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HPS Courses

Courses marked (H) satisfy the HPS History of Science requirement; those marked (P) satisfy the HPS Philosophy of Science requirement. (H1, H2, P1, P2) are HPS core courses, which also satisfy the corresponding History or Philosophy of Science requirement. (S) courses satisfy the Social Studies of Science core requirement, as well as either a History of Science or Philosophy of Science requirement.

P Courses 

HPS 60023 - Platonism and Christianity

The Corpus Dionysiacum is a pillar of Medieval Christian theology, philosophy, and mysticism. Its author was veneraged as St Denis, as Dionysius the Areopagite (i.e., Paul of Tarsus's convert on the Areopagus mentioned in Acts 17:34), and according to various accounts as the first bishop of Athens, Corinth, or Paris. The fifteenth century was a period of intense work on the CD. New Greek to Latin translations of the CD were produced (Traversari and Ficino). New commentaries were written (Denys the Carthusian and Ficino). Philologists (Valla, Gaza, and later Erasmus) called into question Dionysius's apostolicity by demonstrating that the CD was a late ancient pseudepigraphic work. Some scholars (Bessarion, Balbi, Denys the Carthusian, Cusanus, and Ficino) began to explore its Platonism while others argued against this approach (George of Trebizond, Traversari, Pico, and later Lefèvre and Clichtove). Modern scholars now acknowledge the dependence of the CD on the Athenian philosophical school of Platonism (most notably on Proclus and Damascius), but already in the fifteenth-century, Marsilio Ficino (the first person to translate all of Plato and Plotinus into Latin) carefully argued that the best way to understand the CD is within late ancient philosophical traditions of Platonism. This seminar will examine Ficino's commentaries on the CD (the Mystical Theology and On Divine Names) and discuss its context and sources. No prerequisites are required for the course, but familiarity with ancient and medieval philosophy would be useful. Students will be invited to read Latin texts but no specific level of Latin is required. The course will be designed to allow students to work with their level of Latin, whatever it might be. No knowledge of Greek is required nor of other modern languages (e.g., Italian, French, German) but some linguistic training in these languages would be beneficial. The course plans to include visits to ND's rare books and special collections.

HPS 60036 - Neoplatism's Medieval Forms

Neoplatonic philosophy is one of the or maybe even the most influential intellectual movement in Late Antiquity, the Middle Ages and into modern times. Neoplatonic ideas shaped philosophical, theological, mystical and literary texts and art and architecture. The course will study a wide range of Neoplatonic texts and of texts inspired by Neoplatonism from Antiquity into the Middle Ages, including the Byzantine, Latin and Arabic tradition. As the intellecutal basis of the course, we will first study pagan Neoplatonism in late Antiquity. We will focus mainly on the founder of Neoplatonism Plotinus who transforms Platonic thought and combines it with Aristotelean ideas without neglecting Stoic input as well. Later developments in Neoplatonism will be dicussed as well, since they are the basis of Christian transformations of Neoplatonism (e.g. Porphyry, Proclus). Then we will move to the first Christian transformations of Neoplatonic thought in late Antiquity, especially Dionysius the Areopagite, but also Boethius and Augustine. After a briefer detour to Neoplatonism in Byzantium we will focus on the neoplatonic traditions in the Middle Ages, focusing especially on the first translations of Dionysius the Areopagite and his reception in philosophy, theology, mysticism and art. Furthermore, we will take a look at the Arabic tradition.Topics dicussed in the course will include: 1) The Good, the One and God; 2) Intellect; 3) Soul; 4) Self, person, self-consciousness; 5) the intelligible realm and the visible world; 6) body; 7) matter 8) evil; 9) freedom; 10) the ascent of the soul and the union with the divine; 11) art and its anagocial powerMost texts will be read in translation, but we will also look at selected passages in Greek or Latin (for those who read these languages; they are not a requirement for the course).

