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.

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Spring 2017 HPS Course Offerings

HPS 83602 History of Science, Technology, Medicine since 1750
CRN 29824
Christopher Hamlin
TBA (M 7:00pm-10:00pm)

The course will begin by reviewing the several distinct social contexts of late 18th century science, including its relations to technology and medicine. It will then trace the emergence of academic (or more properly, university-based) science, sanctioned by the state and characterized by the emergence of distinct professions, disciplines and/or ways of knowing in the 19th century. The second half of the course will be devoted to tracing these themes in the 20th century, giving particular attention to both theoretical transformations and to the relationships between scientific disciplines, between science and the state, and between science and technology. Assignments include review essays and a final exam. Graduate standing or permission of instructor required. 

HPS 90299  The Long Aurora: Philosophy, Science, and Literature in the Truly 'Long Enlightenment ​​​​​​'​
CRN 30410
Margaret Doody
W 3:30-6:15

We will pursue 'the Long Enlightenment,' examining visions of the universe from c. 1480 to c. 1750. Sages, 'chymists,' doctors or 'magicians' whom we encounter would have called themselves 'philosophers' or 'natural philosophers.' The Ottoman overthrow of the Byzantine Empire stimulated a fresh quest for universal knowledge. A group centered in Florence was in the vanguard of recovery of lost materials. Marsilio Ficino's translations of Plato and of the works attached to Egypt and 'Hermes Trismegistus' became foundational to European thought. The 'modern' idea of 'progress' was transmitted by 'Hermeticists,' followers of Hermes Trismegistus. Islamic philosophy was already part of the culture. So was alchemy, already under development. Pico began learning Hebrew and reached for knowledge of the Jewish Kabbalah. Astronomy contradicted Aristotle and demonstrated that the world beyond the moon was indeed changeable. Paracelsus introduced a different idea of disease, of the body and the growth of the planet. Bold speculation reigned during one of the most powerful periods of imagination the West has ever known, laying the foundations of our 'science' in what may seem to us very weird materials. Available religious views are much more 'New Age' than one is likely to expect. The issue of what constitutes 'matter' is central the whole period. Light is both central metaphor and subject of enquiry. Argument spreads as to our relation to the world, its resources, and the status of animals and plants. Rather than seeking a simple 'progress,' we should attend to the depth of questioning by these visionary pioneers in the universe. Their burst of imagination in a world of change profoundly affects what we call 'literature.' Readings of the 20th -21st centuries have often ignored the issues and vocabularies at play, even within well-known literary works. We will try to recover and recoup some elements less known to us of vitalism and the 'seeds of life,' and various terms and ways of seeing derived from Cabala, alchemy, and 'Behmenist' mysticism. From Ficino to Leibniz, the new philosophers are engaged in putting a world together which is not the world they first knew. TEXTS: Many of the texts are short. Along with excerpts of longer pieces, many will be in the Classpack. Texts include the Hermetic Asclepius; Pico Della Mirandola's Oration on the Dignity of Man ; Paracelsus' Seven Defenses, the essay 'Nymphs, Sylphs , Pygmies,' and excerpts from De Metallibus ('On Metals'); Kepler's Harmonices Mundi (excerpts); Boehme, selections from Aurora, and The Clavis or Key ; Cavendish's selected poems and excerpts from Observations on Natural Philosophy; Hooke's Micrographia (excerpts); Descartes' Discours de la Méthode ; Les passions de l'Âme ( Passions of the Soul), and sections of De l'Homme (On Man); Leibniz's Monadology. Works by Newton include alchemical comments and notes as well as selections from Principia and the Opticks. Recent texts: Latour, On the Modern Cult of the Factish Gods; Thacker, In the Dust of this Planet: Horror of Philosophy vol. I. Poetry and fiction will include early sci-fi or fantasy novellas such as Bacon's The New Atlantis, Cavendish's The Blazing World, Cyrano de Bergerac's L'autre Monde (as Voyages to the Moon and Sun), and the Rosicrucian Chemical Wedding. Other texts include Milton's L'Allegro and Il Pensoroso; Pope's The Rape of the Lock and the Dunciad; Swift's Gulliver's Travels; Thomson's The Seasons; Richardson's Clarissa (first volumes); Voltaire's Candide. 


HPS 93826 Forbidden Knowledge
CRN 30408
Janet Kourany
MH 5:05-6:20

Although many speak of ours as a “knowledge society,” ignorance seems to flourish all
around us.  Even in the United States, considered one of the most advanced countries of
the world, the content of the news varies with the sources consulted, more information is
kept secret every year than is revealed, and millions question some of the most
established results of science (such as evolution, global warming, and the benefits of
childhood immunization) even as they overlook genuine problems (such as conflict of
interest) in other results of science.  And the problem, many say, is growing worse.  Still,
despite its alarming proportions, all this ignorance is ignored by traditional epistemology
and philosophy of science.  As a result, within the last 10 years historians of science such
as Robert Proctor, Londa Schiebinger, Peter Galison, and Naomi Oreskes, have been
promoting a new area of enquiry—Proctor calls it agnotology, the study of
ignorance—which they suggest is of as much relevance to philosophers and scientists and
others as it is to historians.  Indeed, the suggestion is that agnotology offers a new
approach to the study of knowledge, an approach at least as complex and important as its
more established philosophical sisters. 

