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.
Spring 2018 HPS Course Offerings
HPS 80112 Science and Religion in Islam
This seminar examines scientific and philosophic traditions in Islamic societies and their complex relationships with religious thought. Alongside a range of primary sources from classical Islamic scientists, philosophers, theologians, historians, and jurists, throughout the course we will take a critical look at modern discussions of the topic. Major topics of investigation will include motivations for the pursuit of scientific knowledge, the evolution and impact of cultural and institutional support for science, and sustained interactions between philosophy and theology.
HPS 80113 Empirical Natural Theology as Science: Lactantius to Darwin (and beyond)
This course is a literature review and research seminar to explore the relation of empirical natural theology, including issues of theodicy, to research and theorization in the earth- , life-, and social sciences. It is predicated on the view that important loci of science-religion relations, historically and in the present, lie in cosmologies, both learned and lay, and not only the hermeneutic and metaphysical explorations that dominate the literature. These cosmologies in turn are built on the demand for accountability, that is for explanations of various problematic aspects of the world, that can meet criteria both of truth and of goodness. The first half of the course will consist of a literature survey to familiarize students with both classical natural theological texts from antiquity (even before Lactantius) onward, as well as seminal secondary sources addressing the relation of natural theology to science. The second half of the course is conceived as a research seminar for pursuit and presentation of research projects. While these may be grounded in a variety of disciplines, it will be assumed that they will be focused on the contextualizing of such efforts in one or more or historical setting.
HPS 80114 Descartes Method and Natural Philosophy
This course examines the rise of Cartesian science, focusing specifically on the relation between Descartes method and his natural philosophy and metaphysics. All texts will be read in chronological order. The relevant Aristotelian and scholastic background will be regularly assigned and discussed.
HPS 90298 Practicum: Public Writing
Workshop-style practicum for humanities graduate students who would like to write for more public venues. Focus on identifying appropriate public venues for scholarly topics, writing style, and the essay form.
HPS 90615 The Crisis of Literature in the Anthropocene: The Nineteenth Century
The Anthropocene - as concept and as reality - is having a seismic impact across the humanities because it breaches our founding principle: Humans are not Nature. Given that this problem is not solved by “postmodern,” “post-human” or "post-natural," we will assume, first, that we are not "post" anything: the historical moment we call "Modernity" has always been plural and contested, and may never have existed at all. Second, that the cultural (as cf. the geological) Anthropocene was initiated by the long 19th century's two crucial innovations: the steam engine - the literal engine of industrial capitalism - and the Earth as a geologically ancient and self-creating planet writing its own narrative, its geohistory. Both innovations were recognized, sometimes together, as posing an existential threat to human exceptionalism; the shock waves are still reverberating. We will trace those shock waves in canonical American writers (Emerson, Thoreau, Poe, Melville, Hawthorne, Norris, William James), but also in "nature" writers (Thoreau, Susan Cooper, Marsh, Muir) as well as in selected Continental writers, including scientists (Humboldt, Lyell, Darwin). For help we will draw on theorists who have tried to name our condition and suggest what we must do about it: likely readings include Bruno Latour (Facing Gaia), Isabel Stengers, Timothy Clark, Timothy Morton, Amitav Ghosh, Donna Haraway, Peter Sloterdijk, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Roy Scranton, and Pope Francis, among others. This is designed as an inquiry course, so the boundaries of our readings are open to suggestion; students of all periods are welcome.
HPS 93812 History of Philosophy of Science from the Scientific Revolution to 1900
This course examines the work of key figures from the history of natural philosophy and science. Placing the philosophical work of Leibniz, Newton, Hume, Kant, Alexander Humboldt, Whewell, J. S. Mill, Helmholtz, Ernst Mach, Wilhelm Wundt, William James, Einstein, Henri Poincare, Bergson, and others, within a wider philosophical, historical, and cultural context, we will explore how and why they identified their central problems and the methods they used to approach those. We will focus on understanding how the central problems and theories that these figures worked on, ranging from questions of space, time, motion and substance/matter to theories of human sensibility and perception, to wider epistemological and metaphysical investigations, engaged the scholarly communities surrounding them, and helped them promote broader programmatic goals for reshaping and reforming philosophy/science. As they engaged contemporary philosophers/scientists over fundamental philosophical questions, they pressed new ideals of knowledge and programs to reform natural philosophy and reorganize the broader scholarly community - and society itself (e.g., Kant). We will explore how these natural philosophers framed new epistemologies and simultaneously promoted new ideals of the philosopher, scholar, and/or educated citizen, who would be capable of creating valid knowledge. In sum, we will explore how preeminent natural philosophers, at once, made original contributions to epistemology, understanding of space and time, and metaphysics, as they framed new visions of the knowing subject within a changing society.
HPS 83100 Colloquium
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)