Issue 5


According to a report by Dominique Lecourt, commissioned by the French Minister for Education, scientific education in France (including medicine) is in need of a complete overhaul, which would involve integrating the teaching of philosophy of science into all degree courses. Up to now his report has only been available in French, but in this issue we publish the main extracts in English. The arguments and conclusions in the report have far reaching importance and consequences beyond France and provide a template for university teaching worldwide.

Some of the problems faced by students and teaching staff in undertaking humanities courses for science-trained students are highlighted by Geoffrey Cantor at the University of Leeds, UK. Many science students at Leeds take modules in philosophy or history and philosophy of science (HPS), and this article recounts many of the achievements (and difficulties) faced by students and staff.

The benefit of introducing “philosophical” material in first year engineering courses is explained by Patricia Kelly, based on her experience at the Queensland University of Technology, Australia. By enhancing writing and thinking skills, students are better prepared for the world outside.

Having covered science, medicine and engineering, we complete the spectrum in this issue, by including an article by Hossein Arsham of the University of Baltimore, U.S.A., on mathematics students’ (and teachers’) understanding of the concept of zero. Without a clear understanding of the concepts behind their subject, it is impossible for teachers to do justice to their students; this message is reiterated in different ways by all four articles in this issue.

Nigel Sanitt


Extracts from: “The Teaching of Philosophy of Science” Dominique Lecourt
Teaching Philosophy and HPS to Science Students Geoffrey Cantor
First Year Engineers – Given half a chance… Patricia Kelly
Zero in Four Dimensions: Historical Psychological, Cultural and Logical Perspective Hossein Arsham