Browse All Graduate Courses

HPS1000H - Introduction to History and Philosophy of Science 

The purpose of this course is to introduce students to some of the key conceptual developments in the history and philosophy of science and technology. History of science and philosophy of science tend to operate at a distant remove from each other: they often employ different methodologies to address different kinds of questions. The objective of this course is to carve out common ground in which historians and philosophers may productively engage with one another, and at the same time to survey various issues in the history and philosophy of biology. We will do this in an unorthodox way. We will focus on the ‘problem of the organism’. Organisms, of course, are the subject matter of biology. They are at the same time problematic sorts of natural phenomena. We will the changing approaches to understanding (or ignoring) organisms throughout the history of biology, as a lens through which to discuss issues in the philosophy of science such as explanation, the metaphysics of science, experiment, modelling, laws of nature.

HPS1001H - Individual Reading and Research in the History and/or Philosophy of Science and Technology

Normally, 1 full or 2 half-courses allowed per program. Instructor's permission required. Topic is chosen by the student, with approval of a particular faculty member, who meets with the student regularly to discuss readings. Involves the writing of at least one essay. Can also be taken during the summer.

HPS1002H - Individual Reading and Research in the History and/or Philosophy of Science and Technology

Normally, 1 full or 2 half-courses allowed per program. Instructor's permission required. Topic is chosen by the student, with approval of a particular faculty member, who meets with the student regularly to discuss readings. Involves the writing of at least one essay. Can also be taken during the summer.

HPS1003H - Individual Reading and Research in the History and/or Philosophy of Science and Technology

Normally, 1 full or 2 half-courses allowed per program. Instructor's permission required. Topic is chosen by the student, with approval of a particular faculty member, who meets with the student regularly to discuss readings. Involves the writing of at least one essay. Can also be taken during the summer.

HPS1100Y - Advanced Research Paper (Required)

Mandatory for all IHPST PhD Students

The purpose of the 1100Y is for students to demonstrate their ability to conduct original research in their chosen field of interest that shows promise of eventual publication. Students pursue research projects of their own design over the course of the year in consultation with both the faculty member leading the 1100Y seminar and with a faculty advisor specializing in their field of expertise. This course is required for all PhD students, and all students must pass this course with an A- or above to continue in the program.

HPS1500H - Research Paper

HPS1500H Research Paper provides MA students the opportunity to undertake original research in the social and humanistic studies of science, technology, and medicine with the goal of developing the student’s capacity to effectively engage and contribute to existing scholarly literature.  IHPST graduate students who wish to take HPS1500H must draw up a detailed course plan with a member of the IHPST graduate faculty who is prepared to provide supervision, and submit a Request for Reading and/or Research form that must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies. NOTE: HPS1500H can be taken in the fall or the winter term.

HPS2000H - History of Mathematics

A study of selected topics in the history of mathematics, with emphasis on moments of debate, novel developments, and the social, political, and cultural contexts of mathematical thought and practice.

HPS2001H - History of Physics

Chen-Peang Yeung

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 mechanics, thermodynamics, quantum physics, 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.

HPS2003H - History of Biology

Marga Vicedo

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.

HPS2004H - History of Medicine

Lucia Dacome

This course offers an introduction to the history of medicine in relation to societies, politics and culture. We shall address topics such as changing views of the body and its functions, the social and cultural meaning of disease, the place of patients and medical practitioners in the world of healing and the role of religion and magic in health-related pursuits. We will also explore the bearings medical pursuits had on the creation and substantiation of notions of gender, investigate how practitioners sought to gain and maintain authority over knowledge, institutions, and patients, and examine the place of visual and material culture in the production and dissemination of medical knowledge.

HPS2008H - History of Psychology

Mark Solovey

In the last century and a half, a new discipline called Psychology has aimed to place our knowledge of the human mind, brain, and behavior on a scientific footing.  Using a wide array of scientific tools of analysis, professional psychologists have been studying fundamental questions that concern all of us. In this course we examine the history of professional psychology, along with its widespread and often contested social relevance, from a number of angles.  We will focus on major figures and 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 figures, 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, practice, and social relevance of psychology.

