PHIL203-24S1 (C) Semester One 2024

Dinosaurs, Quarks and Quasars: The Philosophy of Science

15 points

Start Date: Monday, 19 February 2024
End Date: Sunday, 23 June 2024
Withdrawal Dates
Last Day to withdraw from this course:
  • Without financial penalty (full fee refund): Sunday, 3 March 2024
  • Without academic penalty (including no fee refund): Sunday, 12 May 2024


Science studies the world, but what discipline studies science itself -- what it is, how it works, and why it works so well? Answer: the philosophy of science. Questions tackled in this course include: how do scientists develop theories, test them, and adjudicate between rival explanations of natural phenomena? Does the careful application of the scientific method lead to truth and certainty? Do unobservable entities, like quarks, really exist, or are they merely useful fictions? And should scientists try to show their theories are false instead of trying to show they are true? The course will be of interest to anyone fascinated by science, its history, its aims, and its methods, and will be value to scientists-in-training in providing a broad perspective on the extraordinary philosophical puzzles and perplexities hovering over all scientific inquiry.

Not only is philosophy one of the most interesting and challenging subjects, it teaches skills that employers want: thinking outside the box, logic, ethics, and excellent writing and communication skills. At UC you can do either a BA or a BSc in Philosophy, or combine a Philosophy major with the LLB, BCom, or another degree.

BA or BSc students who major in philosophy must normally take at least two 100-level PHIL courses, plus at least three 200-level PHIL courses (including PHIL233), plus at least 60-points from 300-level PHIL courses (including at least one course from this list: PHIL305; PHIL310; PHIL311; and PHIL317). For more information see the BA regulations and/or the BSc regulations.

Note: This course can be done at either 200-level (PHIL203) or at 300-level (PHIL303). It only runs in even-numbered years, and it alternates with a course on the philosophy of technology called “Cyberspace, Cyborgs and the Meaning of Life" which runs on odd-numbered years, and which can also be done at either 200-level (PHIL235) or 300-level (PHIL335).

Learning Outcomes

University Graduate Attributes

This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attributes specified below:

Critically competent in a core academic discipline of their award

Students know and can critically evaluate and, where applicable, apply this knowledge to topics/issues within their majoring subject.


Any 15 points at 100 level in PHIL, or
any 60 points at 100 level from the Schedule V of the BA or the BSc.


PHIL223, PHIL303

Timetable 2024

Students must attend one activity from each section.

Lecture A
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Thursday 12:00 - 13:00 E16 Lecture Theatre
19 Feb - 31 Mar
29 Apr - 2 Jun
Lecture B
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Wednesday 15:00 - 17:00 A4 Lecture Theatre
19 Feb - 31 Mar
22 Apr - 2 Jun

Course Coordinator

Douglas Campbell

Contact Douglas for further information.


There is no final exam in this course.
Please check the course LEARN page for further details and updates.

Textbooks / Resources

(Image: "Cellarius ptolemaic system" by J. van Loon, ca. 1611-1686, licensed under public domain.)

Course links

Library portal
Philosophy Essay Writing Guide (available to all enrolled Philosophy students)

Indicative Fees

Domestic fee $844.00

International fee $3,950.00

* All fees are inclusive of NZ GST or any equivalent overseas tax, and do not include any programme level discount or additional course-related expenses.

Minimum enrolments

This course will not be offered if fewer than 20 people apply to enrol.

For further information see Humanities .

All PHIL203 Occurrences

  • PHIL203-24S1 (C) Semester One 2024
  • PHIL203-24S1 (D) Semester One 2024 (Distance)