HPS 80043 - Topics in Ancient and Late Ant Natural Philosophy 

This course will focus on several natural philosophical topics, such as matter theory and atomism, time, motion, and causation. In each case, we will consider solutions offered by philosophers of the classical, Hellenistic, and late-antique periods, with a particular emphasis on Neoplatonism and the commentary tradition of late antiquity. If time permits, at the end of the course we will also briefly consider their influence in late-medieval and Renaissance natural philosophy.

HPS 83801 - Philosophy of Science (P1) 

Science occupies a prominent place in our society. Science, it is said, secures knowledge that other endeavors cannot possibly obtain, and it can transform the world in radical ways. But what is the nature of scientific knowledge? What makes science so special? This survey course is an introduction to the philosophical debates about the nature of modern science. We will cover the central issues in the philosophy of science from logical empiricism to contemporary debates. Topics included in the survey are: the nature of scientific knowledge; progress in science; realism and antirealism; reductionism; laws of nature; explanation and confirmation; the nature of scientific practice; the role of values in shaping scientific research.

HPS 93326 - Phenomenology

In this seminar we will examine the classical formulation of Phenomenology in Husserl's account and follow its development and/or challenge in thinkers in its wake, including initially the existential accounts of Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty. Further consideration will also be given of challenges concerning scientific rationality in Husserl's account that occurred in the work of Bachelard, Cavailles, Desanti and Richir.

HPS 96697 - Forbidden Knowledge 

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 social 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 sister, epistemology. In this course we shall focus especially on socially constructed ignorance - the kind exemplified by governmental secrecy and censorship, or industry-engineered confusion (think of the tobacco industry or the pharmaceutical industry), or the 'virtuous ignorance' that would ensue if certain kinds of research (think of race- and gender-related cognitive differences research) were no longer supported. This will lead us to consider the kinds of freedom of research and other social structures that need to be in place to support the legitimate quest for knowledge, and thence to the recognition that agnotological/epistemological questions are also, ultimately, political questions.

H Courses 

HPS 60186 - Science and Philosophy in 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 60258 - Our Cosmic Stories 

Since the dawn of history, human beings have been telling stories about their origin and destiny. From the Dreamtime of Aboriginals to the gods of the Hellenes, Norse tales to Abrahamic revelations, our ability to weave imagination and reason, tradition and experience, has underpinned our collective identity and shaped our history. Today, we are increasingly turning to science to tell these stories of origin and destiny. Concepts like entropy and evolution are giving us cosmic and biological arrows of history, one inexorably tending to disorder, the other to ever-increasing complexity. Unfolding across a series of identifiable thresholds, the budding field of Big History combines our nature as storytellers with our skill as scientists to provide a coherent narrative of life and the universe from the big bang to the present, offering what has been called a new creation story for our time. What tale does Big History tell, what sources of knowledge does it draw on, in what ways does it challenge traditional beliefs, and what futures does it imagine? Bridging the chasm between C.P. Snow's Two Cultures of the sciences and humanities, this interdisciplinary course engages big questions about religion, nature, science, culture, and meaning through great books in popular science with the help of theoretical contributions from science and technology studies. The class welcomes non-scientists who are interested in acquiring scientific literacy as well as scientists seeking to acquire religious and social science literacy. We will look for the best descriptions of nature available to us today (the "is") to draw inspiration for unique insights on how to be (the "ought"). The readings and discussions of this class will provide global citizens in the twenty-first century of diverse religious, theological, or philosophical persuasions a common framework of the past, a sense of presence in the Anthropocene, and conceptual tools to imagine a shared future.

HPS 83000 - The Historian's Craft 

This seminar is designed to introduce students to theoretical and practical foundations of Historical Method. Students are required to complete several written and oral assignments and to write a short primary research paper on a topic selected in consultation with the instructor. Those students who prefer to write a more substantial primary research paper with their PhD advisors should consult with the instructor as soon as possible. This course is required for all first year students.

