Epistemology and Philosophy of Science (2020/2021)

Course code
Name of lecturer
Roberto Giacobazzi
Roberto Giacobazzi
Number of ECTS credits allocated
Other available courses
Academic sector
Language of instruction
Sem. 1B dal Nov 9, 2020 al Jan 9, 2021.

Lesson timetable

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Learning outcomes

Epistemology and Philosophy of Science The course is an introduction to the Contemporary Philosophy of Science, with the aim of highlighting the most meaningful moments in the development of the Science and the philosophical issues which are involved in. Expected outcomes:
• to be able to critically examine the fundamental assumptions of Positivism, the relationship between the twentieth century “linguistic turn” of Philosophy and the Philosophy of Science and, finally, the implications of the sociological methodology when applied to epistemological subjects, in order to
• understand the conceptual grounds of the Philosophy of Science (i.e., realism, objectivity, experimental evidence, limits of validity, etc.);
• to master the Epistemological lexicon;
• to actively participate in the debates concerning developments in the field of the Philosophy of Science.


The course aims to give answers (certainly not definitive) to a fundamental question: What is the value of science in the contemporary debate? To tackle this problem, understand its scope and stimulate curiosity, we will study a specific case: computer science as information science. We will see how this "new" science was born and place it in the broader history of science, what are its epistemological foundations, its limits, its ambitions towards an artificial intelligence, and how this is placed in the economic, ethical, and social context.

Course content:
1) Outlines of the history of the philosophy of science: from Leibniz to neo-positivism up to the contemporary debate;
2) Realism and constructivism;
3) From verificationism to falsificationism: scientific experience and scientific theories;
4) Positivism and determinism: automata, machines, constructivism: from C. Babbage to A. Turing
5) Language and specification: syntax and semantics: machines, languages, data, algorithms, computing
6) The limits of computable: Information and computational thinking, substitutability, falsifiability, objectification of information, Data-Science vs Computer Science
7) Artificial Intelligence e philosophy
8) Ethics and digital philosophy

The teaching methods consist of frontal lessons which will be divided into two moments:
1) general part: this is an introduction to the philosophy of "contemporary science", with the presentation of some important moments of scientific development, suitable for the transmission of the basic historical-conceptual notions regarding the philosophy of science and epistemology. In this general part we will follow the order of the topics of the first of the adopted texts, History of the philosophy of science by Oldroyd, with in addition anthological material that will be distributed in class;
2) monographic part: we will study the philosophical bases of computer science as information science, its genesis within the debate on the foundations of mathematics of the early 1900s, its history, and its current evolution, yet focusing on epistemological aspects, ethical and social aspects of this "new" science.

The lectures also make use of slides, in order to make learning clearer and more immediate and stimulate the active participation of students. In this regard, students are encouraged to carry out seminar activities regarding topics agreed with the teacher and related to the program of the course: these seminar activities will be recognized during the exam. An individual reception service is also available throughout the academic year at the teacher's office, at the times indicated on the web pages of the course.
At the first lesson, students will receive the complete calendar of teaching activities with the dates and topics covered in the lessons for which the timetable and classroom are provided. Any suspension of lessons by the teacher for academic reasons will be promptly communicated both in the classroom and on the website or other platforms agreed with the students.

Reference books
Author Title Publisher Year ISBN Note
P. Odifreddi Classical recursion theory Elsevier North-Holland 1989
Dovier A. Giacobazzi R. Fondamenti dell'Informatica: Linguaggi Formali, Calcolabilità e Complessità. Bollati Boringhieri 2020 9788833933795
Imre Lakatos & Paul Feyerabend For and Against Method The University of Chicago 1999 0-226-46774-0
Samir Okasha Il primo libro di filosofia della scienza Einaudi 2006
Federigo Enriques Il significato della storia del pensiero scientifico Barbieri 2004 88-7533-012-3
Giuseppe O. Longo I nuovo Golem Laterza 1998
T.S. Kuhn La struttura delle rivoluzioni scientifiche Einaudi 2009
Federigo Enriques La teoria della conoscenza scientifica da Kant ai nostri giorni Zanichelli 1987
Ludovico Geymonat Lineamenti di filosofia della scienza Mondadori 1985
Federigo Enriques Per la scienza Bibliopolis 2000
Hermann Weyl Philosophy of mathematics and natural science Princeton University Press 2009
Ettore Casari Questioni di filosofia della matematica Feltrinelli 1964
Oldroyd, David Storia della filosofia della scienza. Da platone a popper e oltre ETS 1998 88-428-0615-3
Luciano Floridi The Philosophy of Information Oxford University Press 2014
Martin Davis The universal computer CRC Press 2011

Assessment methods and criteria

The exam consists in an individual seminar on topics covered in class and agreed with the teacher. The seminar lasting 20mins will have to frame the problem in the historical-cultural context of reference (30% of the evaluation), deal analytically with the various aspects relating to the problem, eg. methodologies used and socio-cultural impact (20% of the evaluation) and outline scenarios of philosophical interest related to the problem dealt with (50% of the evaluation). To carry out the seminar, students will be able to use slides or other multimedia material.