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Spring 2020

HPS 60186: Science & Philosophy in the Ancient Near East

What constitutes science or philosophy in the case of the ancient Near East and its civilizations, which did not conceive of a 'natural' world separate from a 'supernatural' one? Can we speak of the existence of science and philosophy under such circumstances? Can scientific or philosophical thought operate within a theological framework exist? The course will attempt to answer these and related questions by providing a comprehensive overview of ancient Near Eastern 'Scientific' and 'philosophical' thought as reflected in the writings of ancient Mesopotamia and related cultures. An introduction to the ancient Near East will provide grounding for this course, along with basic secondary literature on the history and philosophy of science in general and with respect to Mesopotamia and the ancient Near East more specifically. The course assumes no knowledge of ancient languages; primary literature will be read in translation.

HPS 63102: Aristotle

An examination and evaluation of Aristotle's philosophy, with special emphasis on the logical, physical, and metaphysical writings.

HPS 63207: Landscapes

The human experience is a social and spatialized one. Ever since we appeared on the planet, humans have intentionally and unintentionally shaped the land and spaces around them for a variety of reasons including subsistence, economic, social, political, and spiritual activities. Thus, landscapes and spaces not only reflect, order, and create our cultural identities and worldview, but also they enable and constrain us. In this seminar-style course, we will explore how the way people live and their culture shapes our relationships the natural and constructed environment and each other. The goal is to provide students with a strong foundation in current landscape theory, analysis, and interpretation. We will cover a range of topics that intersect with landscape, including social order, settlement, cosmography and ideology, political landscapes, boundaries, natural places and resources, sense of place, and memory-making. Course organization draws heavily on the instructor's expertise, but emphasizes a broad and integrative engagement with the anthropological literature.

HPS 63659: The Human and its Others

This course introduces students to core theoretical understandings of humanity, personhood, agency, and animacy. Grounded in a decolonial, crip, queer, and anti-racist feminist perspective, we will discuss humanity's socioscientific construction and ideological ties. The first part of the course investigates what it means to be a person and what populations have been excluded from this realm through discourses of monstrosity, animality, and madness. The next part focuses on the materiality of the human, the construction of the body, and humanity's entanglement with nature, non-human animals, and things. The final part asks students to develop their understanding of these frameworks further by applying them to emerging scholarship that puts non-humans and the inanimate at the center of analysis.

HPS 63986: A History of Truth

Recently, the truth has become controversial. Some scholars and commentators have even suggested that we are living in a "post-truth" era. In this discussion-based course, we will think historically about the truth and its opposites, including lies and false beliefs. Focused in the West (Europe and the United States), the course will proceed roughly chronologically from the invention of the printing press in the fifteenth century to the problem of propaganda in the twentieth century and culminating with our current "post-truth" era. Students will consider how our understanding of what is true has evolved over time in the realms of religion, science, the law, journalism, and politics. Readings will prepare students to ask questions such as: what counts as evidence? How do societies deal with bias and what does it mean to pursue objectivity? Does free speech lead to truth? How has technology changed the way humans think about the truth? Each week, students will read historical interpretations of truth at different moments as well as primary sources that touch on the truth in different spheres. The course will culminate in a discussion of the historian's role in producing truth. Course requirements include enthusiastic participation in class discussions and a final research paper, which will be completed and graded in steps over the course of the semester

HPS 93805: Philosophy of Biology

In this seminar, we will survey some of the central issues in the philosophy of biology. Topics will include the following: We will study the theory of natural selection and consider whether selection occurs only at the level of genes or if it can occur at higher levels, such as the organism or group. We will examine the nature of function or purpose in biological systems and ask to what extent features of biological organisms can be understood as adaptations as well as consider alternatives to adaptationist explanations, such as constraints, spandrels, or self-organization. We will also turn to the difficult concept of fitness, specifically how fitness is understood as both a central theoretical concept in the theory of natural selection, as well as being explanatory and predictive of evolutionary phenomena. We will ask whether there are laws in biology and trace out the relationship between biological laws and biological explanations. And we will explore the scope of Darwinian explanations. In particular, we will consider the extent to which human behavior and culture can be understood through Darwinian adaptationist explanations.Course requirements include in-class presentations and a research paper.

HPS 93812: HOPOS from Sci Rev 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. This course satisfies the HPS P2 core requirement.

HPS 93978: Problems in History of Health & Medicine

This course is a descriptive and prescriptive introduction to the historiography of medicine. Its overall purpose is to give the student a working acquaintance with the remarkable variety of medical history which can then be adapted to the student's own professional needs.Contemporary medical history is exceptionally broad. Its traditional basis as a means to legitimate a single profession has expanded to include the contingent histories of many professions, the intellectual history of the knowledge and skills they profess to possess, the changing biological conditions of humans over time and space, the social and political history of institutions of knowledge-making and welfare provision, and the study of the moral practices reflected in differential access to means of health. Medical historians mix calories with Calvinism, and Job with jobs. In the face of this diversity, historians have become conscious of the need to reflect on, articulate, and defend the standpoints in their work. Increasingly, a common departure point is to reject the older dichotomy between diseased and non-diseased, or even health or illness, toward one which recognizes qualities of embodiment, that conceives persons as variously victimized, impaired, or differentially abled in differing ways throughout their lives. Our work then has been to clarify these situations; to explore, explain, and often to critique cultural, intellectual, institutional, and political responses.The course has two components. Much of it will operate as a topical survey of the field, exploring these several approaches in different times and places through discussions both of common readings and of individual presentations. My hope is that by the end of the semester you will have a good sense of the breadth of the field and find ways to integrate it into your own professional activities, including but not limited to both scholarship and teaching. The second component is a project. Here there are multiple options. Students writing on a topic relating to medical history may use the course to engage with the field more deeply or with other and broader contexts. Others may want to use it as the basis for developing a chronological and conceptual foundation for a research proposal that they plan to submit in the shorter or longer term. Still others may want to use it as the basis for syllabus construction. Appropriate courses include not only history courses (including on areas not narrowly construed as medical), but those in the biological, social, health, or policy sciences or in the arts and humanities, including matters of religion and philosophy. In each of these cases, the goal would be to strengthen the project by connecting it to a broader set of methods, questions, and literatures.