History and Philosophy of Science
"I fully agree with you about the significance and educational value of ... history and philosophy of science. So many people today—and even professional scientists—seem to me like someone who has seen thousands of trees but has never seen a forest. A knowledge of the historic and philosophical background gives that kind of independence from prejudices of his generation from which most scientists are suffering."
~Albert Einstein, 1944
What is science?
When people ponder this question, they are often led to seek answers outside the sciences themselves. This interdisciplinary minor is planned to help students address historical and philosophical questions about science. In the history of science, we ask: How did we come to hold the beliefs we do about the natural world? How were the great scientists of the past led to the discoveries for which they are remembered? Why did people in the past have very different ideas on issues like the motions of the heavens or the nature of the human body? It is a puzzling reality of world history that the human understanding of nature, society, and the mind has varied greatly with place and time. This intriguing variety also raises philosophical questions: What separates science from pseudoscience or religion? How can we decide whether scientific knowledge will have good or bad consequences for humanity? Can science ever reach the ultimate truth about the universe?
The minor in History and Philosophy of Science offers courses in such diverse departments as economics, history, mathematics, philosophy, and psychology. It presupposes no specialized scientific background and may be combined with any undergraduate major. Five 4-credit courses are required for the minor, with no more than three from any single department.
Complete List of Courses Approved for the Minor
ECON 615, History of Economic Thought
ECON 698, Topics in Economics*
ECON 798, Economic Problems*
HIST 521, The Origins of Modern Science
HIST 522, Science in the Modern World
HIST 523, Introduction to the History of Science
HIST 621, 622 History of American Thought
HIST 651, 652 European Intellectual History
HIST 654, Topics in History of Science
HUMA 651, Humanities and Science: The Nature of Scientific Creativity
MATH 419, Evolution of Mathematics
PHIL 424, Science, Technology, and Society
PHIL 630, Philosophy of the Natural Sciences
PHIL 683, Technology: Philosophical and Ethical Issues
PHIL 725, Philosophy of the Social Sciences
PHIL 780, Special Topics in Philosophy*
PSYC 571, The Great Psychologists
PSYC 591, Special Topics in Psychology*
PSYC 770, History of Psychology
PSYC 771, Psychology in 20th-Century Thought and Society
*with approval of the coordinator.