Philosophy 360/History 393: Introduction to History and Philosophy of Science

Philosophy 360/History 393: Introduction to History and Philosophy of Science

Alan Richardson

Buchanan E278

Philosophy 360/History 393: Introduction to History and Philosophy of Science

TTh 11am-12:30pm


Many things, according to the course catalog at UBC, have philosophies—mind, language, religion, art, and so on. But only science and particular sciences (economics, biology) have histories-and-philosophies. This is surely not because, for example, religion or art (and so on) have no history. Rather, it is suggestive of the idea that what is philosophically important about science is revealed in or through its history and that this is not true (or is less true) regarding art, religion, language, mind, and the other fields. It is in the history of science where we see the march of rational progress—the elimination of error, bias, superstition and the rise of evidence and factuality—and this is the philosophical significance of science.

An intellectual field of endeavor called “history and philosophy of science” became one of the central fields of study in the academy of the 1960s and 1970s. This course looks that the development of the field and takes Thomas S. Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions as its focus. We will look at traditions of philosophy, history, and sociology of science before Kuhn, at Kuhn’s own work and the way it was taken to have reconfigured the important questions to ask in history and philosophy (and sociology and rhetoric and cultural studies etc.) of science, and at some salient reactions to or elaborations of Kuhn’s work. We will end with a study of a particularly important concept for understanding the place of science in our 21st-century world: the unstable nature of humans as both objects of scientific curiosity and subjects of scientific understanding.

Course Texts

The following books are required and should be available at the UBC Bookstore:

Max Weber, The Vocation Lectures (Hackett, 2004)

Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (University of Chicago, 2012)

Other course readings are available on UBC Connect.


Attendance and Participation (10%): Regular attendance is expected; all attending are expected to have read the material for that day and to be prepared to discuss it.

Three sets of discussion questions to be sent in before class (one each in January, February, and March) (5% each = 15%)

Two brief in-class essays (taking 40 minutes of class time) (20% each = 40%) These will be on 6 February and 13 March.

Final Examination (35%): Date and time to be announced.

Course Calendar

Week One: Science, Progress, Modernity

Steven Shapin, “Science and the Modern World” (2003)

Week Two: Weber and the Value of the Value-Freedom of Science

Max Weber, “Science as Vocation,” selections from “Politics as Vocation” (1919)

Week Three: History and Sociology of Science: The Great Traditions

George Sarton, “A New Humanism” (1924)

Robert Merton, “Science and the Social Order” (1938)

Week Four: Philosophy and Science: Modernity in Question

Otto Neurath, Rudolf Carnap, and Hans Hahn, “Scientific World Conception: The Vienna Circle” (1929)

Max Horkheimer, “The Latest Attack on Metaphysics” (1937)

Week Five: Sociology of Knowledge: For and Against

Karl Mannheim, “The Sociology of Knowledge” from Ideology and Utopia (1936)

Karl Popper, “The Sociology of Knowledge” from The Open Society and Its Enemies (1945)

Week Six: Limits to Articulation: Conservative Theories of Science and Knowledge

James B, Conant, “Science and the American Citizen” from Science and Common Sense (1951)

Michael Polanyi, “The Logic of Affirmation” from Personal Knowledge (1958)

Weeks Seven and Eight: World Changes, Kuhn’s Structure

Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962)

Week Nine: Rationality and History: Philosophers Respond to Kuhn

Imre Lakatos, “History of Science and Its Rational Reconstructions” (1970)

Paul K. Feyerabend, “Science in a Free Society” (1978)

Week Ten: Sociology of Scientific Knowledge after Kuhn

Barry Barnes and R.G.A. Dolby, “Scientific Ethos: A Deviant Point of View” (1970)

Steven Shapin, “History of Science and Its Sociological Reconstructions” (1982)

Week: Eleven: Critical Theory and Post-Modern Criticism of Science

Herbert Marcuse, “From Negative to Positive Thinking: Technological Rationality and the Logic of Domination” from One-Dimensional Man (1964)

Jean-François Lyotard, selections from The Post-Modern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (1979)

Weeks Twelve and Thirteen: Subjects/Objects: Human Science and Historical Ontology

Michel Foucault, “Scientia Sexualis” from The History of Sexuality, Volume One (1976)

Ian Hacking, “Making Up People” (1986)

Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison. “The Scientific Self” from Objectivity (2007)

Jill Fellows, “Trust Without Shared Belief: Pluralist Realism and Polar Bear Conservation” (2017)

Course Policies:

Academic Misconduct. It is the student’s responsibility to read and to understand the UBC Policy on Academic Misconduct. I will follow this policy to the letter, should any instances of the problem arise in the course. The relevant material is here:

Computer and Smart Phone Use. Any and all computer and smart phone use during classes must be directed at the material under discussion. Research shows that other use of information technology harms not only the user’s performance in courses but the performance of those nearby; such use of information technology will not be tolerated: Faria Sana, Tina Weston, and Nicholas J. Cepeda, “Laptop Multitasking Hinders Classroom Learning for Both Users and Nearby Peers,” Computers & Education 62 (March 2013): 24-31.