HPS2009H - History and Philosophy of the Social Sciences

Mark Solovey

"This seminar examines the history and philosophy of the social sciences. We will study key controversies about the subject matter, methodology, and aims of the social sciences, about the relationship between the individual and society, about central concepts such as race, class, and gender, about the causes of historical change, about the prospects for social progress, and about the relevance and uses of social science knowledge, practices, and expertise in public policy and the wider society. And we will examine the social context and various influences (i.e., industrialization, religion, politics, war, social structure, patronage, academic environment, influential personalities, cultural attitudes and values, etc.) that have shaped the development of the social sciences and their significance in the modern world.
We will also use materials from this class to examine fundamental questions about the history of science: What sorts of questions do historians of science ask? What types of frameworks of inquiry do they work with? What sorts of answers do they offer? What kinds of evidence do they rely upon? What rhetorical strategies and story-telling techniques do they employ?"

HPS2010H - The Science of Human Nature

Mark Solovey

Why do we do what we do? What factors play a role in shaping our personality? What biological and social elements help configure a person’s moral, intellectual, and emotional character? In this course we examine landmark studies that shook standard beliefs about human nature in their time. We analyze those studies in their historical context and discuss their lasting relevance to social, ethical, and policy debates. In addition, this course will help students to understand what is involved in choosing a large research project and to think about the steps needed to turn it into a viable dissertation/book project. Thus, we will devote parts of some meetings to discuss the different aspects of conceptualizing a project, organizing the research, developing a manageable timetable, and writing the different parts of a book (introduction, arch of the chapters, conclusion).

HPS2011H - History of Engineering

Chen-Peang Yeung

In this course, we examine the mutual shaping of engineering with technology, politics, society, culture, technoscience, and/or environment from the early modern period to the present. Topics include, but are not limited to, technological systems, infrastructures, technocracy, state building, revolutions, wars, engineering education, engineering epistemology, engineering ethics, design, management, inventions, innovations, and tech ecosystems.

HPS3000H - Philosophy of Science

Brian Baigrie

This course is designed as a graduate level introduction to philosophy of science. The lectures and discussions will explore some important issues in the philosophical literature on the natural sciences: rationality, experimental practice, theory, the role of instruments, the unity/disunity of the sciences, problem-solving in the sciences, incommensurability, and the underdetermination thesis, to name just a few. Wherever possible, we will attempt to situate these issues in their historical context, and to relate their emergence to associated intellectual approaches (e.g., feminist, anthropological, sociological trends). In order to facilitate discussion, however, we will chiefly be concerned with the treatment that these issues have been given by a handful of scholars (esp. Kuhn, van Fraassen Hacking, Latour, Cartwright) who have contributed greatly to the present shape of philosophy of science and the considerable influence that it enjoys in many academic circles.

HPS3001H - The Philosophy of Biology

Denis Walsh

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.

HPS3002H - The History & Philosophy of Science

This reading-based seminar offers an overview of the development of HPS as a discipline. Students will gain familiarity with key concepts and methods in the field; and will developed a shared analytic vocabulary for pursuing HPS based on reading significant figures in the field. Readings may include works by Thomas Khun, Hasok Chang, Ian Hacking, Donna Haraway, Peter Gallison, Lorraine Daston, and Michel Foucault, among others.

HPS3003H - Social Studies of Medicine

This course introduces students to various themes and methodological approaches in the social studies of medicine. Topical, methodological, and analytical emphasis varies depending on the instructor's area of specialization, but may include such themes as psychiatry, public health, medical ethnography, disability studies, biomedicine, bioethics, and philosophy of medicine.

HPS3004H - Philosophy of Medicine

Brian Baigrie

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. Also following the contemporary focus of philosophy of medicine, most of the readings are situated in the philosophy of science. 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. While most readings follow an ‘analytic’ approach to philosophy of medicine, some follow a more ‘continental’ approach. Classes will consist in a discussion of the course readings with an introduction to the topics provided by the instructor. Links to all required readings will be provided.

