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Unit of study_

HPSC4101: Philosophy of Science

In this course we explore a range of issues from within the philosophy of science. We focus on the interpretation of scientific theories and examine how these theories might describe our world. The course will assume some basic mathematical literacy, but most technical matters will be introduced in class.


Academic unit History and Philosophy of Science Academic Operations
Unit code HPSC4101
Unit name Philosophy of Science
Session, year
Semester 1, 2021
Attendance mode Normal day
Location Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney
Credit points 6

Enrolment rules

12 credit points of HPSC3XXX or PHIL3XXX or HSTY3XXX
Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff and contact details

Coordinator Maureen O'Malley,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Presentation Component 1: Presentation
Oral presentation
25% Ongoing
Due date: 04 Jun 2021 at 11:45

Closing date: 04 Jun 2021
20 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Assignment Component 2: Short Essay
Short essay
35% Ongoing
Due date: 04 Jun 2021 at 11:45

Closing date: 04 Jun 2021
2000 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Assignment Component 3: Long essay
Long essay
Due date: 14 Jun 2021 at 11:59

Closing date: 14 Jun 2021
4,000 word essay
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
  • Component 1: Students will be assessed on a 20-minute presentation in a ‘mini-conference,’ defending or arguing against a position investigated (the grade is awarded for your all round performance as a ‘symposiast’, both in your talk and regarding your engagement with other talks).
  • Component 2: Students are required to submit a 3000-4000 word research essay that develops the themes in the talk in greater detail. Topics for presentations and research essays are to be chosen by students: suggestions will bemade available in class and can be discussed with the lecturer/s.

Detailed information for each assessment can be found on Canvas.

Assessment criteria

The University awards common result grades, set out in the Coursework Policy 2014 (Schedule 1).

As a general guide, a high distinction indicates work of an exceptional standard, a distinction a very high standard, a credit a good standard, and a pass an acceptable standard.

Result name

Mark range


High distinction

85 - 100

At HD level, a student demonstrates a flair for the subject as well as a detailed and comprehensive understanding of the unit material. A ‘High Distinction’ reflects exceptional achievement and is awarded to a student who demonstrates the ability to apply their subject knowledge and understanding to produce original solutions for novel or highly complex problems and/or comprehensive critical discussions of theoretical concepts.


75 - 84

At DI level, a student demonstrates an aptitude for the subject and a well-developed understanding of the unit material. A ‘Distinction’ reflects excellent achievement and is awarded to a student who demonstrates an ability to apply their subject knowledge and understanding of the subject to produce good solutions for challenging problems and/or a reasonably well-developed critical analysis of theoretical concepts.


65 - 74

At CR level, a student demonstrates a good command and knowledge of the unit material. A ‘Credit’ reflects solid achievement and is awarded to a student who has a broad general understanding of the unit material and can solve routine problems and/or identify and superficially discuss theoretical concepts.


50 - 64

At PS level, a student demonstrates proficiency in the unit material. A ‘Pass’ reflects satisfactory achievement and is awarded to a student who has threshold knowledge.


0 - 49

When you don’t meet the learning outcomes of the unit to a satisfactory standard.

For more information see

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

Special consideration

If you experience short-term circumstances beyond your control, such as illness, injury or misadventure or if you have essential commitments which impact your preparation or performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website provides information on academic honesty, academic dishonesty, and the resources available to all students.

The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic dishonesty or plagiarism seriously.

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic dishonesty. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of dishonesty, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 Introduction and overview Seminar (2 hr) LO1
Week 02 Causation versus correlation Seminar (2 hr) LO1
Week 03 Explanation and prediction Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 04 Models versus theories Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 05 Modelling and its implications Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Week 06 Experimentation Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Week 07 Data and data analysis Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Week 08 Philosophy of science methodology Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Week 09 The history of the philosophy of science Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Week 10 Student topics and presentation Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 11 Student topics presentation Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 12 Student topics presentation Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 13 Class symposium Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5

Attendance and class requirements

This is a face-to-face class with attendance and participation requirements.

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Required readings

All readings for the course are available on the Canvas site.

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University’s graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. understand the basic theoretical develoments in a specific field of science and their philosophical implications
  • LO2. demonstrate knowledge and insight into the philosophical underpinnings of a variety of scientific theories and understand their importance in the development of our knowledge of the world
  • LO3. understand the development of contemporary positions in the philosophy of science and one specific field within science
  • LO4. demonstrate the ability to apply philosophical principles in the analysis of a specific field of science and science more generally
  • LO5. present and defend an academic talk
  • LO6. write a large scale research essay in a publishable form.

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities
Class schedule has been amended to streamline the course.

The 'unit description' in the Handbook is too specialized for this course. The course will cover general philosophy of science, rather than just philosophy of physics. There is no focus on physics theory or any kind of technical mathematical modelling. See the Canvas site or contact the lecturer for a full overview of topics and themes.


The University reserves the right to amend units of study or no longer offer certain units, including where there are low enrolment numbers.

To help you understand common terms that we use at the University, we offer an online glossary.