We offer an array of specialized courses in history and philosophy of science as well as general courses in philosophy of science; history of science, technology, and medicine; and history of philosophy of science (HOPOS).
Philosophy of science (HPS 83801) is typically taught every fall semester. The two course sequence History of Science, Technology and Medicine to 1750 (HPS 83601) and History of Science, Technology and Medicine since 1750 (HPS 83602) is typically taught every other year, alternating with the two course sequence History of Philosophy of Science to 1750 (HPS 98311) and History of Philosophy of Science since 1750.
HPS 83601 History of Science, Technology, Medicine to 1750
This course initiates a two-semester survey of the main events in the history of natural philosophy, technology and medicine from Greek antiquity to the early Enlightenment. The course is intended as an exposure to main currents in scholarship, to a wide variety of primary sources, and will allow students to do bibliographic work in an area of interest. Course requirements will include examinations, presentations and reviews, and an extended bibliographic essay, though these may be modified for students of advanced standing who wish to use the course for other purposes. The course is required for HPS graduate students. Interested graduate students in History, Philosophy, and the sciences or engineering are encouraged to contact the instructor.
HPS 83801 Philosophy of Science
A survey of central issues in the philosophy of science, examining the backdrop of natural philosophy, the role of logical empiricism as a founding movement, the historical turn of the 1960s, and various debates spawned by these movements, concerning the semantics of theoretical terms, the possibility of scientific progress, the underdetermination of theory by data, forms of realism and antirealism, and topics such as scientific modeling and representation, laws of nature, the nature of explanation, the possibility of reductionism, and the unity of science. Complementary perspectives will be considered including the sociology of scientific knowledge, feminist critiques, and practice-oriented philosophy.
HPS 93206 Language and Scholarly culture in the medieval Mediterranean
This is a seminar on what medieval-Mediterranean scholars did: write texts, interpret texts, and argue about those texts and their interpretations. We will focus on scholars and scholarly culture throughout the Mediterranean region, with special emphasis on the Latinate and Arabic regions. We will read both a range of modern scholarly literature as well as primary texts from across the region. From the beginning of the course on we will ground our thinking about medieval scholars in what we know about their basic tool: language (its profoundly complex nature, its cultural meanings, the scandal of its variety, its huge potential as a model for understanding culture). Intermediate knowledge of Latin and/or Arabic would be helpful, but all graduate students are welcome.
HPS 93665 Further Topics in Philosophy of Science
Contemporary philosophy of science has become increasingly specialised, with research on specific issues associated with particular sciences taking the foreground. But some issues resist such an approach, and there remains a thriving research community in the general philosophy of science. This graduate seminar is a topic-based introduction to (at least some of) the state of the art debates in this field. Topics include: a reflection the relationship between the general philosophy of science and the philosophies of particular sciences; explanation (particularly in the context of model-based science); social epistemology of science (both formal and informal approaches); and theory choice. There is level of flexibility both with regard to how the above topics are weighted with respect to each other, and whether additional topics are covered (depending on the interests of the participants).
HPS 93826 Forbidden Knowledge: The Social Construction and Management of Ignorance
Science has traditionally been billed as our foremost producer of knowledge. For more than a decade now, however, science has also been billed as an important producer of ignorance. Indeed, historian of science Robert Proctor has coined a new term, agnotology, to refer to the study of ignorance, a new area of enquiry, and it turns out that much of the ignorance studied in this new area is produced by science. According to Proctor and other agnotologists, ignorance is far more complex than previously thought. Ignorance is not just the void that precedes knowledge or the privation that results when attention focuses elsewhere. It is also—in fact, it is especially-- something socially constructed: the confusion produced, for example, when an increasingly politicized and commercialized science blocks access to information or even creates misinformation.
But ignorance as “active construct” is only one type of ignorance on the research agenda of agnotology. Proctor has distinguished two other types of ignorance also produced by science: ignorance as “passive construct,” the kind of ignorance that is the unintended by-product of choices made in the research process; and ignorance as “virtuous”—when “not knowing” is accepted in research as a consequence of adopting certain values.
In this course we shall explore this new interdisciplinary area of ignorance studies and its relation to the knowledge studies of philosophy—epistemology and philosophy of science. Accordingly, readings will be drawn from the work of a broad array of scholars—scientists, historians, journalists, and social critics as well as philosophers. The course will be run as a seminar. Students will lead class discussions, present the results of individual research projects to the group, and have the opportunity to further develop those projects using feedback from the group. The aim in all this will be for each student to develop a fully informed and defensible response to the new terrain we shall be exploring.
HPS 83100 Colloquium
T - 4:15P - 5:30P
Discussion of a prominent recent work in the field of HPS, and research presentations by visiting scholars. Required course for HPS students in the first and second years of the program. (Every semester)