Realism, Relativism and Naturalism

Subject PHIL40001 (2010)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2010.

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 4 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2010:

Semester 2, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period not applicable
Assessment Period End not applicable
Last date to Self-Enrol not applicable
Census Date not applicable
Last date to Withdraw without fail not applicable


Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 2
Total Time Commitment: 10
Prerequisites: Admission to a Postgraduate Diploma or fourth-year honours in Philosophy or in History and Philosophy of Science or the the Master of Arts in Science, Communication and Society; or admission to a Postgraduate Diploma or fourth-year honours in another area with the permission of the subject coordinator.
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge: Knowledge gained in a 3 year undergraduate degree or a Graduate Diploma.
Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements: For the purposes of considering requests for Reasonable Adjustments under the Disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Students Experiencing Academic Disadvantage Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Description, Subject Objectives, Generic Skills and Assessment Requirements of this entry.
The University is dedicated to provide support to those with special requirements. Further details on the disability support scheme can be found at the Disability Liaison Unit website:


Assoc Prof Howard Sankey


Associate Professor Howard Sankey

Subject Overview:

The focus of this class will be the relationship between knowledge and reality in the context of the epistemology and metaphysics of science. Our point of departure will be the apparent conflict between science and common sense that Wilfrid Sellars characterizes in terms of the opposition between the scientific and the manifest image. Some philosophers treat common sense as epistemically and ontologically foundational. Others see it as subject to cultural variation or as 'stone-age metaphysics' to be eliminated with the advance of scientific knowledge. Our exploration of the tension between science and common sense will lead us to consider the debate between realism and anti-realism in the philosophy of science, as well as recent developments involving naturalistic conceptions of epistemic warrant.

Objectives: Students who successfully complete this subject will:
  • have advanced knowledge of some central themes of current debate in philosophy of science;
  • have an advanced ability to critically analyse philosophical arguments, and to conduct research in the philosophy of science;
  • have experience with methods of critical analysis and argument employed in the philosophy of science, leading to improved general reasoning and analytical skills.
Assessment: A 5000-word research essay 100% (due at the end of semester).
Prescribed Texts:

A reading list will be issued at the beginning of semester.

Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills: Students who successfully complete this subject will:
  • have experience of thinking systematically about difficult problems of an abstract nature;
  • have practice conducting research, speaking articulately, writing clearly and reading with attention to detail.
Links to further information:
Related Course(s): M.A.History & Philosophy of Science (Advanced Seminars & Shorter Thesis)
Master of Arts (Science, Communication and Society)
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: History and Philosophy of Science
History && Philosophy of Science
History and Philosophy of Science

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