Home / Courses (2019-20)


Fall 2019

HPS4007H Body, Medicine, and Society in Early Modern Europe
Wednesdays 10-12
Instructor: Lucia Dacome
Location: NF205

The medical understanding of the human body is related to how societies view life and health.This course will investigate early modern medical approaches to the body in their social and cultural contexts and explore the relationship between bodies, medicine, and society. On the one hand, we will analyze how the body was represented in social, cultural, political and religious contexts. On the other hand, we will consider how medical knowledge and practice reflected and shaped beliefs, knowledge and values about the human body. We shall consider topics such as medical understandings of the body and gender and their implications, saintly bodies and the relationship between medicine and religion, the place of anatomy in the early modern world, the relationship between medical knowledge and bodily knowledge, and the relationship between bodies and selves. The historical time period covered will be mainly 1400-1800.

HPS4601H Topics in the Philosophy of Science: Social Epistemology
Thursdays 12 – 2
Instructor: Joseph Berkovitz
Location: EM105

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.

Winter 2020

HPS3001H Philosophy of Biology
Thursdays 1-4
Instructor: Denis Walsh
Location: NF235

The Modern Evolutionary Synthesis is the current orthodox theory of evolution. It arose early in the 20th Century through an amalgamation of Darwin’s theory of natural selection and Mendel’s theory of inheritance. It is now coming up for a century of unprecedented success. (The first serious intimation of a synthesis was produced by Fisher in 1918). Recently, however, the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis has begun to receive a battery of challenges. These arise mostly from empirical work in development, inheritance, the evolution of novelties inter alia. The challenges have provoked biologists, historians and philosophers to re-evaluate the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis, to investigate its conceptual foundations, to explore its possible limitations. Increasingly calls for an extensive revision, expansion, or wholesale rejection of the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis— as well as systematic defences of the Synthesis— are being heard. The objective of this seminar series is to investigate the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis, its formulation, its conceptual foundations, the empirical and conceptual challenges it faces, and its prospects for survival or revision.

HPS4601H Topics in the Philosophy of Science: Is Theology a Science?
Thursdays 10-12
Instructor: Yiftach Fehige
Location: EM302

This is a special topics graduate seminar (HPS4601H1S2020) open to senior undergraduate students (CJS400H1S2020). It is a text-based exercise in integrated history and philosophy of science. The broader context of the course is the interdisciplinary field of “science and religion,” as it affords the opportunity to pursue the question as to whether or not and in what sense exactly we can consider theology a science. This leads to historical considerations concerning the rise of “theology” in the West (beginning with Plato), and a Foucaultian genealogy of modern science as a discourse about “nature.” In philosophical perspective of great relevance is the relationship between beliefs and practice (especially in light of the debates over “Jewish theology” and “scientific pluralism”), the nature of the scientific method, and the much discussed non-empirical (metaphysical) dimensions of science

HPS4106H Technology, Environment and History
Tuesdays 2-4
Instructor: Rebecca Woods
Location: NF205

Environmental history takes as its foundational premise that human beings shape and alter their environment, and that the rest of non-human nature, in turn, influences societies and cultures the world over. A recent generation of scholars working at the intersection of the histories of environment and of technology have further demonstrated the degree to which technologies mediate this reciprocal relationship. This course will introduce students to both the histories of human-environmental-technological interaction, on the one hand, and the historiography of this nexus on the other. The focus will be on western societies since circa 1800. Topics covered will include industrialization, environmental engineering, the modification of other organisms for human ends, the nuclear age, and climate change.