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Publisher's Summary

What makes science science? Why is science so successful? How do we distinguish science from pseudoscience? This exciting inquiry into the vigorous debate over the nature of science covers important philosophers such as Karl Popper, W. V. Quine, Thomas Kuhn, Paul Feyerabend, Imre Lakatos, Carl Hempel, Nelson Goodman, and Bas van Fraassen.

These thinkers responded in one way or another to logical positivism, the dominant movement influencing the philosophy of science during the first half of the 20th century - a movement whose eventual demise is an object lesson in how truly difficult it is to secure the logical foundations of a subject that seems so unassailably logical: science.

The philosophy of science can be abstract and theoretical, but it is also surprisingly practical. Science plays a pivotal role in our society, and a rigorous study of its philosophical foundations sheds light on the ideas, methods, institutions, and habits of mind that have so astonishingly and successfully transformed our world.

In the course of these 36 stimulating lectures, you will investigate a wide range of philosophical approaches to science, including empiricism, constructivism, scientific realism, and Bayesianism. You'll also examine such concepts as natural kinds, bridge laws, Hume's fork, the covering-law model, the hypothetico-deductive model, and inference to the best explanation (mistakenly called "deduction" in the Sherlock Holmes stories).

Professor Kasser shows how these and other tools allow us to take apart scientific arguments and examine their inner workings - all the while remaining an impartial guide as you navigate the arguments among different philosophers during the past 100 years.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2006 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2006 The Great Courses

What listeners say about Philosophy of Science

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    4 out of 5 stars

Apogee of enjoyable intellectual density

If you could sum up Philosophy of Science in three words, what would they be?

Conversational Intellectual Tour-de-force.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Philosophy of Science?

Certainly, the most memorable moment was that when I realized that I would have to listen to the entire set of lectures again - enthusiastically - in passionate hope that I could glimpse a deeper understanding of this work. It was somewhere during the description of the scientific realists, where I came to realize that my pedestrian understanding of science and scientific explaination was simply inadequate and required a major overhaul. It broadened my intellectual horizons in ways difficult to describe after a first run through the material.

Have you listened to any of Professor Jeffrey L. Kasser’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

This is my first lecture by Prof. Kasser. However, I would certainly revel in the opportunity to listen to another. However, as I listen to these lectures (and others) during my 1.5 hr commute, I would be armed with foreknowledge that I should have that extra cup of coffee - or two - to spin up my brain function to the appropriate level.

If you could give Philosophy of Science a new subtitle, what would it be?

Everything about science you'd never think you'd ever think about.

Any additional comments?

If your brain was left unfulfilled and wanting by that quantum physics book you just listened to, then this is the book for you. It was an 18+ hour tour-de-force of cerebral and intellectual calisthenics delivered at a rate that could easily overflow the comprehension rate of the "sharpest tool in the shed." However, it's information density was made enjoyably consumable by the expert elocution of Prof. Kasser. A lesser teacher would assuredly have failed miserably where Prof. Kasser triumphs.

8 people found this helpful

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Wonderful series

I'm a physics grad student and never had the time to formally take any philosophy classes, let alone specifically on the philosophy of science, but getting into my work made me want to have a philosophical framework through which I could see everything I was doing. I wanted to understand what made science, science, so I could put my research in a broader context. This class, which was brilliantly written and spoken, helped me get glimpses of many different bodies of thought and gave me enough of a framework to develop a personal philosophy. Everything is very well explained with an well thought out historical narrative throughout.

All in all, I cannot recommend this series enough. I loved it and I'm sure you will too if you're anywhere near my shoes.

12 people found this helpful

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ambitious course perhaps too ambitious

this was a fascinating and detailed course on the philosophy of science. this was a difficult undertaking and I at times struggled to follow that the contents of the course. I think the scope of the content and the admirable attempt to avoid simplifying the complex debates has the effect of making this course far more difficult than most great courses series. however I would highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in the philosophy of science or thinks that they appreciate all the complex arguments on the subject. It was deeply humbling for me

4 people found this helpful

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A difficult course...

The narrator was good, but the course is difficult. I struggled to finish it. One must concentrate on the lecture all the time.

3 people found this helpful

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What is it that we scientists do all day?

Some segments were hard to sit through, but the end result did feel like a cleaner understanding of the benefits and limitations of science and scientific thought.

3 people found this helpful

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Dense, difficult subject presented well

Any additional comments?

This was the most difficult Great Courses lecture series I've encountered yet. I gave the entire course a second listen and listened for a third or fourth time to several of the later lectures. After all that, I'd at best get a C if I had to take a test.

This is not to say that Professor Kasser does a poor job. He actually does a pretty stunning job of shining a light for the uninitiated on a very deep and fascinating subject. Seriously, it's quite an undertaking. I thoroughly enjoyed it and was surprised and entertained by the breadth of scope.

6 people found this helpful

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Good News/Bad News

First the bad news. Simply put, it is virtually impossible to follow Dr. Kasser fully in these lectures, which is a shame, because this is such an important subject and he really has much to say on the subject. He brings in new ideas frequently without adequately explaining what they mean. He jumps around a lot, so much so that within each each lecture it is very difficult to know where you are. He should spend much more time backing and filling as they say. He should present better summaries of what we have covered and where we are going in each lecture. He does not set out a clear path in the beginning. There is no road map.

