Option Representative: Nicolas Wey-Gomez
The program in History and Philosophy of Science is devoted to the study of the historical evolution and philosophical underpinnings of the physical and biological sciences. Work in history and philosophy of science may be pursued as an undergraduate option, a graduate minor, or on a course-by-course basis.
Historical research in the program includes the origins of experimental practice, the social and institutional contexts of science, the origins and applications of quantitative methods, specific developments since antiquity in physics, biology and chemistry, as well as biographical and comparative studies. Philosophical research in the program deals with issues in causation, explanation, scientific inference, the foundations of probability and decision theory, philosophy of mind, psychology, and neuroscience, and scientific fraud and misconduct.
Few HPS programs aim to develop strong ties with scientists at their universities. As a result, opportunities for fruitful interaction between historians and philosophers of science and scientists themselves are lost. The program at Caltech constitutes a major exception. Our historians (Diana and Jed Buchwald) enjoy connections with their colleagues in the sciences; substantive links between them are exemplified by the HPS seminars (well-attended by colleagues in the sciences), by the Einstein Papers Project, by such visitors as the historian of mathematics Jesper Lützen (a member of the mathematics department at the University of Copenhagen), and by such post-docs as Dan Kennefick, himself a graduate of Caltech physics. Caltech philosophers of science have long nurtured ties with their scientific peers. Alan Hájek and Jim Woodward have strong ties with areas of the social sciences, and Steve Quartz, Dominic Murphy and Fiona Cowie have active collaborations within the Division of Biology.
Unlike many programs elsewhere, HPS at Caltech does not have graduate students. We are as a result free from preoccupation with issues of training and employment that so often deflect scholars elsewhere from research, collaboration, and undergraduate teaching. Moreover, resources that might otherwise be devoted to graduate training enable us to bring to Caltech eminent and emerging historians and philosophers of science to work with us in a congenial and collaborative atmosphere that encourages interaction with the broad range of scientific activity at the Institute.
Our HPS faculty serve on the boards of many journals and series in the field. In addition, three journals and two book series in history of science have their homes partly or entirely here: Archive for History of Exact Sciences (Springer), Perspectives on Science (MIT), Sources and Studies in the Mathematical and Physical Sciences (Springer), Archimedes (Kluwer), and Transformations (MIT). Both Archimedes and Transformations explicitly seek work that unites history and philosophy of science, emphasizing the connections that the program at Caltech fosters. Perspectives publishes work that tackles difficult and pressing issues in both the history and philosophy of science.
The HPS program was strengthened in spring 2002 by the addition of Mordechai Feingold, a social and institutional historian of 17th- and 18th-Century science. He adds an essential component to the program, since the very structure of modern science has its roots in the early modern period, and also enhances connections with colleagues in history and literature. In addition, the program is exploring the possibility of engagement with the history of 19th and 20th century biology and with empirical ethics. These additions and new thrusts combine with our existing strengths and close connections between historians and philosophers to produce a uniquely focused, collegial, and scientifically-engaged program in the history and philosophy of science.
The option in history and philosophy of science (HPS) provides students with a broad education in the historical and philosophical issues arising in connection with science and technology. Students take courses addressing fundamental questions about scientific concepts and practice, such as the following: To what extent was the scientific revolution revolutionary? What is a scientific explanation and how do scientists go about constructing and justifying one? How have conceptions of scientific experimentation changed over time? How and why did modern physics (or chemistry or biology) emerge in the form that it did? How should the theory of evolution inform our conception of the modern mind and brain? What role can the neurosciences be expected to play in solving the ï¿½mind-bodyï¿½ problem? The option thus aims to give students a broad basic understanding of the ways in which science is practiced, and the ways in which that practice has changed over time. It is designed to complement the regular curriculum at Caltech, offering students the opportunity to enlarge upon and to contextualize the strong technical skills they acquire in other courses and options. The HPS option provides excellent preparation for students going into law, business, medicine, and public affairs, as well as solid preparation for graduate work in history and/or philosophy of science. In addition, and because of its emphasis on essay writing and the formulation of complex philosophical and historical arguments, it aids budding scientists and engineers in developing the writing and communication skills that are increasingly vital today.
History and Philosophy of Science Minor
The minor in History and Philosophy of Science (HPS) is designed for students who want to pursue concentrated study in HPS without the extensive course work and the senior thesis required by the HPS option.
HPS minors must complete 72 units of HPS courses. These may include Hum/H/HPS 10 and up to 9 units of advanced reading in HPS (HPS 98). Freshman Humanities courses other than Hum/H/HPS 10 may not be counted towards an HPS minor. SStudents wishing to do a minor in HPS must declare a minor with the HPS option representative. Those completing the HPS minor requirements will have the phrase ï¿½minor in History and Philosophy of Scienceï¿½ added to their transcripts.
It is recommended that students intending to follow the HPS option take Hum/HPS/H 10 "Introduction to History of Science" as one of their Freshman humanities courses. Students making the decision to take this option in their sophomore year should take Hum/HPS/H 10 and HPS/Pl 120 "Introduction to Philosophy of Science" as early as possible in that year.
Units per term 1st 2nd 3rd Hum/H/HPS 10 Introduction to History of Science (if not taken in first year; otherwise, one additional HPS or elective)1. ..................... 9 - - HPS/PL 120 Introduction to Philosophy of Science. 9 - Advanced HPS/History ................ 9 HPS 103abc Lecture Series ...................... 1 1 1 Ma 2 ab Sophomore Mathematics (4-0-5) ....... 9 9 - Ph 2 ab Sophomore Physics (4-0-5) ........... 9 9 - Menu Course ......................... - - 9 Ec 11 or PS 12 Introductory Social Science ......... 9 Other Electives ..................... 9 18 27 --------------------- Total Units 46 46 46
HPS 103abc Lecture Series .................... 1 1 1 2 Advanced SES/History ............. 9 9 3 Advanced SES/Philosophy .......... 9 9 9 Science, Math, Engineering ......... 9 9 9 Advanced Social Science2. .......... 9 Other Electives .................... 18 18 18 ---------------------- Total Units 46 46 46
HPS 103abc Lecture Series ..................... 1 1 1 HPS 102ab Senior Research Tutorial3. ......... 9 12 12 Science, Math, Engineering ......... 9 9 9 Advanced Social Science2. .......... 9 Other Electives .................... 27 18 ------------------------ Total Units 46 46 46
Not all required courses are offered each term; students should consult the current catalog to determine which terms required courses are being offered, and should construct their course plan for the year accordingly.
It is recommended that students choose their advanced social science electives from among courses that will enlarge their perspective on topics related to HPS (for example, Ec 118, Ec/SS 128, Ec/SS 129, Ec/SS 130, PSY 101, PSY 115, PSY 125, PSY 130, PS 120, PS 121, PS 122, An 22, An 123).
HPS 102ab, the Senior Research Seminar, may be taken in any two consecutive terms in the Senior year. Students should co-ordinate with their HPS advisor in determining their course schedule.