Undergraduate Courses

Spring 2022 (Term 2224)

HPS 0410/32064 - Einstein: Modern Science and Surprises
Norton, John
T & H 2:00p.m.-2:50p.m.    THAW 0011

Do astronauts age more slowly? Can a finite universe have no edge? Is time travel possible? Can time have a beginning? Does the moon change because a mouse looks at it? Surprisingly, modern science answers yes to all these questions. This course provides simple-to-understand explanations of these and other related questions, their broader philosophical significance and their histories. The course is suitable for students with no science background but with an interest in the world of modern science.

HPS 0412/33259 - The Newtonian Revolution
Gilton, Marian
T & H 11:00a.m.-12:15p.m.   CL 304

In this class we will investigate the transformation of scientific concepts by studying the historical, philosophical, and scientific issues raised by Newton’s work in optics and mechanics. We will study the stages in which Newton developed the theory of universal gravitation, and the resulting transformation of the concepts of force, attraction, and inertia, together with the invention of the concept of mass and the cultural reorientation surrounding the nature of the cosmos as a whole. We will then compare and contrast Newton’s work in constructing the theory of universal gravitation with his experimental methods in optics. Finally, we will then explore the legacy of Newton’s work in the subsequent experimental tests of Newtonian gravitation, the codification of modern scientific methodologies, and in the development of central topics in the philosophy of science.

HPS 0427/25900 - Myth and Science
Fleig-Goldstein, Brendan
T & H 9:30a.m.-10:45a.m.    CL 149

This course focuses on the relationship between myth and science in antiquity. We will examine, in particular, the transmission of myth and knowledge of the night sky and cave. We will begin very early, with an examination of archeoastronomy and the earliest evidence for humanity’s astronomical knowledge. We will look at the way in which caves, megaliths, and cities were viewed as an instantiation of the archaic cosmos. We will then examine different theories of the diffusion of myths. Next, we will turn toward Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Greece. We will look at the developments of technical knowledge and philosophy in these cultures, as well as the reverberations of the much older traditions we traced out in the first part of the course.

HPS 0427/29961 - Myth and Science
Persyn, Marcie
T & H 2:30p.m.-3:45p.m.    CL 116

The Greeks in the sixth to fourth century B.C. Initiated forms of thinking we have from then on called "scientific" and "philosophical". This course examines the question of how science is distinguished from "non-science" by studying the role of myth and science in ancient Greece. The aim is to understand what distinguishes the ideas of the first scientists and philosophers from those earlier beliefs called myth.

HPS 0611/29243 Principles of Scientific Reasoning
Gilton, Marian
T & H 2:00p.m.-2:50p.m.    IS 404

This class explores the logical principles of scientific reasoning. We will systematically develop formal tools from both deductive and inductive logic. We will then use the tools to discuss the ways in which deductive and inductive inference patterns are using in scientific reasoning. In addition to completing problem sets on inductive and deductive logic, students will read and discuss articles in philosophy of science. These readings may cover topics such as the relationship between theoretical and experimental science, the aims of science, and the intellectual virtues fitting to scientific practice.

HPS 0611/32071 - Principles of Scientific Reasoning
Whyte, Jennifer
Wednesday 6:00p.m.-8:30p.m.   CL 116

No course description available.

HPS 0612/11294 - Mind and Medicine
Woodward, James
T & H 2:00p.m.-2:50p.m.    CL G24

This course is designed as an introduction to the philosophical issues that exist at the intersection of psychology and medicine. Among others, we will examine the following questions: What does it mean to be healthy? Can one define health and sickness purely objectively? Or does the notion of disease involve value judgments of various sorts? What does it mean to say that a disease is “genetic”? Are diseases always best explained by appealing to lower-level biological details such as genetics and biochemistry? What does it mean to appeal to biological “mechanisms" in explaining disease? Should human medical judgments (e.g., clinicians’ judgments) be replaced by purely automatic, computerized procedures? Are medical judgments influenced by various biases and can these biases be overcome? Are psychiatric disorders real? How should scientists best explain psychiatric disorders? Can evolutionary biology be useful to psychiatry? The goal of this class is to provide students with a critical understanding of these philosophical issues. Previous knowledge of biology, psychology, and medicine is not needed for this class. Key notions and theories in these fields will be introduced progressively.

HPS 0612/31064 -  Mind and Medicine (CGS)
Begun, Michael
Monday 6:00p.m.-8:30p.m. CL 142

No course description available.

HPS 0613/26750 - Morality and Medicine
Wysocki, Thomas
M & W 3:30p.m.-4:45p.m.      CL 130

No course description available.

