History and Philosophy Of Science | Tools of Science: The Phil of Instr. & Exper.
X326 | 22910 | Jutta Schickore

Tools of Science: The Philosophy of Instruments and Experiments

Scientists spend much time working with instruments and carrying out
experiments. They handle telescopes and microscopes, make X-ray
crystallographic analyses of DNA, or manage most complex
experimental settings such as particle accelerators. But what
exactly is the nature of these practical tools of science? How can
we characterize their roles in scientific research? Are instruments
and experiments intimately linked to particular theories, or do they
have lives of their own? Are instruments and experimental settings
simply neutral tools of knowledge acquisition, or do they condition
the way in which we experience the world?

In this course, we will survey the answers that philosophers of
instruments, experiments, and technology have given to these and
related questions. We will consider different kinds of experiments
and instruments in the lab and the field, in biology, physics, and
psychology, and discuss their functions in scientific practice. We
will ask what instruments and experiments prove and what kind of
knowledge they yield, and we will discuss ethical questions that may
arise from scientific experimenting.

The course will consist of lectures, readings, discussions, and
field trips. Students from a variety of backgrounds in history,
philosophy, and the sciences will be highly welcome.