Home / Courses (2018-19)


Fall 2018

HPS1000H: Introduction for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology
Mondays 12-2
Instructors: Mike Miller and Rebecca Woods
Location: NF235

The purpose of this course is to provide an overview of selected topics in the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology. The History of Science and the Philosophy of Science often operate at a distant remove from one another. We have chosen to emphasize the integration between them. The topics that we have chosen to see addressed in the seminar discussions provide the structure for this course. Each topic will be addressed both from a philosophical and historical perspective in order to reach some degree of integration. Seminar participants are expected to read the material in advance and to come prepared each week to enable a meaningful class discussion.

HPS2000H: History of Mathematics
Thursdays 12-2
Instructor: Craig Fraser
Location: NF231

A study of selected topics in the history of mathematics. Proceeding chronologically, we examine episodes that have provoked historical debate and lively discussion, or have marked novel lines of investigation.  Historiography will be an ongoing focus in the course. Background for the course may be found in Morris Kline’s Mathematical Thought from Ancient to Modern Times (1972) and Victor Katz’s History of Mathematics (Revised edition, 1998). The latter is a very good single-volume introduction to the subject. Each seminar will begin with a short lecture or presentation by the instructor, followed by one or more reports by students, followed by discussion. During the course each student is expected to deliver at least one report. These are fairly short (20 minute) formal presentations, based on the readings for that week.

HPS2001H: History of Physics
Tuesdays 10-12
Instructor: Chen-Pang Yeang
Location: NF205

The aim of this graduate seminar is to introduce important developments in the history of physics and to explore the ways to understand them.  In the semester, we will examine in chronological order the emergence or consolidation of some primary areas of physical sciences, such as thermodynamics, electrodynamics, quantum mechanics, and relativity. Although these topics by no means exhaust all the noteworthy episodes, they nonetheless represent the major route along which physics has taken shape. In addition to its historical subject, each session corresponds to a historiographical theme, which can be philosophical, sociological, or cultural. We will discuss how historians have addressed these themes and turned them into approaches of writing the history of physics, and assess the implications of such approaches.

HPS3003H: Social Studies of Medicine
Mondays 10-12
Instructor: Wen-Ching Sung
Location: NF9

In this course, we will discuss key concepts and approaches in social analysis of medicine by drawing on interdisciplinary works from medical anthropology, science studies, and history of medicine. We will examine the multiple realities of the body presented in different medical traditions, how medicine integrates with biology in current era, the increasing medicalization of the body and behavior, the politics of clinical studies, and patients’ personhood and living worlds, etc. The course also adopts a global scope. To name a few, we will examine how psychiatry based in Europe and North America is transformed in other countries, and how “traditional” medicine such as Chinese medicine has been transformed to respond to the “modern” medicine.

HPS4512H: Thought Experiments
Tuesdays 2-4
Instructor: Yiftach Fehige
Location: EM105

Around two hundred years ago philosophers and scientists began to think about thought experiments. Hans-Christian Orsted introduced the technical term thought experiments in 1811. But it was Ernst Mach who coined the term “Gedankenexperiment” for philosophical debate at the beginning of the 20th century. Serious investigation into thought experiments began only in the 1980s. In this course the different epistemologies of thought experiments will be explored and many of the paradigmatic thought experiments will be discussed.

HPS4601H: Topics in the Philosophy of Science: Social Epistemology
Thursdays 10-12
Instructor: Joseph Berkovitz
Location: NF9

Traditionally, epistemology has dealt with the ways in which an individual acquires knowledge through perception and reasoning. However, in recent years it has become apparent that the traditional discussions of knowledge in general, and scientific knowledge in particular, fail to capture important aspects of the social dimension of knowledge. We acquire most of our beliefs from the testimony of others, including experts, and from social institutions, such as science, that are in charge of the generation of knowledge. The relatively recent branch of philosophy that deals with the social dimensions of knowledge is called social epistemology. It has developed out of traditional epistemology through dialogue with the sociology of scientific knowledge (SSK). The course will provide an introduction to social epistemology in general and social epistemology of science in particular, and it will deal with various aspects of the nature of knowledge from this new perspective, including issues such as the development of scientific knowledge, the influence of social and cultural factors on scientific knowledge, scientific realism vs. social constructivism, distributive cognition, holism vs. methodological individualism, trust, expertise and consensus.

The course will be conducted as a seminar in which students present the main readings. Students are expected to come to class prepared to discuss the reading materials. In most weeks, two students will take a lead role in discussing the assigned readings and will give an oral presentation on part of that week’s readings. In particular, they will provide an introduction to the relevant readings, frame the questions that will stimulate the discussion, and pre-circulate a short abstract of their presentation emphasizing the main questions that they would like the class to engage with. The presentation should be a short review – not a summary – of the readings.

Winter 2019

HPS2003H: History of Biology
Fridays 2-4
Instructor: Marga Vicedo
Location: NF235

This course provides an overview of selected major developments in the history of the life sciences, mainly in evolution and genetics in the late 19th and 20th centuries.  It also examines key historiographical questions in the history of science.  Each week we focus on one historical event and also on one historiographical issue in the history of science, but we will strive to connect them to earlier events and debates. The readings include primary sources, secondary sources, and historiographical discussions. We learn to interpret primary texts and use secondary literature in developing historical arguments.

