Realism, Relativism and Naturalism

Subject PHIL40001 (2013)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2013.

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

This subject is not offered in 2013.

Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 2 (1x 2hour seminar each week)
Total Time Commitment:

An average of 10 hours per week.





Recommended Background Knowledge:

Students enrolling in this subject must have completed a Bachelor of Arts degree or equivalent.

Non Allowed Subjects:


Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request 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:

Subject Overview:

The main 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. Other topics to be considered may also include questions about the metaphysics of ordinary objects, the relationship between observation and theory, recent developments in naturalized epistemology and the issue of metaphysical realism.


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.

A 5000-word research essay 100% (due at the end of semester).

Hurdle Requirement: Students are required to attend a minimum of 75% of classes in order to pass this subject. Regular participation in class is required. Assessment submitted late without an approved extension will be penalised at 2% per working day. In-class tasks missed without approval will not be marked. All pieces of written work must be submitted to pass this subject.

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 Majors/Minors/Specialisations: Philosophy

Download PDF version.