HPS 0613/23961 - Morality and Medicine
Morrow, Katie
Tuesday 6:00p.m.-8:30p.m.    CL 149

In this course we will think carefully about the ethical questions raised by medical practices and biomedical technology. We will apply ethical reasoning tools to evaluate contemporary and historical medical cases; to examine arguments for and against controversial medical practices; and to consider the health professional-patient relationship. Major topics covered include informed consent, abortion and reproductive technology, end of life decisions, and justice in healthcare. This course is part of the Conceptual Foundations of Medicine Certificate Program and is a companion course to HPS 0612 (Mind and Medicine) but may be taken independently.

HPS 0616/32074 - Artificial Intelligence and Philosophy of Science
Osman Attah, Nuhu
Tuesday 6:30p.m.-8:30p.m.   CL 116

This course will address foundational issues in artificial intelligence as well as its ethical, social, and economic implications. Some of the questions that will be addressed include whether computers could really be regarded as thinking, or more generally whether computation is an appropriate framework for thinking about the mind; what is required for general intelligence and whether any benchmarks, such as Turing’s famous test, could be developed to determine when such intelligence has been achieved; whether AI systems, and in particular machine learning algorithms, could be biased as is sometimes argued, in which ways, and what could be done about it; what the socioeconomic consequences of automation are and how these consequences could be managed. [This course fulfills the Philosophical Thinking/Ethics requirement of DSAS.]

HPS 0618/32075 - Scientific Controversies
Makovec, Dejan
Thursday 6:00p.m.-8:30p.m.    CL 116

In this class we will look at scientific anomalies, the source and effect of controversies they elicit, and the role these play in shaping our sciences as well as what we deem to be “scientific”, “expected” and “normal”. We will start with a wide-angle view of the theme from Aristotle to the Scientific Revolution. Then we will turn to a closer reading of Thomas Kuhn, for whom the accumulation of anomalies can introduce a fork in the road for sciences towards potential revolutions and so-called paradigm shifts that fundamentally change a discipline. After considering some criticisms and developments of Kuhn’s account we turn to case studies of anomalies in various fields from physics to genetics and anthropology. In a series of brief and consecutive writing exercises you will search out a case of scientific anomaly in a discipline of your choice, provide a description of its context, conditions, and the assumptions it appears to challenge and apply the concepts we studied to a philosophical analysis of either the anomaly you chose, or the philosophical concepts applied, if the latter need adjustment to the case.  

HPS 0620/24740 - Science and Religion
XL RELGST 0770 and PHIL 1840
Bahler, Brock
T & H 9:30a.m.-10:45a.m.   CL 342

Are science and religion at odds or harmonizable? Do they coincide or represent completely separate discourses? This course examines the relationship between science, rationality, faith, and religion. Special attention will be given to ancient creation narratives and their interpretation, historical dialogues regarding faith and reason in the Western monotheist faiths (Christianity, Judaism, Islam), the scientific revolution, and various approaches to evolutionary theory. We will also consider practical, contemporary issues such as neuroscience and religious practice, ecology and faith, and scientific views toward gender and race.

HPS 1508/32077 - Classics in History of Science
Palmieri, Paolo Palmieri
M & W 9:30a.m.-10:45a.m.   FFA 204

The unique combination of history and philosophy offered in this course emphasizes education as a process of freedom, diversity, creativity, and perennial growth. In this class we will study the ten most dangerous, controversial, and mind shattering ideas that shaped modern science and the world we live in, their origin in classical historical and philosophical contexts, and their potential for future science. They are: 1) Cosmos. 2) Matter. 3) Life. 4) Species. 5) Organism. 6) Nature. 7) Calculus. 8) Unconscious. 9) Beauty. 10) God. Disturbing questions will be explored such as: Are these ideas natural or supernatural? Are they within or without the human mind? Are they ecologically sustainable? Are they racist? And of course, we will meet the heretics who revolutionized our understanding of these classical ideas.

HPS 1612/32078 - Philosophy of 20th Century Physics
Wallace, David
T & H 3:00p.m.-4:15p.m.    CL 235

Modern physics seems to tell us that the world is far stranger than our intuitions might suggest, and that we may need to change very basic aspects of our philosophy; equally, some of our best physical theories are difficult to understand and may require philosophical insight to help us make sense of them. In this course we will explore these issues, focusing on two theories: the special theory of relativity, which upends our understanding of space, time, and motion, and quantum theory, which is our best theory of the nature of matter, and yet seems inexplicable as an account of reality.

