Georgia Institute of Technology

School of Public Policy

Program in Philosophy, Science, & Technology

Fall 2000


ENGR SCIENCE/MECH 201 MW 3:05-4:25


Professor Lorenzo Magnani

Office: 217 DM Smith

Phone: 404-894-9050 (Office) 404-875-3566 (Home)


Office hours: W 4:30-5:30 and by appointment


Explorations of the boundaries between science, religion, and social values, examining science and technology in a broader social context. Examines claims that science is isolated from social problems and values.


One goal of the course is to give you a deep understanding of epistemological and ethical theories and how they are used to enlighten the relationships between science, technology, and human values. Another goal of the course is to illustrate some important ways of reasoning and kinds of knowledge present in science, technology, and ethics. The course is not designed to tell you what is right or wrong or to convince you of particular moral belief or epistemological perspective. At the end of the semester you may not have developed definitive positions on every issue discussed. You should, by the end of the semester, have a better understanding of why you hold (or do not hold) a particular position on some issues concerning the relationships between science, technology, and values. Or, you should have a better understanding of the arguments in favor and against various sides of epistemological/ethical topics and of the kinds of reasoning involved.


To introduce students to the philosophical foundations of science and technology; to contemporary issues in philosophy of science; to contemporary issues in ethical knowledge; to the relationships between ethical values science and technology; to the relationships between religion and science.



You are encouraged to discuss the material and issues addressed in the course inside and outside of class. You may even discuss the topics of the essay assignments with members of the class or others. However, when it comes to taking quizzes or writings the essay exams, you must do the work yourself.

Your signature (which should be on all written work) is understood to be your affirmation that the work is yours. Please indicate your SSN number in capital.

Exams and quizzes:

There will be two essay exams, one in-class and one take-home: in-class at midterm (maximum 30 points), and take-home final essay covering the material of the lectures, readings, and discussions (maximum 30 points).

They will test your knowledge of the readings and your understanding of the various issues. For each exam, I will give you a set of essay questions about a week in advance. For the in-class exams, you will come to class and write your text. For the take-home exams, you will write your text wherever you chose and turn them in the due date.

There will be two in-class quizzes. These will be designed to test your comprehension of the readings and your understanding of the issues discussed. Each quiz will be worth a maximum of 20 points.

Final grade:

In summary, your final grade will be determined as follows:

Two exams: 30 + 30 = 60 points maximum; the two essays will count as 60% of your grade.

Two quizzes: 20 + 20 = 40 points maximum; the two quizzes will count 40% of your grade.

Total Points Possible = 100

You can expect grades to fall roughly along a scale in which 90-100 = A; 80-89 = B; 70-79 = C; etc. However, I reserve the right to adjust the curve when it is to your advantage. In other words, in the final calculation of grades, I will look at the distribution of grades in the class. If scores are low, I will adjust "the curve". If scores are high, I will leave the curve as is.

Exam and Quiz Dates

Exam: Wednesday, October 18, in class. Friday, December 8, take-home is due (by noon, my mailbox, DMSmith).

Quiz: Monday, September 25, in-class; Monday, November 20, in-class.

I Introduction to Philosophy of Science and Technology

August 21 & 23: Introduction. Science, Observation, Experiment.

Readings: Chalmers, Chapters I, II, III.

August 28 & 30: Induction and Falsificationism.

Readings: Chalmers, Chapters IV,V.

September 4 (Labor Day, no classes) & 6: Sophisticated Falsificationism.

Readings: Chalmers, Chapters VI, VII.

September 11 & 13: The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Research Programs in Science.

Readings: Chalmers, Chapters VIII, IX.

September 18 & 20: The Anarchistic Theory of Science.

Readings: Chalmers, Chapters X, XVI.

II Introduction to Ethical Values and Theories

September 25 & 27: Introduction. Morality and Cultural Relativism.

Readings: Rachels, Chapters I-II.

October 2 & 4: Subjectivism. Ethics and Religion. Psychological Egoism.

Readings: Rachels, Chapter III, IV, V.

October 9 & 11: Ethical Egoism. Utilitarianism.

Readings: Rachels, Chapters VI-VII-VIII.

October 16 & 18:


October 23 (MID-TERM, no classes) & 25: Absolutism, Kantism.

Readings: Readings: Rachels, Chapters IX, X, XI.

October 30 & November 1: Social Contract Theory of Moral. Feminism, Virtue Ethics, Conclusions.

Readings: Readings: Rachels, Chapters XI, XII, XIII, XIV.

III Science, Technology, and Human Values

November 6 & 8: Science and Religion.

Readings: Barbour, (Part One, Section 1-II -pp. 9-17, Part Two, Section 5, pp. 106-136, and Section 6.II.2, pp. 144-151), (electronic reserve).

November 13 & 15: Women and Technology. Technopoly. Technology and New Ethics.

Readings: Winston and Edelbach, Chapters I.5, I.6, I.10.

November 20 & 22: Technology, Traditional Rights, Social Justice, Subversion.

Readings: Winston and Edelbach, Chapters I.11, I.12, I13.

November 27 & 29: Human-Engineered World. Genetic Encores. Reproductive Technology. Energy.

Readings: Winston and Edelbach, Chapters II.9, II.11, II12, II13.

December 4 & 6: Population and Environmental Policy.

Readings: Winston and Edelbach, Chapters II.14, II15.




A.F. CHALMERS, What is This Thing Called Science? Hackett, Indianapolis/Cambridge, 1999 (third edition).

J. RACHELS, The Elements of Moral Philosophy, McGraw-Hill, Boston, 1999 (third edition).

M. E. WINSTON and R.D. EDELBACH, eds., Society, Ethics, and Technology, Wadsworth, Belmont, 2000.

I. A. BARBOUR, Religion and Science. Historical and Contemporary Issues, HarperCollins, NewYork, 1997 (Part One, Section 1-II -pp. 9-17, Part Two, Section 5, pp. 106-136), (electronic reserve).