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Fighting Fake Science (An Introduction to the Vienna Circle and Philosophy of Science)

Course 0000004580 in SS 2019

General Data

Course Type seminar
Semester Weekly Hours 2 SWS
Organisational Unit Former Munich Center for Technology in Society (MCTS)
Lecturers Responsible/Coordination: Jörg-Wilhelm Wernecke
Dates Thu, 13:00–14:45, 370
Thu, 13:00–14:45, 370
and 1 singular or moved dates

Assignment to Modules

Further Information

Courses are together with exams the building blocks for modules. Please keep in mind that information on the contents, learning outcomes and, especially examination conditions are given on the module level only – see section "Assignment to Modules" above.

additional remarks This seminar focuses on the problem of how to distinguish science from pseudoscience. Which norms and criteria determine what counts as legitimate science as opposed to fraudulent science, charlatanry, science fiction, occultism, or propaganda? How clearly can we draw the boundaries between science, fringe science, and unscientific practices? And how can philosophically reflecting on science and pseudoscience help us understand what it means to perform good research and be responsible scientists in times of “alternative facts” and “fake news”? The first part of the seminar will be devoted to the Vienna Circle and its approach to defining the scientific method in the 1920s and 1930s. We will discuss how this internationally oriented group of philosophers, mathematicians, natural scientists, and social scientists based in Vienna developed a comprehensive scientific world-conception—logical positivism—that was supported by contemporary developments in logic and the philosophy of language. The seminar will also address the socio-political context of these philosophical ideas. Logical positivism was connected to a strongly empiricist outlook and a radical rejection of “metaphysical statements” as meaningless and unscientific. Far from pursuing their philosophical project as an abstract exercise in armchair theorizing, the members of the Vienna Circle considered their scientific world-conception to have a social, emancipatory potential. Many of the Vienna Circle’s members were politically active and publicly promoted science outreach and education programs. The second part of the seminar will turn to more recent debates on the “demarcation problem” in philosophy of science that took place against the background of the Vienna Circle’s ideas. We will critically examine various criteria and standard arguments that have been proposed for distinguishing science from pseudoscience, and will try to assess the potentials and limits of philosophical demarcation principles. At the end of the seminar, we will attempt a broader outlook: How can the ideas of the Vienna Circle and its successors be applied today? How are the norms of today’s emerging and established sciences changing and what does this mean for their legitimacy and scientists’ self-understanding? And finally, what social responsibility do scientists and intellectuals have when it comes to fighting fake science?
Links E-Learning course (e. g. Moodle)
TUMonline entry
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