HPS 83601 - History of Science, Technology, and Medicine to 1750 (H1) 

This course initiates a two-semester survey of the history of natural philosophy, technology and medicine from Greek antiquity to the modern world; in this first part, we follow the story as far as the early eighteenth century. The course is intended to expose students to some of the 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, and satisfies the H1 core requirement. Interested graduate students in History, Philosophy, the Medieval Institute, and the sciences or engineering are encouraged to contact the instructor. All students who take this course must also attend the lectures of the undergraduate survey in the history of science, designated as HIST 30992.

HPS 83668 - Theology and Economics

What is the relationship between God and Mammon? As AMC Waterman argues, political economy arguably displaced theology as the center of public discourse by the 19th century. Theologians thus need to engage with economics. The question is how? In this course we will begin with some basic principles of economics, with attention to the anthropology that tacitly undergirds the discipline. We will look at some of major economic texts (Smith, Malthus, Becker). Then we will turn to the Christian tradition to examine its engagement with economic questions, beginning with scripture and the Church fathers, continuing through Aquinas and the reformation, and ending with the Anglican theologians who played a role in launching economics as an independent discipline. The course will conclude with Stephen Long's Divine Economy, which surveys the modern field of "theology and economics".

HPS 93605 - History of Global Development and Capitalism 

We live in a world where much of the planet's population either lives in "developing economies" and/or in capitalist economies of different stripes. Whether at meetings of the World Trade Organization or the United Nations, the question of inequality (within nations, and between global North and South) continues to frame international politics. This graduate course will provide historical explanations of how we arrived at this juncture. It will do so by examining a range of historically minded scholarship on the subject of capitalism and development in the modern world. The themes covered will include debates over the causes of the "Great Divergence" in wealth between the West and the rest of the world; slavery and capitalism; the effects of colonialism in Africa and Asia on development; the nature of postcolonial development in the twentieth century; the influence of the Cold War on international institutions and social science; the rise of neoliberal thought; and finally, contemporary debates about globalization

S Courses

HPS 90791 - Sci/Fi: About Worlds Old and New 

This graduate seminar brings together two subfields of inquiry—science fiction studies and the inscriptional studies of science and technology—and two questions—how is science written in fiction and how is writing used in science—to account for the ways in which writing and science are, and have been historically and culturally, entangled. No prior knowledge of any subfield is required. You will read and engage with scholarship from literary criticism, history of science, science studies, and media technology studies. Students will likely encounter work from the likes of Thomas More, Fredric Jameson, Darko Suvin, Octavia Butler, Samuel Delany, Bruno Latour, Hans-Jörg Rheinberger, N. Katherine Hayles, and Friedrich Kittler.

HPS 93772 - The Politics of Science 

This course examines the increasing politicization of science, and the escalation of the enrollment of science in political controversies over the past century. Starting out with brief characterizations of major political theories such as liberalism, communitarianism, republicanism and neoliberalism, we then turn to the origins of the conviction that science was inherently "apolitical" rooted in the 1930s-50s in the philosophy, sociology and history of science, and in popular culture. The purported alliance of science with democratic structures is considered. Political controversies over Nazi science, Soviet science, atomic war and Cold war science are surveyed, followed by more recent controversies over the so-called "Science Wars," the treatment of expertise, Foucault, feminism, and actor-network theory. The economics of science movement is treated as a reaction to the above. We then turn from theory to description of modern incidents of the relationship of science to politics, beginning with surveys of the history of science policy, controversies over biotechnology, global warming, intellectual property, the pharmaceuticals industry, and attempts by international agencies and NGOs to regulate the international diffusion of science. Readings: Mark Brown, Science in Democracy; May & Susan Sell, Intellectual Property Rights: a critical history, Thomas McGarity and Wendy Wagner, Bending Science, Philip Mirowski, ScienceMart