students who successfully complete this course may be expected to have acquired the cognitive and rhetorical skills necessary to:
  • Outline and illustrate the major thematic origins of modern scientific knowledge
  • Distinguish among the historical, philosophical, and sociological perspectives that characterize modern science
  • Analyze the moral and social dimensions of scientific practice
  • Discuss the functions of explanation and prediction in the advancement of modern scienceDetect assumptions and unstated premises in argumentative writing
  • Assess the roles of quantitative and qualitative methods for understanding the nature of things
  • Question the logical foundations of mathematical truths
  • Provide classroom exhibits and experiments demonstrating the explanatory power of some modern scientific theories
  • Design lesson plans for promoting scientific literacy among pre-college students


Required Texts

The following texts are required; a thorough familiarity with their contents is advised:

  • Atalay, Bulent.  Math and the Mona Lisa: The Art and Science of Leonardo da Vinci. Washington: Smithsonian Books, 2004.
  • Espinoza, Fernando.  The Nature of Science: Integrating Historical, Philosophical, and Sociological Perspectives. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2012.
  • Giere, Ronald N, et al.  Understanding Scientific Reasoning. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing; 5th edition, 2006.
  • Sorensen, Roy.  A Brief History of the Paradox: Philosophy and the Labyrinths of the Mind. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.
Recommended Text

The following text isrecommended for those students who wish to advance their philosophical understanding or abilities:
  • Deutsch, David.  The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations that Transform the World. New York: Viking Books, 2011.

Course Division

        Readings: Giere, Chapters 1 - 10 (127 pp.).
        Exercises & Exams: Exercise #1 (Theories, Models, and Claims to Knowledge).

        Readings:Espinoza, Chapters 1-12 (136 pages);
Sorensen, Chapters 1-24 (372 pages);
        Exercises & Exams:Exercise 2 (Case Studies);
Exercise 3 (Moral and Social Dimensions)

        Readings:Atalay, Chapters 1-13 (280 pages)
        Exercises & Exams:Exercise 4 (Art, Science, and Mathematics)
Exercsise 5 (Lesson Plans)
Final Exam

For the most part, reading assignments will be made on a daily basis. Exercises will generally beassigned at least one calendar day before coming due; however, exercises will be accepted for credit ONLY on or before the assigned days. The purpose of the exercises is to prepare you for the exams, so if you miss one, you may wish to secure a copy from someone else in the class.

All students are expected to attend all class periods. While reasonable pleas for exemption from the attendance requirement will be duly considered, a 'reasonable plea' should ordinarily be documented by a physician, team coach, faculty advisor, or a dean. Unexcused absences exceeding THREE (3) class meetings may result in a grade-penalty.

Make-Up Exams
Students who miss an examination or fail to hand in an exercise AND who satisfy the conditions for exemption from the attendance requirement (specified above), are entitled to receive a MAKE-UP examination or exercise. Make-ups will be provided at the earliest mutual convenience of both student and instructor. Students who miss an examination or fail to hand in an exercise BUT who DO NOT satisfy the conditions for exemption from the attendance requirement, will receive NULL CREDIT for that exercise or examination.

Exercises and exams, as well as the pedagogical lesson plans, will receive both numerical scores and letter grades intended to reflect your performance levels on an absolute scale (measured against your instructor's expectations). Final grades sent to the registrar are based on cumulative average performance.

Schedule of Exercises and Exams

Exercise #1 Theories, Models, & Knowledge  20  4  4
Exercise #2 Case Studies  20  4  8
Exercise #3 Moral & Social Dimensions  20  4  12
Exercise #4 Art, Science, & Mathematics 20  4 16
Exercise #5 Three Lesson Plans (16% each)  350  48 64
Class Work Participation & Presentations 100 20 84
Final Exam Comprehensive Examination 80 16 100

Accomodation for Students with Disabilities
If you have a disability that may require assistance or accommodation, or you have questions related to any accommodations for testing, note takers, readers, etc., please speak with your instructor as soon as possible. Students may also contact the Office of Disabled Students Services (898-2783) with questions about such services.

Essay Annotations
I. NUMERICAL MARKERS:  The following markers are designed to index problems in essay work. They are NOT arranged in order of severity. They do NOT necessarily correlate with grade assignments.


(1) Spelling error here.

(2) Noncritical weakness in sentence structure.

(3) Critical weakness in sentence structure. (meaning lost).

(4) Punctuation not clear.


(5) Term or phrase unclear or unexplained.

(6) Term or phrase ambiguous.

(7) New paragraph warranted here.

(8) Circumlocution here; simpler expression available.


(9) General structure of this argument unclear.

(10) Conclusion does not follow without unstated assumptions.

(11) Relevance of this point to your argument is not clear.

(12) This assertion is questionable and requires further support.

(13) Further consequences of this claim are unmentioned but relevant.

(14) This inference is formally invalid.

II. GLOBAL MARKERS:  These symbols DO correlate with grade assignments.

Ø  Null credit: either question misunderstood or analysis irrelevant.

/    Response is deficient of the (expected) mean.

  Response is at the (expected) mean.

+   Response is well above the (expected) mean; well-argued analysis.

++  Response is superior, no deficiencies.

Instructor Information

Department ofPhilosophy
Middle Tennessee StateUniversity
Email: Ron Bombardi
Office:James Union Building: Room 307
Office Hours:8:00 - 9:00 & 12:30-1:30, MWF;
10:00-1:30, TR and by appointment