In this course, after briefly considering the way traditional epistemology and philosophy
of science approach knowledge studies, we shall explore agnotology’s approach: 
focusing on ignorance construction and avoidance from a point of departure of
knowledge rather than knowledge construction from a point of departure of ignorance. 

Here we will investigate not only the kinds of issues dealt with by the above historians of
science—such as ignorance produced through government secrecy and censorship and
the commercial shaping of scientific research—but also issues dealt with by a broad array
of scientists, philosophers, journalists, and social critics as well as historians—such as
ignorance produced through cognitive bias and cultural prejudice.  We shall then be in a
position to assess this new area of agnotology and map out its relationship with
epistemology and philosophy of science.

This 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

HPS 93982 Function and Normativity
CRN 30109
Mark Bourgeois
T 12:30-3:15

This course concerns the philosophical concept of 'function,' primarily as it applies to artifacts and organisms. Naïvely, function tells us what a thing is for. Function attribution is thus taken to have both explanatory and normative content. On an explanatory level, function attribution is taken to describe the role performed by some item, thereby allegedly accounting for that item's presence, its origin, and how the system in which the item is found operates. On a normative level, function is also typically taken to establish standards for 'good' and 'bad' behavior of the thing in question. The philosophical problem of function thus has a number of dimensions. Most obviously, function is typically regarded as related to purpose and in the context of natural organisms, positing teleology of any kind is problematic. It is more plausible to have teleology in the case of artifacts, by appealing to the intent of the designer; yet even this is more problematic that it seems. But without a divine designer to appeal to, attributing purpose to the parts of an organism is still more challenging. Given this, a second challenge is to provide a coherent account of malfunction, and the nature and source of the apparent normativity implicit in this attribution. Underlying all these issues is the difficulty of articulating the essential traits that distinguish functional items and activities from non-function, without which function attribution has no content whatsoever. Following a survey of the issues, three major approaches to function theory in recent analytic philosophy will be studied: etiological, systemic effects, and contributions. As the course progresses, we will also consider the relevance theories of function hold for fields such as medicine and philosophy of science. Class will be a mix of discussion, short lectures and student presentations. The final section of the course will be reserved for students to pursue their own interests or applications in this area. 

HPS 93983 Models and Representation
CRN 30110
James Nguyen
W 10:30-12:35  (this time will be slightly adjusted to accomodate a conflict with Philosophy, please see admin for an over ride).

Scientists construct models of atoms, elementary particles, polymers, populations, economies, rational decisions, airplanes, earthquakes, forest fires, irrigation systems, and the world's climate. There is hardly a domain of inquiry without models and they are essential for the acquisition and organisation of scientific knowledge. This graduate seminar is a philosophical investigation into these models: what are they and how do they work? Topics that we will cover include: the relationship between models and scientific theories; the ontology of models; their representational function; the roles of mathematics, abstraction, and idealisation in their construction and use; non-standard applications of models; and the relationship between representation in science and representation in other fields (primarily as discussed in the philosophy of language and art). Students will independently investigate a specific case of model-based science and use it to illustrate a philosophical problem or position. 

HPS 93984 The History of Islamic Science
CRN 30111
Scott Trigg
MW 9:30-10:45

This course traces the development of science in cultural and intellectual context in Islamic societies, with an emphasis on the premodern era. After a brief survey of perspectives towards the natural world from Antiquity to the late Hellenistic period, we follow the interaction of this classical tradition with Islamic culture. Issues earning particular attention will include the cross-cultural transmission and transformation of knowledge; intellectual and institutional factors that contributed to developments in science; narratives of ?golden age? and ?decline;? and recent research on connections between Islamic science and Renaissance and early modern Europe. 

HPS 93985 Philosophy of Physics
CRN 30503
Nic Teh
R 12:30-3:15

This research seminar will survey recent work in the philosophy of physics. Among the topics that we will cover are: the role of convention in describing the geometry of Newtonian spacetime, the description of "observable quantities" in quantum theory, the problem of "theoretical equivalence", the use of generalized probability theory in physics, and some conceptual puzzles in quantum field theory and quantum gravity. The seminar will be driven by participant-led presentations, as well as talks by guest speakers. 

HPS 93986 Global Bioethics Seminar
CRN 30409
Celia Deane-Drummond
M 12:30-3:15

This course is dedicated to a closer examination of particular cases and readings in global bioethics. We will consider not only instances of poor health, but also ways to promote healthy living on a global scale. We will cover broad global bioethical issues that impinge on human flourishing, such as questions on sustainability and global justice as well as local examples. We will consider different theological and philosophical frameworks for global bioethics including, but not limited to liberation theology. This class will take the form of a seminar on prior readings that will be set for each session. Students will have the opportunity to engage in discussion on controversial cases and further readings, including, for example, instances related to sustainability, water justice, HIV/AIDS, organ trafficking, biotechnology, food ethics, animal ethics. Class will meet 5 times.

HPS 83100 Colloquium
T - 3:30P - 6:15P
CRN 11143
Anna Geltzer

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)