Advanced seminar in history and philosophy of science
and science and technology studies

This seminar is designed for anyone who is interested in the broad field of science and technology studies; that is, studies about the nature of science and technology from a humanistic perspective. (In this course, we do not study in detail the specific content of any particular science—although I encourage you to do that in individual science classes, taught by experts in those fields.) The seminar is open to full-time SILS students in their last two years. If you are an exchange student (SP3), and are interested in taking this seminar, or my intermediate seminar, please send me an email. We should be able to enroll you in the class by using the independent study option. (Students who are interested in studying the history or philosophy of mathematics should also feel free to contact me by email.)

The disciplines of History and Philosophy of Science (HPS) and Science and Technology Studies (STS) can, in principle, involve the study of scientific and technological ideas and practices during any time period and in any culture. Moreover, the field uses approaches drawn from a range of different areas—such as history, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, philology—and requires familiarity with the technical issues at question. Hence, in this seminar, we can only begin to give an introduction to the whole field. Nevertheless, students who take all three semesters of the seminar will have a broad background in most of the areas of current interest in the field.

This seminar would be useful for anyone interested in pursuing graduate studies in a humanities discipline, such as history, philosophy, sociology, or science and technology studies. It would also be useful for anyone interested in the study of the social practices of science and technology—such as someone who was interested in pursuing science journalism, or a career in science and technology administration. Students who have graduated from my zemi have gone on to do a number of different things—including, for example, regular employment at IBM and Google; graduate school at Cambridge University (Gonville and Caius College, etc.), London School of Economics, National University of Singapore, Seoul National University, University of Tokyo, and Yale University; and law school at Columbia University and Georgetown University.

The structure of the seminar will rotate on a three semester bases through a focus on 1) philosophy of science, 2) history of science, and 3) technology studies.

Philosophy of Science

Although philosophers have been thinking about the status of scientific knowledge and explanation since the time of Plato and Aristotle, Philosophy of Science, as a specialized discipline, began around the beginning of the 20th century. As opposed to classical philosophy of science, which investigates the logical structure of scientific theories and explanation, in this class, we focus more on what have been called the “historical turn” and the “sociological turn,” in which philosophers of science began to consider the sciences as social activities that take place in a historical context.

We begin by reading some selections from classics in the field by authors such as Popper, Fleck, Kuhn, and Lakatos. We then read some philosophical papers on special topics, such as philosophy of biology, mathematics or scientific explanation, including some recent papers that are considered to be important in the field by authors such as Georges Canguilhem and Ian Hacking. We conclude by reading a monograph treatment of the philosophy of science.

Philosophy of Science (Fall, 2011)

Philosophy of Science (Spring, 2013)

Philosophy of Science (Fall, 2014)

Philosophy of Science (Spring, 2016)

Philosophy of Science (Spring, 2018)

Philosophy of Science (Fall, 2019)

Philosophy of Science (Fall, 2020)

Philosophy of Science (Spring, 2021)

Philosophy of Science (Fall, 2021)

History of Science

In this segment, we focus on the history of science. We have done this in various different ways—such as focusing on sources, or on the development of a particular field. I usually propose some options and we decide together what to study.

History of Science: Primary and Secondary Sources (Spring, 2012)

History of Science: Neuroscience (Fall, 2013)

History of Science: Computing (Spring, 2015)

History of Mathematics: Ancient Spherics (Fall, 2018)

History of Science: Early Modern Europe (Fall, 2022)

History of Science: Transmission in Eurasia (Spring, 2023)

Technology Studies

Finally, we focus on contemporary studies of technology, which examine modern technology as a social process. We will be interested both in how technology is shaped by society and also in how technology, in turn, modifies society. Another important goal of science and technology studies is an understanding of the complicated relationship between technoscience and politics, or, more sharply, between knowledge and power.

We will examine various topics in the philosophy of technology. We will begin by reading some classic papers which seek to define technology and the task of philosophy of technology, by philosophers such as Heidegger and Arendt. We will then look at special topics in the philosophy of technology, such as the question of technological determinism, the nature of the relationship between technology and human beings, technology and the environment, technology and power, and feminist perspectives on technology.

Technology Studies (Spring, 2011)

Philosophy of Technology (Fall, 2012)

Technology and History (Spring, 2014)

Philosophy of Technology, Philosophy of Computing (Fall, 2015)

History and Philosophy of Technology (Spring, 2019)

History and Philosophy of Technology (Spring, 2022)

Suggested Readings

The following books and papers are suggested readings in a number of my lecture classes. If you have not had a chance to read them yet, they may be a good source for background knowledge about science studies.

Crowe, M., Ten misconceptions about mathematics and its history, in Aspray, W., and Kitcher, P., eds., History and Philosophy of Modern Mathematics (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988), pp. 260-675.

Galison, P., Ten problems in the history and philosophy of science, Isis 99 (2008) 111-124.

Adler, K., The history of science, or, an oxymoronic theory of relativistic objectivity, in Kramer, L., and Maza, S., eds., A Companion to Western Historical Thought (Oxford: Blackwell, 2002), pp. 297-318.

Chalmers, A., What is this Thing Called Science? (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1999). (3rd edition)

Kuhn, T.S., The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago: UCP, 1996). (3rd edition)

Bowler, P.J., Morus, I.R., Making Modern Science (Chicago: UCP, 2005).

中山 茂『パラダイムでたどる科学の歴史』ベレ出版、2011。

Sismondo, S., An Introduction to Science and Technology Studies (New York: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009.) (Available in the SILS reading library, 11-B1.)

Hughes, T.P., Human-Built World: How to Think about Technology and Culture (Chicago: UCP, 2004).