PHIL303-24S1 (D) Semester One 2024 (Distance)

Quarks, Quasars and Dinosaurs: 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


This course examines a number of ground breaking discoveries, breakthroughs and conceptual revolutions in the history of science, with an eye to the lessons they hold about what Science is and how it works. Fundamental questions the course considers are: How do scientists develop theories, test them, and adjudicate between rival explanations of natural phenomena? What is the scientific method? Why does this method yield such uncannily accurate predictions about future events? By what criteria can genuine sciences, like Physics, Chemistry and Biology, be distinguished from pseudosciences like Astrology and Homeopathy? Is Science progressing slowly but steadily towards a grand, unified Theory of Everything, or is the idea of scientific progress just a myth? Do the unobservable entities that scientists postulate - quarks, gluons, and their ilk - really exist, or are they merely predictively useful fictions? Should scientists try to verify their theories, or falsify them? What is scientific objectivity, and is it attainable? The course will be of interest to anyone fascinated by Science, its history, its aims, and its methods. It is intended to be especially valuable to scientists-in-training, in providing a broad perspective of the philosophical issues that hover 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 30 points at 200 level in PHIL, or
any 60 points at 200 level from the Schedule V of the BA or BSc.


Course Coordinator

Douglas Campbell

Contact Doug for further information.


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 10 people apply to enrol.

For further information see Humanities .

All PHIL303 Occurrences

  • PHIL303-24S1 (C) Semester One 2024
  • PHIL303-24S1 (D) Semester One 2024 (Distance)