HPS3006H - Philosophy of Probability

Joseph Berkovitz

Henri Poincare, the French mathematician, physicist and philosopher said that “if this calculus be condemned, then the whole of the sciences must also be condemned.” Indeed, the concept of probability plays a crucial role in modern science and contemporary philosophy. While there is a broad consensus about the formal theory of probability, there is no agreement on its interpretation. In the course, we shall first look at the history of probability until the 19th C, then study the main contemporary interpretations of probability and finally consider some applications of these interpretations in science and/or philosophy. The course will be taught as a seminar in which students present the main readings and some of the further readings.

HPS3007H - Philosophy of Economics

Joseph Berkovitz

The economic realm dominates many central aspects of our life. Economics is the science that is supposed to describe and explain economic phenomena. Yet, economic theory is a perplexing subject. A few centuries after its birth, its cognitive status and methods are still largely unclear and controversial. The course aims to encourage a critical, philosophical reflection on modern economic theory and its fundamental concepts and postulates, and achieve a better understanding of modern economies and their relevance for society and social justice. We shall evaluate issues including the nature of economic knowledge and explanation, the status of the fundamental postulates, theories and models in economics, the influence of ideology, the concept of economic efficiency, the question whether economics is descriptive or normative and some central questions concerning the relevance of economics for collective choice and social justice. This is a seminar in which students present the main readings.

HPS3008H - Philosophy of Science and Religion

Yiftach Fehige

This graduate course is delivered as a seminar. We will explore an integrative approach to the history and philosophy with an emphasis on central systematic questions in the field of science and religion. No specific philosophical or theological background is required, but any prior training in the philosophy of science, philosophy of religion, metaphysics, and theology are an asset.

HPS3009H - Slavery, Medicine and Science in Historical Perspective

Lucia Dacome

This course considers historical entanglements of science, medicine, and slavery. It articulates a critical reflection of both the ways in which medicine and natural inquiry supported the institution of slavery and the settings in which slavery was integral to the production of medical and natural knowledge. At the same time, the course examines the epistemic role of enslaved individuals and communities in the histories of science, medicine, and technology. In recent years, scholars have analyzed the institutional apparatuses of imperial science and medicine, paying special attention to the mobility of individuals, knowledge, practices, and objects across the globe. However, the place of slavery in historical processes of production, movement and transfer of natural and medical knowledge has only started to be explored. This course draws attention to entanglements of slavery, science, and medicine in different regions, settings, and temporalities. It considers how the study of these entanglements can potentially shift our perspective on how we think and write about our discipline. Key topics include the examination of the place of slavery in histories of: medicine and anatomy; gender and generation; medical experimentation; disease and disability; collecting and natural history; the rise of racial science; and bodies, violence and the archive.

HPS3010H - Social Epistemology

Joseph Berkovitz

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 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 through dialogue with the history of science, sociology of scientific knowledge, anthropology, and philosophy of science. The course will provide an introduction to social epistemology, in general, and social epistemology of science, in particular. It will deal with various aspects of the nature of knowledge from this new perspective, including issues such as the development of scientific knowledge, ‘knowledge that’ (something true) vs. ‘knowledge how’, the influence of social and cultural factors on scientific methodology, scientific rationality and scientific knowledge, scientific realism vs. social constructivism, distributive cognition, holism vs. methodological individualism, trust, expertise, consensus, distributive epistemic injustice, and feminist epistemology.

HPS4001H - The Scientific Revolution: Galileo to Newton

Brian Baigrie

Ruminations about causality are at the center of our very idea of a science. This course will explore various developments associated with the scientific revolution (understood in the broader sense to signify the rejection of the Aristotelian worldview and its replacement by the mechanistic cosmos associated with Galileo, Descartes, and Newton) from the point of view of the notion of causation (a subsidiary goal will be the use the scientific revolution as a background for helping us get clear on the notion of causality).  Starting with a discussion of Aristotle’s theory of causation as elaborated both in his work as philosopher and as naturalist, we will then turn to developments in astronomy and cosmology, mechanics, natural history, biology, geology, and chemistry, exploring the sense, if any, in which these developments involved a rejection of Aristotle’s theory(s) of causation.  The course will be conducted as a seminar, with students selecting topics for presentation at our first meeting.