HPS2006H: History of Technology II
Tuesdays 2-4
Instructor: Rebecca Woods
Location: VC211

This seminar offers an introduction to the history of technology and is intended to introduce key questions, concepts, and approaches that define the historiography, while simultaneously offering historical perspectives on technological change and the relationship between technology and Western society since c. 1800. The syllabus has been designed to balance recent literature with some of the most significant works of the last several decades. Our approach will be thematic rather than chronological in order to illuminate major developments and wider trends within the field. Course readings and themes will be explored on multiple levels: historically, historiographically, and conceptually.

HPS2008H: History of Psychology
Tuesdays 4-6
Instructor: Mark Solovey
Location: BC20

In this course, we examine the history of psychology from a number of angles.  We will focus on major figures such as Wilhelm Wundt, Sigmund Freud, and B. F. Skinner.  We will study the development of key controversies about scientific ontology, epistemology, and methodology and about the social implications and public policy uses of psychological knowledge.  We will consider how psychology was first established as an academic discipline, became institutionalized, grew as a profession, and came to be the large, diverse field of scientific inquiry, social practices, and policy applications that it is today.  We will examine the social context and specific influences (i.e., politics, wars, social structures, patronage, academic environments, influential personalities, etc.) that have shaped the development of psychology and its relationships with the wider society. And we will consider how the history of psychology can be relevant to the theory and practice of psychology.

We will also use the history of psychology to examine fundamental questions about history more generally and about the history of science especially.

HPS3002H: The History and Philosophy of Science
Thursdays 2-5
Instructor: Hakob Barseghyan
Location: EM105

In this course, we examine different notions of HPS as an integrated discipline that have been suggested in the last two centuries. We will begin with the classical notion of HPS as it was practiced by William Whewell and his contemporaries in the 19th century. We will also study the French tradition of HPS by focusing mostly on the ideas of Pierre Duhem and Alexander Koyré. We will then discuss some a-historical approaches to philosophy of science best expressed in the works of Rudolph Carnap and other logical positivists. The major focus of our discussion will be on the ideas of integrated HPS in the Kuhnian and post-Kuhnian period. We will scrutinize some of the classical approaches to integrated HPS which emerged during the period of the so-called historical turn, including those by Thomas Kuhn, Imre Lakatos, and Larry Laudan. Considerable attention will be directed to analyzing the reasons why the classical ideas of HPS never really came to fruition and why currently the history of science and the philosophy of science are mostly practiced independently from one another. To that end, we will take a closer look at the promises and failures of the infamous VPI project in the mid-1980s and will consider some of the major points of criticism of the traditional notions of HPS raised by historians, sociologists, and philosophers of science in the last four decades. We will then consider some of the contemporary attempts at establishing HPS as an integrated discipline, including &HPS, empirical HPS, and scientonomy.

HPS3004H: Philosophy of Medicine (New Course)
Mondays 2-4
Instructor: Jonathan Fuller
Location: NF235

This seminar course provides a graduate level introduction to the philosophy of medicine, a fast-growing philosophical field. We will explore both classic and cutting-edge work. In line with the orientation of the field, we will examine metaphysical/conceptual and epistemic questions in medicine and medical research rather than the kinds of questions traditionally asked in the field of bioethics. Topics explored will include: varieties of medicine (mainstream, alternative) and their critics; the concepts and nature of health, disease, and illness; disease kinds and classification; the philosophy of psychiatry; biomedical science and medical explanation; the methodology of clinical research and epidemiology; the epistemology of evidence-based medicine; clinical reasoning; and values and the social epistemology of medicine. Classes will consist in a discussion of the course readings with an introduction to the topics provided by the instructor.

HPS3008H: Philosophy of Science and Religion
Mondays 12-2
Instructor: Yiftach Fehige
Location: EM105

“Science and Religion” is a relatively young field of research. Philosophy matters crucially both for relating science and religion, and in tackling issues that are central to their relationship. This course explores different models for relating science and religion. Topics include: creation vs. multiverse in Big-Bang cosmologies, the reliability of human cognitive faculties vs. naturalism, and deductive vs. inductive proofs for the existence of god.

HPS4300H: Historical Research: Sources, Methods and Approaches
Thursday 12-2
Instructor: Nikolai Krementsov
Location: NF231

This graduate seminar offers an introduction to the principles of research in the history of science, medicine, and technology (HSMT). Through a close examination of classic texts and recent publications in the field, it focuses on sources, methods, and approaches in the practice of HSMT. We will explore the major genres—history of ideas, individuals, institutions, disciplines, and networks—as well as the main modes of analysis—intellectual, social, and cultural—employed in the field. The seminar will emphasize the development of skills essential to the profession—good writing, attentive reading, analytical thinking, concise presentation, academic debate, and historiographic and methodological knowledge. Each week, we will examine in depth a particular genre or level of analysis based on assigned readings and book presentations.