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Teaching the Philosophy of Science with Non-Scientific ExamplesABSTRACT: This essay explores the benefits of utilizing non-scientific examples and analogies in teaching philosophy of science courses, or general introductory courses. These examples can help resolve two basic difficulties faced by most instructors, especially when teaching lower-level courses: first, they can prompt students to take an active interest in the class material, since the examples will involve aspects of the culture well-known to the students; second, these familiar, less-threatening examples will lessen the students’ collective anxieties and open them up to learning the material more easily. To demonstrate this strategy of constructing and employing non-scientific examples, a lengthy analogy between musical styles and Kuhn’s theory of scientific revolutions is developed.

Without a doubt, one of the most difficult tasks in teaching undergraduate philosophy courses is motivating the students to take an active interest in the abstract and complex issues normally presented. One obvious method of overcoming this dilemma is to provide numerous historical examples and analogies of the relevant philosophical problem, since concrete instances are frequently less complicated than general descriptions, articulate the main points more clearly, and have the added bonus of being more “personal” and relatable. Thus, if one were presenting, say, Imre Lakatos theory of scientific research programs, describing the conflict between the Ptolemaic and Copernican views would serve as an excellent backdrop for the introduction of Lakatos’ ideas. Nevertheless, if the students are unfamiliar and/or bored by the kinds of examples employed, the strategy will, of course,…

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…eme be introduced in the development section? // (rock) Can the song last for more than three minutes?

4) Techniques for answering questions (and standards of success): (class.) Yes, but as long as it doesn’t undermine the recapitulation. // Yes, but don’t expect much radio air play, or video exposure.

5) Exemplars (successful previous application of theory): (class.) a sonata form movement by one of the acknowledged master, such as Haydn, Mozart, etc. // a hit song by one of the great rock bands, such as Beatles, Rolling Stones, etc.

6) Incommensurability: ‘theme’ in classical sonata form is designed for maximum development capacity, and is (usually) in either tonic or dominant key // ‘theme’ in rock music is usually designed for maximum melodic capacity, must allow lyrics to be set to the theme, and may not strictly follow the tonic-dominant tonal scheme.

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