HPS4007H - Body, Medicine, Society in Early Modern Europe

Lucia Dacome

The medical understanding of the human body is related to how societies view life and health. This course investigates early modern medical approaches to the body in their social and cultural contexts and explores the relationship between bodies, medicine, and society. On the one hand, we will study how the body was represented in social, cultural, political, and religious settings. On the other hand, we will analyze how medical knowledge and practice both reflected and shaped beliefs, knowledge, and values about the human body. We will also examine how focusing on the body allows us to broaden the realms of historical actors who participated in the making of medical and natural knowledge. We shall consider topics such as medical understandings of bodies and their implications; sex and gender configurations; bodily management and disability; slavery and racial idioms; divine and demonic possessions; visual and material embodiments; anatomy and bodily mapping; bodies, healing, and magic; the relationship between medical and bodily knowledge, and between bodies and selves.

HPS4011H - Cognitive Technologies: Philosophical Issues and Debates

Karina Vold

Many technological developments have brought with them significant changes in both the modes and scope of human thinking, including how we learn, how we remember, and how we perceive and engage with the world. This seminar will introduce graduate students to philosophical issues and debates that arise from the development of cognitive technologies. We will analyze and discuss key epistemological, metaphysical, and ethical issues that sit at the intersection of philosophy of cognitive science, philosophy of technology, and neurotics. Topics covered will include situated views of cognition, cognitive artifacts, cognitive enhancement, and artificial intelligence.

HPS4012H - Situated Cognition

Karina Vold

Situated cognition is an umbrella term for several related views that have emerged over the last few decades including the embodied, embedded, extended and distributed views of the cognition. All of these views reject some core commitments of traditional cognitive science. This seminar will begin by introducing the traditional ‘internalist’ views of cognition that these new situated theories run up against, as well as clarifying some important terminology, such as what we mean when we speak of ‘extension’, ‘mental representation, ‘mindedness’ or ‘cognition’. The rest of the seminar will explore the philosophical arguments for and against situated cognition, with a particular focus on the embodied and extended theories.

HPS4020H - Postcolonialism and the Global Turn in Science & Technology Studies

Elise Burton

This seminar introduces graduate students to the role of postcolonial theory in generating a “global turn” in histories of science and the multidisciplinary field of science & technology studies (STS). We will read and discuss how postcolonial scholars have critiqued historical and social studies of science, and debate the theoretical and methodological significance of ideas like “global perspectives,” the “Global South,” and “non-Western science” in STS. To evaluate the impact of these ideas on the field, we will also read recently published case studies applying postcolonial approaches to histories of science, technology, and medicine. Students will have the opportunity to compare these approaches with the related but distinct concepts of decoloniality emerging from Indigenous studies, and to consider how postcolonial STS can inform their own ongoing research.

HPS4021H - Feminist Approaches to Science & Technology Studies

Elise Burton

This seminar introduces graduate students to the intersections of feminist theory with the multidisciplinary field of science & technology studies (STS). We will analyze and discuss the key critiques of science and technology by feminist and queer studies scholars that have transformed not only the field of STS, but also research practices and concepts within STEM fields and STEM-related law and public policy. Students will also have the opportunity to consider how feminist STS can inform their own ongoing research.

HPS4023H - Brave New Worlds: Science + Fiction

Nikolai Krementsov

During the last two centuries science fiction (SF) has become the mythology of modern societies, and the very name of this literary genre points unambiguously to science as their acknowledged linchpin. Every mythology offers a deep insight into the mores and morals, heroes and villains, structures and strictures, dreams and taboos of the society that produced it. This graduate research seminar explores SF as a particular lens for the understanding of both the historical development of modern sciences and the role of science and scientific knowledge in the historical development of modern societies. It is structured thematically around a series of classic SF novels and speculative writings by eminent scientists, but focused on students carrying out independent research projects that examine one of the major themes addressed in the readings, from aliens, androids, and AI to evolution, eugenics, ET, and beyond. The seminar concludes with a workshop where students present their research projects to the audience of their peers.

