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UNC-Chapel Hill PHIL 154 - Syllabus

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Course descriptionWhat I want you to get from this classCourse requirementsGrade breakdown and scaleStudent resourcesPHIL 154: Philosophy of Social Science Fall 2020 – MWF 9:20-10:10 Instructor: Michael Prinzing Office hours: On Zoom, Monday and Wednesday at 10:10am–11am, or by appointment Email: [email protected] Course description This class explores philosophical issues relevant to social scientific research. This course is intended to help students reflect on and develop considered views about the nature of social science, how it works and ought to work, and on the proper role of the social sciences in society. Specifically, we will investigate such questions as: • What is science in the first place, and what makes a scientific discipline a social science? • How do social scientists define and study such abstract phenomena as intelligence, democracy, or love? • Do evaluative claims and assumptions necessarily pervade social scientific research? If so, does that pose a problem for the “objectivity” of these sciences? • Are the social sciences witnessing a “reproducibility crisis”? If so, what should be done? A secondary goal is to help students to improve their critical reasoning, reading, and writing skills. The course is intended both for students planning on majoring in philosophy as well as in various social sciences. It does not presume a background in either. What I want you to get from this class Skills 1. Develop critical reading skills a. Identify arguments and conclusions in texts b. Articulate arguments in premise-conclusion format c. Interpret texts “charitably” 2. Develop reasoning skills a. Assess the validity of arguments and formulate valid arguments of your own b. Assess evidence for premises, and provide compelling evidence for premises c. Respond to objections and counter-arguments 3. Develop writing skills a. State ideas clearly and precisely b. Address complex issues concisely Knowledge By the end of the course, you should be able to identify and discuss key philosophical issues underlying the scientific study of human beings and their societies. Specific topics include: 1. How ordinary concepts are operationally defined and measured in social science research 2. What criteria should be used in “explicating” ordinary concepts 3. What place evaluative claims have in science generally, and social science in particular 4. How the ideal of “scientific objectivity” should be understood 5. How well-being is or ought to be studied scientifically 6. What role social scientific evidence should play in public policy making 7. What replication failures mean for science and what can be done about them Course requirements I grade anonymously. Thus, every single assignment that you turn in for this class should be anonymized. Please put your PID number on everything. Pease don’t put your name on anything. Please also keep in mind that all course requirements are subject to the University’s Honor Code. (FYI, the Honor Code’s definition of "Academic Dishonesty" forbids submitting the same paper to more than one class.) For due dates, consult the course schedule.1. Reading responses: In these reading responses you are to extract an argument from the text and evaluate it. When there are multiple arguments in the text, you should choose the most important or central one. You have 500-800 words (roughly two double-spaced pages). Dedicate half of this space to explaining what the author argued, and the other half to saying what you think of it. There are 5 of these over the course of the semester. These must be turned in (under “Assignments” on Sakai) prior to class on the day on which that reading is listed. 2. Quizzes: These will be on recent material. The lowest scoring of these 5 quizzes will be dropped, making each quiz 5% of the overall grade. 3. A draft of your final paper: You will be turning in a draft of your final paper several weeks before the final version is due. This will allow you to get feedback and refine your ideas. 4. A critique of your partner’s draft: You will need to find a partner to exchange drafts with. Each of you will complete a critique form, commenting on your partner’s paper. This is your chance to help your partner write a better paper, and to get your partner’s help on your own. 5. Final paper: This 1500-2000 word paper is your final exam, and an opportunity to express and defend your views on a philosophical issue. Prompts and instructions will be distributed well in advance. These are due during our final exam session. 6. Extra credit: Education is much more enjoyable and effective if teachers and students have relationships. So, extra credit is available if you schedule a “get to know you” meeting with me sometime in August. Grade breakdown and scale Each assignment will receive a score between 0-100. At the end of the semester, these grades are then weighted and converted to a letter grade as indicated below. Assignment % of total grade Reading responses 30 Quizzes 20 Draft of final paper 10 Critique of partner’s paper 10 Final paper 30 Extra credit 3 A A- B+ B B- C+ C C- D+ D F 93-100 90-92 87-89 83-86 80-82 77-79 73-76 70-72 67-69 65-66 < 65 Student resources The University provides reasonable accommodations for students with learning disabilities, physical disabilities, mental health struggles, chronic medical conditions, temporary disability, or pregnancy complications, all of which can impair student success. See the Accessibility Resources & Service website for contact and registration information. If you anticipate such accommodations, notify me as soon as possible so that appropriate arrangements can be made. Counselling and Psychological Services is committed to addressing the mental health needs of a diverse student body through timely access to consultation and connection to clinically appropriate services, whether for short- or long-term needs. Visit their website or visit their facilities on the third floor of the Campus Health Service building for a walk-in evaluation to learn more. See also: • The Learning Center • The Writing Center (I highly recommend that you take your papers


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