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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Andrea I. Woody
HPS 400
Seattle Campus

Colloquium in the History and Philosophy of Science

Examines issues from the perspectives of both history and philosophy. Prerequisite: either HIST 311, HIST 312, HIST 313, HIST 314, HIST 315, HIST 317, HIST 318, or HIST 412; either PHIL 350, PHIL 360, PHIL 450, PHIL 460, PHIL 464, PHIL 466, PHIL 473, PHIL 481, PHIL 482, or PHIL 483.

Class description

Topic: Science and Pseudoscience. Both history and philosophy of science are frequently enlisted in efforts to defend the frontier between science and non-science. These efforts, in turn, reflect fundamental problems arising in the two fields, ones that might be resolved in part by a more integrated HPS perspective, and the creation of this perspective will be one of the collective tasks of this seminar. For philosophers, the identification of satisfactory demarcation criteria to allow the objective definition of science was a central task of the twentieth century, albeit an increasingly problematic one. For historians of science, an unwillingness to draw a line between science and non-science seemed to smack of an unsavory relativism, threaten their credibility with scientists, and undermine their sense of disciplinary identity; at the same time, a sense of how the line between science and non-science has shifted over time seemed to provide a crucial contextual element for historical practice. We will begin by reading Michael Gordinís recent book (2012) The Pseudoscience Wars: Velikovsky and the Birth of the Modern Fringe, which explores scientistsí varying responses to Immanuel Velikovsky and the relationship of these responses to the science wars arising in the 1980s and 1990s. From this piece of contemporary scholarship, we will work backwards to issues of demarcation in history and philosophy of science, look at what may be regarded as unsatisfactory responses to this problem (for example, in the science wars and in the skepticís movement of scientism), and ultimately try to find a set of better approaches. The course will be run as a discussion-based seminar, and students will prepare their own case studies relevant to our efforts to make sense of demarcation and its significance. This course is open to HPS majors and other graduate and undergraduate students with suitable backgrounds. Interested students who are not HPS majors should talk with one of the instructors: Bruce Hevly and Andrea Woody.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

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Class assignments and grading


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Andrea I. Woody
Date: 11/06/2013