HPS 1621/32080 - Science in the Field
Allen, Colin
Wednesday 9:30a.m.-10:45a.m.  CL 116

In this course we explore the history of polar exploration as it relates to the alleged scientific objectives of those missions. We will address questions such as whether “science” served predominantly as fig leaf for individual, corporate, and imperialistic adventurism, and to what extent the science conducted on these missions was of immediate or lasting value for a variety of scientific disciplines, including cartography, geology, meteorology and climatology, biology, human physiology, and anthropology. Philosophical issues arising in this context include: the enduring question of what counts as “good” science, and this notion must be relativized to time, place, and topic; the role that career concerns played in the decisions of individual scientists about joining such expeditions; and the irreplaceability of field science despite the centrality of laboratory experimentation to accounts of scientific research. We will also consider the historiography of the frequently gendered narratives about the “heroic age” of polar exploration and the contrast between Arctic and Antarctic exploration where the former must confront Eurocentric narratives of “discovery” with fact that people were already there.

HPS 1623/32092 - Death and the Healthcare Professions
Weinkle, Jonathan
Monday 6:00p.m.-8:30p.m.       CL 321

The American culture of the 20th and 21st centuries has been called, not death-defying, but death-denying. It is often said that America is the only place in the world that treats death as optional. Once upon a time, we couldn't have open, public conversations about breast cancer, because the word could not be uttered aloud. In many places, it is just as hard today to have an open, public conversation about death and dying. This phenomenon is not just a social more; it affects the practice of many professions and entire segments of our economy and society. This course will explore our individual and cultural reactions to mortality, the ways in which dying in today's America is different from dying throughout history or elsewhere in the world, and the responses of a variety of professions, both within the field of healthcare and beyond, to their encounters with people in the various stages of dying. Students will be asked, at turns, to be scientific, philosophical, clinical, analytical, and emotional in encountering the concepts and material presented here. This should be a true interdisciplinary experience.


Fall 2021 (Term 2221)

HPS 0427/10638 – Myth and Science
Makovec, Dejan
W – 6:00pm-8:30pm             CL335
Prometheus and the Myth of Progress: Mythological tales of supernatural beings and events are easily presented as the irrational counterpart to a rational and scientific understanding of the world. In this class we will discuss whether myths are superseded by science or whether this idea of a passage from myth to science is itself a myth of our time. We will focus on Prometheus, a myth about the nature and origin of science. Versions of this myth involving theft and trickery, fire and technology, defiance and philanthropy can be found across the world. We will see how this particular myth was reinvented throughout different epochs before and after the scientific revolution. In addition to primary texts from Plato to Mary Shelley, we will read chapters on Prometheus from Hans Blumenberg’s books The Legitimacy of the Modern Age, The Genesis of the Copernican World as well as his Work on Myth. Along with Blumenberg, we will ask ourselves whether the idea of scientific progress should be understood as originating in any particular culture and whether mythological thinking prevails to this day, couching our motivations and insecurities. What might be our agency and responsibility in retelling the myths of the past and subscribing to the myths of the present?
HPS 0430/17104 - Galileo and the Creation of Modern Science 
Palmieri, Paolo
M/W – 9:30am-10:45am         IS406
The Italian physicist and astronomer Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) was a decisive figure in the rise of modern science. First, he ushered in a new era in astronomy when he aimed a 30-powered telescope at the sky in 1610. Second, he revolutionized the concept of science when he argued that the book of nature is written in the language of mathematics. Finally, he astounded the theologians, who eventually condemned him to life imprisonment, when he claimed that the scientist′s search for the truth must not be constrained by religious authority. This course studies Galileo in the broader intellectual, social, and religious context of early modern Europe. 
HPS 0515/21717 – Magic, Medicine, and Science
Whyte, Jennifer
T – 6:00pm-8:30pm             CL335
It is tempting to see the past through the categories of the present. In this class we will try to reorientate our view of the Scientific Revolution by examining it through one of its distinctive categories: the witch. We will investigate the metaphysics, epistemology, and social impact of science between 1500 and 1700 through the lens of one of the period’s best-selling books: the witch hunting manual Malleus Maleficarum. Using the Malleus Maleficarum and other primary sources as our window, we will explore the history of the divide between natural and supernatural; health and disease; evidence and belief. We will also develop strategies for working with difficult primary source materials and for presenting information in new formats. This is a reading-intensive class.


