Teaching the Philosophy of Science with Non-Scientific Examples

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Teaching the Philosophy of Science with Non-Scientific Examples

ABSTRACT: This essay explores the benefits of utilizing non-scientific examples and analogies in teaching philosophy of science courses, or general introductory courses. These examples can help resolve two basic difficulties faced by most instructors, especially when teaching lower-level courses: first, they can prompt students to take an active interest in the class material, since the examples will involve aspects of the culture well-known to the students; second, these familiar, less-threatening examples will lessen the students' collective anxieties and open them up to learning the material more easily. To demonstrate this strategy of constructing and employing
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In this essay, one possible strategy for overcoming this obstacle, which has been culled from personal experience, will be recommended by way of demonstration. In short, the suggestion is to devise examples and analogies from outside the realm of science and its history, but which can serve to both highlight and augment the actual scientific cases typically offered, as well as provide an interesting test-bed for the exploration of philosophical concepts. If these examples are tailored to reflect the interests of the students, most notably by drawing upon the humanities and popular culture, then a marked increase in class enthusiasm and participation will be the likely result. In short, these non-scientific analogies can help explain the nature and purpose of a philosophical/scientific concept. In what follows, consequently, we will develop a lengthy example which will demonstrate this very strategy: the philosophical concept will be Thomas Kuhn's notion of a scientific "paradigm", the key element in his theory of scientific revolutions; and the non-scientific topic adapted to explain this theory will be the history of musical styles and the structure of musical compositions.

The concept of a
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