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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences : Philosophy

Undergraduate Course: Measurement (PHIL10239)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryPhilosophy of measurement is one of the fastest growing areas of philosophy of science. Measurement is philosophically important as the locus where scientific theories make empirical contact with the world, and forms the lynchpin for any theory of scientific evidence. More recently, the broader social importance of measurement, and its complex role in policy and the institutionalization of implicit value judgments has been recognized, critiqued, and philosophically reconceived. Especially important examples here include educational testing, diagnosis of mental disorders, and large scale, policy determining measures of well-being, poverty, quality of life, and other value-laden concepts.
Course description This course will introduce key debates in the philosophical foundations of measurement. General topics covered will include the difference between scale types, the problem of nomic measurement, and the realism debate. In addition to these general issues, more specific topics will be addressed, which may vary from year to year. Possible further topics include: the epistemic significance of the New SI, which defines measurement units by fixing the values of physical constants; the metaphysics of quantities; the quantity objection in psychology, namely the worry that psychological attributes aren't conceptualized as quantitative, so cannot legitimately be measured; and the question whether ethical considerations on the measurement of thick concepts, such as well-being or poverty, require that measurement instruments are co-created by the subjects of measurement in collaboration with scientists.

While exact topics may vary year to year, the course will always draw on examples from both the physical and human sciences and address debates that are distinctive to both kinds of scientific inquiry.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: Knowledge and Reality (PHIL08017) OR Philosophy of Science 1 (PHIL08005)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2024/25, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  0
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 22, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 174 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Midterm Essay 25%
Final essay 75%
Feedback Not entered
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate philosophical skills, including evaluating arguments and articulating one┬┐s own critical ideas in response
  2. Discuss and interpret realistic examples of measurement from the empirical sciences in a philosophical manner
  3. Engage a focussed research question with sustained depth and communicate results of that research effectively
Reading List
This is an indicative, non-exhaustive list of sources that may be used in this course.

Alexandrova, A. and M. Fabian (2022) "Democritising Measurement or Why Thick Concepts Call for Coproduction" European Journal for Philosophy of Science 12:7.

Bokulich, A. (2020) "Calibration, Coherence, and Consilience in Radiometric Measures of Geologic Time" Philosophy of Science 87 (3):425-456.

Boring, E. G. (1921) "The Stimulus-Error" The American Journal of Psychology

Chang, H. (2004) Inventing Temperature. OUP.

de Courtenay, Nadine (2022) "On the Philosophical Significance of the Reform of the International System of Units (SI): A Double-Adjustment Account of Scientific Enquiry"
Perspectives on Science 30 (4):549-620.

Feest, U. (2020) "Construct validity in psychological tests" the case of implicit social cognition." European Journal for Philosophy of Science 10 (1):1-24.

Isaac, A. M. C. (2013) "Quantifying the Subjective: Psychophysics and the Geometry of Color" Philosophical Psychology 26:207-233.

Isaac, A. M. C. (2019) "Epistemic Loops and Measurement Realism" Philosophy of Science 86:930-931.

Isaac, A. M. C. (2022) "Escape from Zanzibar: The Epistemic Value of Precision in Measurement" Philosophy of Science 89:1243-1254.

Larroulet Philippi, C. (2023) On the Challenges of Measurement in the Human Sciences, PhD Thesis, University of Cambridge

Mari, L., M. Wilson, A. Maul (2021) "Measurement Across the Sciences" Springer.

Michell, J. (1997) "Quantitative science and the definition of measurement in psychology" British Journal of Psychology 88:355-383.

Michell, J. (2006) "Psychophysics, Intensive Magnitudes, and the Psychometrician's Fallacy" Studies in History and Philosophy of Science C 37:414-432.

Mundy, B. (1987) "The metaphysics of quantity." Philosophical Studies 51 (1):29-54.

Ohnesorge, M. (2021) "How Incoherent Measurement Succeeds: Coordination and Success in the Measurement of the Earth's Polar Flattening" Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 88 (C):245-262.

Ohnesorge, M. (forthcoming) "The Epistemic Privilege of Measurement: Motivating a Functionalist Account" Philosophy of Science.

Sherry, D. (2011) "Thermoscopes, Thermometers, and the Foundations of Measurement" Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, A 42:509-524.

Tal, E. (2013) "Old and New Problems in Philosophy of Measurement", Philosophy Compass 8 (12), pp. 1159-1173.

Tal, E. (2016) "Making Time: A Study in the Epistemology of Measurement", British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 67, pp. 297-335.

Tal, E. (2017) "Calibration: Modelling the Measurement Process", Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 65-66, pp. 33-45.

Tal, E. (2019), "Individuating Quantities", Philosophical Studies 176 (4), pp. 853-878.

Thompson, M. (forthcoming) "Path-Dependence in Measurement: A Problem for Coherentism" Philosophy of Science.

Vessonen, E. (2019) "Operationalism and realism in psychometrics" Philosophy Compass 14 (10)

Wolff, J. (2020) The Metaphysics of Quantities. OUP.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills This course will enable students to creatively and constructively engage with contemporary issues of local and global relevance. It will enhance their ability to critically reflect on these issues and communicate about them effectively.
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Alistair Isaac
Tel: (0131 6)51 5174
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