HPS 0611/11487 – Principles of Scientific Reasoning
Attah, Nuhu Osman
T/H – 4:00pm-5:15pm        CL235
This class will cover the principles of scientific reasoning/methods across different fields of science and how to apply these principles to the construction and critical evaluation of scientific arguments. The class will also cover higher order questions such as whether there could be fixed principles of scientific reasoning and what, if anything, distinguishes science from pseudoscience.
HPS 0611/30922 – Principles of Scientific Reasoning
Gilton, Marian
T/H – 2:00pm-2:50pm         CL144
This class explores the logical principles of scientific reasoning. We will systematically develop formal tools from both deductive and inductive logic. We will then use the tools to discuss the ways in which deductive and inductive inference patterns are using in scientific reasoning. In addition to completing problem sets on inductive and deductive logic, students will read and discuss articles in philosophy of science.  Topics in these readings will include the relationship between theoretical and experimental science, the aims of science, and the intellectual virtues fitting to scientific practice.
HPS 0612/30919 – Mind and Medicine
Morrow, Katherine
W- 6:00pm-8:30pm            CL204
This course is an introduction to philosophical issues in medicine and psychiatry. We will consider questions such as: Are disease and disability purely biological or do the concepts involve value judgments? What does it mean to call a disease “genetic”? What kinds of biases may influence medical practitioners? Why do patients often misinterpret a positive result on a screening test? This course is part of the Conceptual Foundations of Medicine Certificate Program, and is a companion course to HPS 0613 (Morality and Medicine) but may be taken independently.
HPS 0612/32512 – Mind and Medicine
Wysocki, Tom
T- 6:00pm-8:30pm         CL342
No course description.

HPS 0612/32511 – Mind and Medicine
Rampelt, Jason
M- 6:00pm-8:30pm         CL342

No course description.

HPS 0613/11334 Morality and Medicine
Fuller, Jonathan
M/W 2:00pm-2:50pm       CL G24
In this course, we will examine bioethical issues that arise in contemporary medical research and practice through a philosophical lens. We will analyze traditional bioethical dilemmas around: informed consent and medical decision-making, mental health, reproduction, the physician-patient relationship, death, and clinical research, among other topics. However, we will go beyond bioethics in exploring the ethical problems (concerning the good), metaphysical problems (concerning reality) and epistemic problems (concerning knowledge) raised by bioethical dilemmas, including: rationality and reasoning, medicalization, the nature of pregnancy, the phenomenology of illness, the nature and badness of death, and the methodology of clinical research. Students will come away with an approach to analyzing bioethical dilemmas and an appreciation for the philosophical problems underlying them. This course is part of a core sequence leading to certification in the Conceptual Foundations of Medicine Certificate Program and is a companion course to HPS 0612 (Mind and Medicine) but may be taken independently. The course will be of particular interest to pre-medical and pre-health care students. 

Recitation: One hour per week 

HPS 0613/23403 Morality and Medicine
Begun, Michael
M - 6:00pm-8:30pm           CL 253
No course description.
HPS 0613/26308 Morality and Medicine
Fleig-Goldstein, Brendan
H - 6:00pm-8:30pm         CL 335

No course description.

HPS 0628/30926 – Paradox
Norton, John
T/H – 2:30pm-3:45pm  PUBHL A216
Can Achilles ever catch the tortoise? Is twice infinity bigger than infinity? Might there be chances that are not probabilities? Are there simple puzzles no computer can solve? This course introduces the perplexing paradoxes behind these and other questions like them; and shows how to answer them. They are the starting point of intriguing fields of inquiry in philosophy, science and math. The course is suitable for students of all backgrounds who are fascinated by oddities of thought.
HPS 1616/30951 – Artificial Intelligence & Philosophy of Science
Allen, Colin
M/W – 11:00am-12:15pm            CL130
Artificial Intelligence (AI) enhanced by recent developments in Machine Learning (ML) is one of the core disciplines of cognitive science. It raises fascinating questions: Can computers think? Is artificial intelligence really intelligence? Could artifacts be conscious? What can we learn about the human mind from AI? Is ML too complex or opaque for people to understand or explain? Would superintelligent robots present an existential threat to humanity? We will survey the main controversies that AI has provoked. By the end of the course, you should have a grasp of the history of the field and the technologies underlying the current developments that have pushed AI and ML into the forefront of public discussion, as well as a framework for thinking about the scientific significance and the ethical and social implications of these technologies. No experience with computer programming is required for this course, but you will be expected to develop accurate, non-technical understanding of concepts such as algorithm, knowledge representation, machine learning, and artificial neural networks. Given this knowledge you will be expected to reflect critically upon the claims about human nature and the future of humanity and society that are driven by the developments in technology, as well as to have informed views about ethical and social justice issues raised by AI and ML.
HPS 1653/16610 – Intro to Philosophy of Science
Wallace, David
M/W 1:00pm-1:50pm    VICTORIA 129
No course description.