CPT-10303 Biology and Philosophy; Exploring Open Questions


Credits 3.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Course coordinator(s)dr. B Haverkamp
Lecturer(s)dr. B Haverkamp
dr. B Bovenkerk
Examiner(s)dr. B Haverkamp

Language of instruction:



Note: This course can not be combined in an individual programme with CPT-10803 Philosophy of Science and Ethics and/or FNP-32806 Science and Expertise in Nature and Environment.

The course deals with biology as science-in-the making and with moral issues associated with biology. Questions on these topics often don't have definite answers. The aim of this course is to explore such open questions. We will deal with:
- Biology as a science. Knowledge and ignorance are drivers of research. How can the balance between them be understood philosophically? How does science make progress? Interviews with biological researchers will add concrete and topical input for thinking;
- Ethics. Morality is all-pervasive but often seems elusive. How can a diversity of ethical approaches help to get a grip on moral issues, such as our relations to animals and the environment, or how to use genetic tools? How can we deal with a plurality of voices and perspectives? We will also wonder about the importance of the imagination for ethics and science.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to able to:
A. Concerning the role of knowledge and ignorance in science:
- understand how knowledge and ignorance both play a role in science and they can apply this in some detail to one or more areas of biology;
- understand the main philosophical approaches in the philosophy of science and they are able to make a connection with specific areas in biology;
- apply perspectives on science to issues in their own field of study (major);
- compare traditional approaches in philosophy of science with current issues;
- recognize metaphors in scientific and societal contexts, understand their roles as conceptual tools and know different perspectives on the role of metaphors in science.

B. Concerning ethics:
- understand the pervasiveness of moral issues in biology and society; they can also - recognize and uncover such issues;
- understand different traditional and current philosophical (ethical) approaches to morality and can apply them to concrete cases;
- understand main perspectives on the evolutionary role of ethics;
- understand the role of emotions and imagination in ethics;
- analyse and evaluate a particular moral issue in relation to biology with the help of ethical tools.


Lectures with discussions, tutorials with discussions, presentations (to be prepared in small groups) and exercises.


The exam consists of three elements: a group assignment, a multiple choice test and an individual essay. Respective weights of these three elements (5 or higher can be compensated):
- group assignment: 15%;
- multiple choice test: 45%;
- essay: 40%.



Compulsory for: BBIBiologyBSc5AF