HPS4030H - Multiple Realizability: History, Science, and Philosophy

The multiple realizability thesis has been a cornerstone of anti-reductivist arguments across several areas of philosophy, including philosophy of mind and cognitive science, philosophy of artificial intelligence, and in the metaphysics of science. Yet, despite the significance and widespread philosophical import of this thesis, there continues to be debate around its content, plausibility, and implications. What exactly does multiple realizability thesis maintain? What does the thesis entail? And what should count as evidence in favor of multiple realizability (in different domains)? To explore these questions, this seminar will proceed chronologically, looking at the historical development of the philosophical ideas and debates surrounding the multiple realizability thesis, how the thesis itself has evolved, and the impact it has had in both philosophy and the sciences.

HPS4040H - Computing and Information from Babbage to AI

Chen-Peang Yeung

"In this graduate seminar, we aim to understand computing and information as technological, scientific, social, and cultural phenomena from a historical perspective.  Drawing from the insights in the history of technology, history of mathematics, STS, media studies, business history, intellectual history, and security studies, we examine the histories of, e.g., artificial intelligence, big data, cyberspace, information infrastructure, theories and imageries of computation and mind, open source, human-machine relations, tech-industrial ecosystems, and geopolitics of semiconductor supply chains.  Our geographical scope is transnational, as we focus not only on crucial developments in the US—often viewed as the epicenter in the history of computing and information—but also those in Western Europe, East and South Asia, and Latin America.  In addition, we discuss the historiographical and methodological issues in researching and writing the history of computing and information."

HPS4103H - The Technological Underground: New Methods in History of Technology

Edward Jones-Imhotep

This course examines new and emerging methods for investigating the histories of technology by focusing on the “technological undergrounds.” Undergrounds have figured powerfully in human histories and imaginations as places of alterity, concealment, exploration, and discovery; as well as spaces of hope, refuge, and fugitivity. The course leads students through a collection of technological undergrounds – real and figurative – to examine the unexplored and underexplored histories of technology. What people and technologies have historically occupied these spaces? How can the idea of the underground help us approach people and technologies traditionally written out of our histories? What can it reveal about agency, resistance, and the category of technology itself? Drawing on recent work in global history, critical race studies, postcolonialism, and digital humanities, the course analyzes the particular challenges posed by source materials and current frameworks, and encourages students to develop new analytical tools, frameworks, and modes of scholarly expression.

HPS4110H - Medicine, Science, and Mobility in the Mediterranean World

Lucia Dacome

The Mediterranean world has historically been characterized as a fluid and permeable space of both human and non-human movement and interactions across Africa, Asia, and Europe. This course examines the role of Mediterranean entanglements in the histories of science and medicine, focusing on the premodern period. We will address topics such as the relationship between medicine, science, and religion; slavery, medicine, and natural inquiry; epidemics and public health; shifting views of disability; the movement of specimens and curiosities; travel and scientific exchange; orientalism and its legacies; and the making of human diversity. We will also critically reflect on the category of mobility, engaging in questions related to how movement participated in processes of knowledge production in medicine and natural inquiry and, conversely, how medical, and scientific pursuits encouraged mobility.

HPS4300H - The Historian's Craft: Sources, Methods, and Approaches

Nikolai Krementsov

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, focusing on thev“Whats,” “Whys,” and “Hows” of historical research and writing. 

HPS4512H - Thought Experiments

Yiftach Fehige

Around two hundred years ago philosophers and scientists began to think about thought experiments. Hans-Christian Ørsted 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.

HPS4600H - Topics in the Philosophy of Science

This course comprises a survey of current issues in the general philosophy of science. General philosophy of science is concerned with (inter alia) questions about how science works, what it purports to tell us about the world, how scientific theories and models reveal the nature of the world, if and how scientific knowledge claims are justified, and how science manages to explain the world to us.