Kies de Nederlandse taal
Course module: 201800151
Rethinking science-technology relations
Course info
Course module201800151
Credits (ECTS)5
Course typeCourse
Language of instructionEnglish
Contact personJ.M.J. Nelissen
Lecturer M. Boon
dr. M.A.J. MacLeod
Contactperson for the course
J.M.J. Nelissen
Academic year2018
Starting block
Application procedureYou apply via OSIRIS Student
Registration using OSIRISYes
Learning goals
This course connects to the final qualification K2, K5, K6, S1-S7, S9 of the PSTS programme, according to the following learning objectives:
at the end of the course the student is able to:
  1. Identify transitions in the structure and nature of scientific practice through the impact of technology. (knowledge & skills)
  2. Assess using philosophical argument, particularly epistemological argument, the implications of those transitions for human knowledge and society at large. Develop a critical viewpoint on those transitions. (skills)
  3. Develop formal philosophical abilities, including, (knowledge and skills)
  • Read texts of both traditional and contemporary authors in the philosophy of science.
  • Analyze the structure and arguments of a philosophical text.
  • Reconstruct the presuppositions made in a philosophical text.
  • Formulate problems of scientific practices, and to translate them in a philosophical research project.
  1. Develop formal research skills in the domains of philosophy of science and technology, including (in writing the essay)]:
  • Select relevant literature and gradually zoom in
  • Identify gaps in arguments/unanswered questions
  • Formulate a problem statement/ research question
  • Choose and account for relevant theoretical approaches
  • Select and account for fitting methods of analysis (broadly conceived)
  • Gather ‘data’ (whether insights from literature or more empirical data)
  • Interpret findings
  • Reflexively answer the research question
To understand the dynamics of science, technology and society, we need to know what scientific practices are like and what the role of technologies and technical or engineering thinking are within modern scientific activity. Science is increasingly technological and large-scale (i.e., technoscience), with more and more scientific work being performed by computers and sophisticated instruments, which has enabled large teams to be assembled across international boundaries to handle increasingly sophisticated problems. The idea that science is the work of individuals thinking up theories relying on their own ingenuity rather than building and manipulating materials and machines, was probably never accurate in the first place. Science has always been dependent on the material and social environments of laboratories and institutes. However with the advent of,
  1. new experimental technologies in physics, biology and other fields which can obtain information about phenomena with much higher precision, power and frequency than was possible traditionally,
  2. the use of machine-learning technologies and other big data approaches to sift through data and obtain patterns automatically, and,
  3. the increasingly prominent role that engineers and technologists are playing in scientific discovery through the development of new scientific and practical technologies;
the nature of science is undoubtedly transforming. But how and in what ways this is happening is still taking shape, raising many questions as a result. How will modern technological transformations of science require changes in the way philosophers conceive of how knowledge is produced in practice, the long debated relations between science and technology, and what kind of new knowledge might be possible through technological intervention?
In this course we aim at challenging traditional images of science in the modern technological age through a better understanding of the internal dynamics of scientific research in the context of technological applications and technology-driven investigation. We will explore the relevance and accuracy of traditional presuppositions about the differences between pure science, applied science and technology, or between science  and engineering. We look at the central role experiment has always played in scientific discovery and scientific knowledge production, in the place of traditional theory, and how these roles take on new significance. We consider what roles values play in engineering science. Finally we will consider what new technologies bring to science, how they might expand the range of technical and cognitive possibilities, but also note the grounds upon which we might be critical of many of the claims that are made about what current technology is capable in scientific investigation.
Teaching methods:
Seminars. Attendance is obligatory.
Assessment: The final course grade will be based on the following grading components:
  • 25% for weekly reflection papers on assigned readings: individual 300-500 words per week.
  • 25% for classroom presentations on assigned readings: group work, twice per student.
  • 50% for an argumentative essay due at the end of the quartile: individual papers on a subject related to the themes of the course. 
Each component of the final grade has to be graded sufficient or more (i.e. 5.5 or more).
Assumed previous knowledge
40 EC from the PSTS year #1 courses completed, and in any case:
201400575, 201400573, 201400574, 201200064
Master Philosophy of Science, Technology and Soc.
Required materials
Study materials will be academic articles to be provided on Canvas
Recommended materials
Instructional modes
Presence dutyYes

Presence dutyYes


Kies de Nederlandse taal