Exam topics

On this page, you will find a list of questions and tasks that will be covered on the final exam. I will update the list as we move through the topics. You can use it for reference when studying for the exam.

01 Introduction

You should be able to:

  • describe the difference between “science” and “Wissenschaft
  • explain what an “epistemic authority” is
  • describe the difference between science and the philosophy of science

02 Science vs. pseudoscience

You are expected to be able to:

  • explain what the demarcation problem consists in
  • list the five aspects of science (a way of acquiring knowledge, a system of knowledge, etc.)
  • list the five features of any scientific discipline (subject matter, language, …)
  • describe the five essential features of science (objectivity, criticism, …)
  • define pseudoscience
  • describe at least three typical differences between science and pseudoscience
  • explain the differences between science and pre-science (common sense knowledge)

03 Language in science

You should be able to:

  • characterize language in general
  • describe the difference between a notion and a concept
  • describe the relations in a semantic triangle
  • tell the difference between the intension (meaning) and extension (referent) of an expression
  • distinguish between analytic and empirical statements, as well as describe the differences in testing each for truth
  • define polysemy and vagueness
  • describe the structure of a definition
  • characterize intensional definitions
  • distinguish between analytic intensional and synthetic intensional definitions
  • list the other kinds of definitions (apart from intensional ones)

04 Intro to argumentation

I expect you to be able to:

  • define argumentation and argument
  • list the main categories of arguments, including the subtypes of inductive arguments
  • (deductive arguments)
    • define logical entailment (provide the formal definition and explain it in your own words, using examples)
    • provide examples of valid deductive arguments
    • describe the properties of a “sound” deductive argument (and give an example)
    • given an example of:
      • a valid deductive argument whose conclusion is actually false
      • a valid deductive argument whose premises are all actually false
      • an invalid deductive argument whose premises all actually true and the conclusion is also true
  • (inductive arguments)
    • give an example of enumerative induction and describe its structure
    • list the conditions for a reliable enumerative induction
    • give an example of a statistical argument and describe its structure
    • give an example of an argument by analogy and describe its structure
    • describe the problem of induction (what it is)
  • (abductive arguments)
    • give an example of a plausible abductive argument
    • describe the functions of abductive reasoning in science
  • describe the differences between deductive and non-deductive arguments (in terms of the relation between premises and conclusion and of the informational content of the conclusions)
  • bonus question: figure out why it is wrong to describe deductive arguments as “reasoning from the general to the particular”

05 Empirical methods

You should be able to:

  • distinguish empirical from conceptual methods
  • describe why there is no “pure experience” (i.e., all experience is “theory-laden”)
  • distinguish facts, data, and evidence
  • observation
    • define observation
    • describe the four aspects of observation (subject, object, ...)
    • distinguish direct and indirect, qualitative and quantitative, simple and experimental observation
  • measurement
    • define measurement
    • describe the differences between nominal, ordinal, interval, and ratio scales, and provide examples of each
    • describe the three kinds of measurement (counting, scaling, measurement proper), and provide examples
    • distinguish the validity and reliability of measurement (and the relation between them)
  • experiment
    • define experiment
    • describe the structure of an experiment
    • provide (valid) examples of dependent, independent, and extraneous variables (i.e., describe a possible experimental situation)
    • understand the concepts of sample, population, and sampling
    • describe the purpose of controlling for variables and list at least two ways this is done
    • provide examples of empirical methods (variants of observation, measurement, and experiment used in natural and social science)
    • bonus question: explain why a “crucial experiment” is called “crucial”

06 Conceptual methods

You will be expected to:

  • describe the method of explication and distinguish it from defining
  • describe, in general terms, the methods of analysis and synthesis
  • describe the method of classification and the two conditions for a well-formed classification
  • provide your own examples of classifications (including hierarchical and multi-dimensional classifications)
  • describe the methods of abstraction and idealization
  • list examples of ideal objects used in science
  • distinguish between empirical and conceptual modeling
  • describe the method of thought experiment

07 The structure of scientific research

You should be able to:

  • describe the six stages of the H-D model (from formulating the problem to assessing the test results)
  • characterize scientific problems, hypotheses, and test implications
  • explain the difference between a dependent and an independent variable, and describe their roles in research
  • explain how research leads to new problems

08 The structure of scientific research II

You will be expected to:

  • describe why our model of scientific research is called the “hypothetico-deductive model”
  • explain what operationalization is and provide your own example
  • list the 4 types of hypotheses and provide examples of each
  • define verification and verifiability
  • define falsification and falsifiability
  • explain why certain types of hypotheses cannot be verified
  • explain why certain types of hypotheses cannot be falsified
  • describe the difference between verification and confirmation
  • describe the difference between falsification and disconfirmation

09 Falsificationism

You should be able to:

  • describe the role of predictions in the testing of hypotheses
  • describe corroboration and its relation to the doctrine of fallibilism
  • describe the inference we make when falsifying a universal hypothesis (and distinguish it from the inference made when a hypothesis is confirmed/corroborated)
  • distinguish between practical falsifiability and falsifiability in principle
  • explain the falsificationist criterion of demarcation
  • desribe what “immunity” to falsification is and how it can be achieved with universal hypotheses
  • explain the limits of falsifiability as a criterion of demarcation (what else has to be considered?)

10 Theories and explanation

You will be expected to:

  • characterize the four types of research (exploratory, descriptive, ...)
  • distinguish between basic and applied, quantitative and qualitative research
  • distinguish between correlation and causation
  • understand what spurious correlations are
  • understand how descriptive knowledge differs from explanatory knowledge
  • name at least three of Hill's criteria for a causal relationship
  • define, in your own words, the concepts of scientific law and scientific theory
  • list and briefly characterize the three basic criteria of a “good” theory and name at least some of the four additional criteria (pp. 28 and 29 in the presentation)