There is no way this could be recommended for an undergraduate level course, which is the level that most of the Great Courses are aimed at. Perhaps for an M.A. or Phd. in philosophy, but even then it would need much greater focus and structure,

Now the good news. Dr. Kasser is a very engaging presenter. Although you may not be following the big picture, or even the purpose of a single lecture, I found myself often engaged with his unpacking of certain scientific concepts. He is very much the philosopher, and if that kind of thinking is what you enjoy, then you might be willing to overlook being perpetually lost in the woods for the beauty of a few trees. I know I was willing to make that sacrifice, and stayed with it for 36 lectures.

Did I learn anything though? Hard to say, I picked up some new terms, and was exposed to some new ideas, but given the confusing presentation style, I am not sure that I could effective communicate to anyone else what I learned.

So bottom line, if you like reading philosophy for its own sake, and are willing to spend some time with an engaging professor, then you might enjoy this course.

2 people found this helpful

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Thought Provoking and Interesting

I really enjoyed this, albeit occasionally with a headache. There's a lot to take in, however sitting with it diligently has resulted in multiple breakthroughs in both thought and understanding. The program both answered my philosophy of science questions and had me asking new and better questions.

1 person found this helpful

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Difficult but worth it

I learned so much that is important to my studies that I have half a mind to find where Kasser teaches and go study with him. But this is not a beginner’s course and I intend to listen to it 2-3 more times to let it sink in. Best listen of the year for sure!

1 person found this helpful

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Good oration, bad philosophy

Almost none of the distinctions constructed in the first couple lectures hold any water. That is, the foundations given for this series of lectures is not fit to support any serious thinking. Here, it's as though the author puts his pen to paper (or gets in front of a class) and lets the words flow without any regard to the convenience of the reader (or listener). One should worry that simply looking at it might cause the whole thing to collapse. Steven Goldman's history of the evolution of science is much more enjoyable and systematically worked out. I would recommend his works for anyone interested in this subject material. And, if you're absolutely serious about the matter, there is no better system of thought than that of Schopenhauer. Reading him, however, is a serious undertaking that involves great demands upon the reader. I would not recommend him unless you're ready to devote years of your life to philosophical investigation.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Júlio César Martins
  • 12-05-18

Difficult, massive and very, very good

This is a MASSIVE course. I mean it has a massive content.

For that reason, it is a very difficult course to cope with. I think I have already listened to it 3 times and, every time, I learn something new or pause to consider something I had not considered before.

The performance is merely good. I think it is so more due to the content that competency of the lecturer. Maybe this should be split into two courses with a bit more of depth in each one.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Anna W.
  • 03-21-20

Very interesting course

Super interesting subject material and great speaker (good speed, good voice). Everything is explained well BUT this is a complicated topic if you are new to it. I tried to listen while I was doing other things, and while I did enjoy it, it was quite taxing and really I should have been taking notes while I listened.

2 people found this helpful

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  • John Mayhew
  • 02-03-20

Thank god for scientists and statisticians,

And mathematicians. Ten lectures down and that 's it: NO more. Time and money wasted. How many angels can dance on a pin head? Oh dear I cant always believe that copper will conduct electricity etc.. (except it might have something to do with its atomic structure, but who knows that could change over night). Or like the emeralds, change into a totally different colour after the year 3000 . I wonder if that will be due to changes in their refractive index too? Or the electro-magnetic properties of light will change, after all why believe light travels at 299,792,458 m/sec. Yes language is important, maybe that's why scientists use specialist "jargon". Is the earth flat?? Oh I feel much better now!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Andrew Sanford
  • 10-25-16

Outstanding presenter.

This was the best series I have listened to of the Great Courses. I usually do not write a comment but felt that Professor Kasser deserved a special mention. He was excellent. The material is very demanding but I learnt so much. I will be revisiting these recordings again and again. Thank you Professor Kasser for a fascinating course.

2 people found this helpful

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  • CitCat
  • 07-25-21

Best Great Courses I've listened to

Is this course easy? No.
Is this course going to make you an expert? No
Is this course going to solve all your problems or answer all your questions? No
Is it an interesting and we'll delivered discourse on a complicated but, I think, important subject that will give you a framework and some tools to use in thinking for yourself? YES!
I have a degree in philosophy (but in other areas than this course) and a laypersons interest in the subject of what claims Western science makes to epistemic specialness and how justified those claims are. This course has given me a historical tour of that subject so I can better understand current arguments. It has also provided me with some tools I can use to evaluate current arguments and to think for myself. What more could you reasonably want? (And you do not need a background in philosophy to understand it - just a willingness to do some thinking).
The course is delivered in a clear and entertaining manner that can disguise the denseness of the information conveyed and I will definitely listen through again at least once more as a first listen was not enough to "get" some aspects. But I'm looking forward to that. What value for money if I evaluate value in terms of information and entertainment! That's even more than I reasonably expected!

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  • Omar
  • 12-16-17

More darn philosophy

This is a book for philosophers by philosophers about why they don't understand science. If you're a scientist, an Engineer or a Doctor, don't buy this book, it'll drive you crazy, as these philosophers grip on reality is fleeting. Buy "Your Deceptive Mind. A scientific guide to critical thinking skills" instead.
Seriously something is wrong with philosophers.

3 people found this helpful