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Department of

History and Philosophy of Science   

Graduate Program


Overview & Requirements

Areas of Concentration


Graduate Handbook

Placement Record




The graduate program in History and Philosophy of Science is committed to research and teaching in the historical and conceptual foundations of science. This interdisciplinary department offers courses and seminars that lead to MA and PhD degrees. It offers qualified students the opportunity to pursue an intensive course of study in the historical and philosophical dimensions of science. The course work in the department is both formal and informal. Some course work in the sciences, history, philosophy, or computer science is required. It is possible to work out a program that leads to a master's degree in one of these fields, while pursuing the PhD degree in History and Philosophy of Science. Graduate seminars are supplemented by a Colloquium in History and Philosophy of Science, by the visitors and activities of the Center for the Philosophy of Science, and by the Archives of Scientific Philosophy (Carnap, De Finetti, Reichenbach, Ramsey). Students may also take courses offered by the Department of Philosophy at Carnegie Mellon University without paying additional tuition.

Among the major research topics of the departmental faculty are: the philosophy of space and time, matter theory from Descartes to Maxwell, the development of the Vienna Circle, Einstein and the theory of relativity, the historical interaction of science and philosophy since the Renaissance, the logic of scientific inference, science and theology from Descartes to Kant, Newton's natural philosophy, philosophy of psychology, 19th-century science, the history and philosophy of evolutionary biology, the history and philosophy of molecular biology, the philosophy of medicine, Medieval and Greek science, scientific change and progress, and explanation in the social sciences.

Both the PhD and MA degrees are awarded. Terminal MA degrees are sought by students who find studies in History and Philosophy of Science relevant to their career interests. These students have included persons with MD degrees, those pursuing the PhD in other fields or at other universities, librarians, and those doing archive or museum work.

Degree Requirements:
The graduate program consists of a series of seminars (approximately four to six are offered each term). These range from general surveys of the field and methods of research to specialized research seminars on selected topics in History and Philosophy of Science. These courses are divided into three areas:

  • Area 1: Core sequence: a three-term introduction at the graduate level to history and philosophy of science
  • Area 2: History of science
  • Area 3: Philosophy of science

As new courses are developed and introduced, seminars will be marked as to whether they count in Areas 2 or 3. Reading courses that are given during the summer will be assigned to an area at the time they are set up. A complete list of courses is found here. The distribution of courses into Areas 1, 2, and 3 is found here.

Other courses of interest are offered by the Departments of Philosophy, History, Anthropology, Linguistics, Economics, Sociology, Mathematics, Psychology, Physics, and Computer Science.

    MA Degree Requirements

    1. Distribution-of-studies requirements:
        a. Nine hours from Area 1 (core seminars).
        b. Fifteen hours from Areas 2 and 3, with at least six hours in each area.
    2. Core Seminar Examinations: A pass in end of term examinations in the two history of science core seminars and the philosophy of science core seminar.
    3. Language requirement: Good reading knowledge of either French, German, Latin, Greek, or approved substitute language. (Language acquisition courses cannot count toward the degree.)
    4. Students must submit a research paper in the history of science and a research paper in the philosophy of science. Evaluations of papers will be limited to a master's pass/fail. A master's pass on both papers is required for the MA degree.
    5. No more than two (non-HPS) 1000-level courses may count towards the MA degree. (No pre-1000-level courses can be used to satisfy the degree requirements. No HPS courses at the 1000-level can count.)
    6. A minimum of 24 credit hours.

    PhD Degree Requirements

    1. MA degree in History and Philosophy of Science or completion of MA requirements.
    2. Further distribution of studies requirements: At least nine hours at the 1000- or 2000-level, in one of the following (a maximum two 1000-level, including the two for the MA):
        a. philosophy, exclusive of philosophy of science and logic.
        b. history, exclusive of history of science.
        c. a field of natural sciences, social science, or
        computer science (courses taken towards the MA
        degree may be counted toward the requirement for the PhD).
    3. Proficiency in logic (equivalent to PHIL 1500).
    4. Language requirement: Good reading knowledge of two foreign languages (Latin, Greek, German, French, or approved substitute), or of one foreign language and proficiency in logic equivalent to PHIL 1520 or PHIL 2500 or an approved (by petition) alternative formal skill that has similarly general application in science or philosophy (e.g. proficiency in a computer language) . Students concentrating in history of science must satisfy the language requirement with two languages. One foreign language exam must be passed before the student completes the comprehensive requirements. The second language exam must be passed before the student's prospectus examination.
    5. Satisfactory fulfillment of the comprehensive requirements.
    6. Submission of a significant and acceptable dissertation on a topic in history and philosophy of science.
    7. All students must acquire some supervised teaching experience during their tenure at the University.
    8. A minimum of 72 credit hours of graduate credit.

    These requirements are specific departmental requirements, in addition to the general requirements for the MA and PhD degrees laid down by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.