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Department of

History and Philosophy of Science   



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Undergraduate Courses (Click on a title for course materials)

0427  Myth and Science
04-3  07205
Cross-listed with CLASS 0330
1.    How can we understand our world? In western culture, science dominates all our answers to this question. But there are other ways.  They can be found in the mythologies of ancient and modern peoples.  This course will compare the scientific and mythological ways of seeing the world and their more subtle connections. In particular, we will turn to the remarkable events in Ancient Greece of 800-400 B.C. and discover how the scientific approach actually grew slowly out of mythological thought itself.
2.    Prerequisites: None.
3.    Recitations: None.
4.    Expected class size: 35 students in section 07205 and 30 students in section 10049.
5.    This course is offered on a regular basis.

0437  Darwinism and Its Critics
04-3  11978
1.    This course examines the history of the Darwinian theory of evolution by natural selection, and considers the various responses-scientific, philosophical, religious and political-to that theory. The course will conclude with a review of recent attacks on current evolutionary theory put forward by proponents of "intelligent design".  Our strategy will be to look at this contemporary controversy in the light of historical issues with a number of general questions in mind: (a) What is a scientific theory?; (b) How is evidence related to theories?; (c) Can a scientific theory have ethical, social or religious implications?; (d) How does a scientific community respond to external criticism?; and (e) Can scientific and religious beliefs conflict?
2.    Prerequisites: None.
3.    Recitations: None.
4.    Expected class size: 30 students.
5.    This course is not offered on a regular basis.

0515  Magic, Medicine and Science
04-3  10212
04-3  11245
Cross-listed with HIST 0089
1.    This course is a partial survey of some important strands in the Western intellectual history. We will start with ancient Greek speculations in cosmology, philosophy, and medicine. Then we will look at some important subsequent developments in these areas and how they were influenced by the Greek tradition. These include, among other topics, the magical tradition that flourished during the Renaissance period. The latter half of the course will focus on the profound intellectual transformations in the 17th century which constitute what we often call The Scientific Revolution. The great scientific
achievements of figures such as Descartes, Kepler, Galileo, and Newton will be discussed in detail. Overall, this course is meant to provide a broad picture of some of the most important elements in the Western intellectual tradition and their interactions in history.
2.    Prerequisites: None.
3.    Recitations: One hour per week for section 39710 only.
4.    Expected class size: 120 for section 39710 other sections 40.
5.    This class is offered on a regular basis. <\p>

0611  Principles of Scientific Reasoning
04-3  17350
1.    The course will provide students with elementary logic skills and an understanding of scientific arguments.  Ours is an increasingly scientific and technical society.  In both our personal life decisions and in our work we are daily confronted by scientific results which influence what we do and how we do it.  Basic skills in analyzing the structure of arguments in terms of truth and evidence are required to make this type of information accessible and useful.  We hear, for example, that drinking alcoholic beverages reduces the chances of heart disease.  We might well ask what sorts of tests were done to reach this conclusion and do the tests really justify the claim?  We read that certain geographical configurations in South America "prove" that this planet was visited by aliens from outer space.  Does this argument differ from other, accepted scientific arguments?  This course is designed to aid the student in making sense of a variety of elementary logic skills in conjunction with the application of those skills to actual cases.
2.    Prerequisites: None.
3.    Recitations: None.
4.    Expected class size: 30 students.
5.    This course is offered on a regular basis.

0613  Morality and Medicine
04-3  08329
04-3  17355
1.    Ethical dilemmas in the practice of health care continue to proliferate and receive increasing attention from members of the health care profession, ethicists, policy makers, and the general public as health care consumers.  In this course we will examine a number of ethical issues that arise in the context of contemporary medical practice and research by analyzing articles and decision scenarios.  Topics to be covered typically include the physician-patient relationship; informed consent; medical experimentation; termination of treatment; genetics; reproductive technologies; euthanasia; resource allocation; and health care reform. Students who successfully complete this course will be able to identify and analyze different philosophical approaches to selected issues in medical ethics; have gained insight into how to read and critically interpret philosophical arguments; and have developed skills that will enable them to think clearly about ethical questions as future or current health care providers, policy makers, and consumers.
2.    Prerequisites: None. However, 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 is of particular interest to pre-medical and pre-health care students.
3.    Recitations: None.
4.    Estimated Class Size: 30 students.
5.    This course is offered every term.

0621  Problem Solving: How Science Works
04-3  09318
04-3  11236
1.    A scientist announces that the sun contains a new, so-far unknown chemical element, even though there is no hope of getting a sample.  Another is sure that a famous predecessor has faked his data, even though he has seen nothing but the perfect, published results.   Astonishingly, both claims prove to be sober and sound.  We will explore the approaches and methods that make such miracles part of the routine of everyday science.  This course is intended for students with little or no background in science.
2.    Prerequisites: None.
3.    Recitations: None.
4.    Expected class size: 30 students.
5.    This course is offered every term.

0623  Explanations of Humans and Society
04-3  11937
1.    This course will look at some of the original writings of the three "giants" of modern psychology: Freud, Skinner and Piaget.  The three movements of psychoanalysis, behaviorism and developmental cognition will be explored through their most articulate and well known proponents. Topics to be discussed include the nature of the emotions, the structures of behavior and the forms of human thought. Specifically, we will discuss how the concepts of desire, love, jealousy, homosexuality, skilled actions, language, and logical and moral reasoning can be used to understand human beings.
2.    Prerequisites: None.
3.    Recitations: None.
4.    Expected class size: 30 students.
5.    This course is not offered on a regular basis.