Part IB History & Philosophy of Science
This course offers an historical and philosophical perspective on the nature of scientific knowledge and the place of the sciences in society. Rather than providing a specialist scientific training like many of the undergraduate courses, this course helps us to understand how the sciences have shaped our existence and gained their place in society. Students are trained to employ techniques from history, philosophy and the social sciences.
The course draws from a range of disciplines over a period extending from classical natural philosophies to the present day. Historical examples discussed include early astronomy, alchemy, medicine, and natural philosophy, as well as more recent physical and life sciences up to the nuclear age and the emergence of molecular medicine. The course also examines how theories are tested and changed; the nature of causation, laws, and explanations; whether science provides an increasingly accurate account of reality, and problems in scientific and biomedical ethics.
In today’s world we increasingly ask the question of how we get reliable knowledge and whom we should trust. Key issues about the causes of climate change or the safety of genetically modified foods, about the validity of techniques drawn from complementary medicine or the authority of evolutionary explanations of human behaviour, all involve deep questions about the character of dependable knowledge.
Assessments: examination consists of two papers, one historical in character, and the other on philosophical topics.
This course aims to give insight into the development of science and medicine within Western society, and into their philosophical structure and presuppositions. Students are encouraged to consider the course even if only to complement their other study course; Students with a background in natural sciences or medicine learn how to put their work into its wider context and to ask more fundamental questions about the approach they adopt and bring forward. Students who have not read the subject at Part IB are welcome to attend the Part IB lectures in addition to those given specifically for Part II.
The Part II course is arranged in three sections as follows: Papers: groups of courses are arranged into papers which correspond to the unseen examination papers from which Option A students choose any three from the following list and Option B students choose any four from the following list:
Paper 1. Classical traditions in the sciences (not offered in 2012-13)
Paper 2: Early Medicine
Paper 3: Natural Philosophies: Renaissance to Enlightenment
Paper 4. Science, Industry and Empire
Paper 5. Modern Medicine and Biomedical Sciences
Paper 6. Metaphysics, Epistemology, and the sciences
Paper 7. Ethics and Politics of Science, Technology and Medicine
Paper 8. History and Philosophy of the Physical Sciences (not offered in 2012-13)
Paper 9: History of Philosophy of Science
Paper 10: History and Philosophy of Social and Psychological Sciences
Primary sources: students are required to submit two essays, of less than 3,000 words on the basis of attending the compulsory HPS Primary Sources Seminars and receiving 2 supervisions on their chosen topics. Each Primary Source corresponds to one of the ten papers.
Dissertation: students are required to submit a dissertation of up to 12,000 words. This is expected to embody a substantial piece of study on a topic of the student’s choice that falls anywhere within the History and Philosophy of Science. Potential topics are discussed with any of the teaching officers, preferably before the preceding Long Vacation and it is submitted at the beginning of the 3rd term.
This course gives students with relevant experience at Part II the opportunity to carry out focused research in History and Philosophy of Science. It provides students with the opportunity to acquire or develop skills and expertise relevant to their research interests, and enables them to develop a critical and well informed understanding of the roles of the sciences in society. The course is intended for students planning a career in the subject and will provide the requisite research skills to enable them to prepare a well planned and focused PhD proposal.
HPS Part III asks the student to be more independent in their learning and is based around a core weekly seminar which will be examinable by means of 2 essays. In Michaelmas term students will work on a Critical Literature Review, and at the end of Lent term they will submit a Research Paper. In the second part of Lent term and the first half of Easter, students will contribute to the weekly seminar by presenting their own work in progress, and discussing the issues that arise from it, on the dissertation which they will submit at the end of the Easter term.
Entry to Part III will depend on obtaining at least a class II.i standard in NST Part II History and Philosophy of Science. Students who have not taken NST Part II HPS will be treated on a caseby-case basis. The detailed entry requirements can be found at:
At the end of the course students should:
|Assessment Includes Lectures, supervisions and assigned readinAssessment for this course is through:|
At the end of the course students should:
Teaching & learning methods include lectures, supervisions, research work, group discussions, class presentations, and extensive reading
By the end of the course, students should have:
|Assessment lectures; personal study; weekly participation in the research seminar and regular participation in others of the department’s 15 seminars and reading groups; regular one-to-one supervisions;|
- Peter Bowler and Iwan Morus, Making Modern Science (University of Chicago Press, 2005)
- H M Collins and Trevor Pinch, The Golem: What You Should Know About Science (Cambridge University Press, 1998)
- Jeff Hughes, The Manhattan Project: Big Science and the Atomic Bomb (Icon, 2003)
- T S Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (University of Chicago Press, 1996)
- Bas van Fraassen, The Scientific Image (Clarendon Press, 1980)
- James Watson, The Double Helix (Longman, 2001)
- Realism and anti-realism in the philosophy of science – Paul Dicken
- Causation – Alex Broadbent
- Social epistemology – Martin Kusch
- Philosophy of physics – Jeremy Butterfield
- Philosophy of biology – Tim Lewens
- Sociology of scientific knowledge – Martin Kusch
- History of modern mathematics – Jeremy Gray
- Environmental history in HPS – Helen Macdonald
- Science in the media – Jim Secord
- Ethics in science and medicine – Paul Miller
- History and philosophy of psychoanalysis – John Forrester
- Sciences of mind in 19th-century Britain – Alison Winter
- Gender and science – Leon Rocha
- Early modern medicine – Lauren Kassell
- Medical records and the patient in history – The Casebooks Project
- History of nutrition – Emma Spary