University of Pittsburgh Logo University of Pittsburgh · School of Arts and Sciences

Department of

History and Philosophy of Science   

Undergraduate Courses

graduate | by title

2010 Spring

2009 Fall

2009 Spring

2008 Fall

2008 Spring

2007 Fall

2007 Summer

2007 Spring

2006 Fall

2006 Spring

2005 Fall

2005 Summer

2005 Spring

2004 Fall

2004 Summer

2004 Spring

2003 Fall

2003 Summer

2003 Spring

2002 Fall

0410 Einstein: Modern Science and Surprises
Dr. John D. Norton
M & W 1:00p.m.-1:50p.m.
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.

0427 / CLASS 0330 Myth and Science
Jonah Schupbach
Wednesday 6:00p.m.-8:30p.m.
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.

0515 / HIST 0089 Magic, Medicine and Science
Peter Distelzweig
Thursday 6:00p.m.-8:30p.m.
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.

0515 / HIST 0089 Magic, Medicine and Science
Dr. Paolo Palmieri
M & W 12:00p.m.-12:50p.m.
In this course, we investigate human experience as it is reflected in the practices of magic, medicine, and science. We explore both the historical and philosophical dimensions of magic, medicine, and science, and learn about their striking similarities and differences.
Recitation: One hour a week.

0610 Causal Reasoning (Web Based)
Jonathan Livengood
Thursday 6:00p.m.-8:30p.m.
Do school vouchers really help inner city students become better educated? Do gun control laws really make society safer? This course examines how scientists reason about causal claims like these. It considers use of scientific statistical data that informs our public policy debates. The course uses an interactive, web-based text and exams. In addition, there is an on-line virtual "Causality Lab" in which students will set up, run, and then analyze simulated experiments. They will construct causal theories, use the lab to derive predictions from these theories, and then test the predictions against the simulated data. While course materials are delivered on-line, students will still attend two sessions per week; one for addressing questions about the material and the second for case study analysis.

0612 Mind and Medicine
Dr. Edouard Machery
M & W 2:00p.m.-2:50p.m.
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? Should human medical judgments (e.g., clinicians’ judgments) be replaced by purely automatic, computerized procedures? What is the nature of medical expertise? Are medical judgments influenced by various biases and can these biases be overcome? Are psychiatric disorders real? How should scientists explain psychiatric disorders? How much do we learn about them by studying animals (e.g., rats)? 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. There are no formal prerequisites for this course. This course is part of a core sequence leading to certification in the Conceptual Foundations of Medicine Program, and is a companion course to HPS 0613 (Morality and Medicine) but may be taken independently. This course is of particular interest to pre-medical and pre-health care students. Recitation: One hour a week.

0613 Morality and Medicine (Saturday)
Bryan Roberts
Saturday 12:30p.m.-2:55p.m.
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. 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.

0620 Science and Religion
Benjamin Goldberg
T&H 1:00p.m.-2:15p.m.
The interaction between religion and science in the Western world is a long and complicated one. And it has by no means merely been one of hindrance and mutual antagonism, though there certainly has been plenty of that! The purpose of this course is to explore and attempt to understand some of this history in order to gain a better understanding of both of these very human activities, past and present.

0621 Problem Solving
Thomas Pashby
Tuesday 3:00p.m.-5:30p.m.
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.

1508 Classics in History of Science
Dr. Paolo Palmieri
T & H 9:30a.m.-10:45p.m.
Four hundred years ago Galileo Galilei aimed a telescope at the sky. He revolutionized astronomy. Equally revolutionary were his theories and experiments in physics, published in his masterpiece Two New Sciences. In this course we will learn why Galileo's theories and experiments in physics were revolutionary. We will read Galileo's Two New Sciences, setting it in the context of the history and philosophy of Western science and civilization. There are no prerequisites.

1612 / PHIL 1612 Philosophy of 20th Century Physics
Balazs Gyenis
T & H 4:00p.m.-5:15p.m.
The first part of this course will sample philosophical issues surrounding relativity theory. These issues include the nature of space-time theories, the conventionality of simultaneity, and the openness of the future; we will also discuss the physical possibility of time travel in relativistic spacetimes. The second part of this course is meant as an introduction to the philosophy of quantum mechanics. Our goal will be to understand what an interpretation of quantum mechanics is and why anyone would want one. We will also explore interpretations historically proposed, and the frailties to which they are prone. A theme linking both parts of the course is the question of physical determinism. While some background in physics would be useful for this course, it is not essential. For as we go, we will study the formalisms relevant to the philosophical questions we'd like to pose.

1660 / PHIL 1660 Paradox
Dr. John S. Earman
T & H 2:30p.m.-3:45p.m.
In this course we will explore paradoxes both for the fun of untangling intriguing puzzles and for the more serious reason of the easy access paradoxes provide to some of the most important foundations issues in philosophy, logic, mathematics, and the sciences. Examples: Zeno’s paradoxes of motion and paradoxes of supertasks; paradoxes of infinity; the liar paradox; paradoxes of time travel; paradoxes of rationality (the surprise exam paradox, the ravens paradox); paradoxes of decision (Newcomb’s paradox, the prisoners’ dilemma).

1702 JR/SR Seminar: Scientific Reduction and the” End of Philosophy”
Dr. Peter K. Machamer
Tuesday 5:00-7:30p.m.
Recently many practitioners of various sciences (and some philosophers) have made claims about the ability of science (in some form) to answer traditional philosophical questions. Such questions include the problem of free will, moral or ethical responsibility, rational judgments, the role of emotions, and the nature of values. The form these answers take are generally attempts to reduce the philosophical claims to cognitive neuroscientific, biological, or evolutionary bases. This approach has become so popular that on April 7, 2009, Op-Ed columnist David Brooks wrote a piece in the New York Times called "The End of Philosophy". (Check it out online.)

This seminar will examine the nature of reduction and reactions to it, and then look specifically at a number of articles and book chapters that claim scientific success for solving old philosophical puzzles. We shall use these studies to raise questions about the nature and limits of scientific explanation. This course is for HPS Major in their Junior or Senior Year.

1703 Writing Workshop for HPS Majors
Dr. Peter K. Machamer
Tuesday 5:00p.m.-7:30p.m.
This writing workshop is designed to introduce HPS majors to the methods and standards of good scholarly writing in History and Philosophy of Science. It will be offered to HPS majors only in conjunction with HPS 1702, JR/SR Seminar. Evaluation will be based on two short papers that will be rewritten on the basis of the instructor's comments. This course is for HPS Majors in their Junior or Senior Year.