I teach a range of courses in the Program of Liberal Studies, including all the Great Books Seminars and the three Science tutorials.
I also regularly teach graduate courses in the History & Philosophy of Science. Recent courses include:
HPS 83608: Historical Epistemology
What would it mean to approach intellectual history not as the study of ideas per se but as the study of underlying changes that made the emergence of new concepts possible? Does intellectual history demand a different methodological framework than, say, social history or political history? Can we write a history of rationality itself? These are some of the questions posed by “historical epistemology,” a tradition of joint historical and philosophical analysis that began in France and spread to Anglo-American circles in the late twentieth century. We will explore this perspective through the work of some of its key practitioners and intellectual ancestors, including Gaston Bachelard, Georges Canguilhem, Ian Hacking, and Lorraine Daston, among others. Almost one-half of the course will be dedicated to the early- to mid-career work of Michel Foucault, who became the core vehicle for bringing this approach to Anglo-American historians.
HPS 83602: History of Science, Technology, & Medicine since 1750
The course will begin by reviewing the several distinct social contexts of late 18th century science, including its relations to technology and medicine. It will then trace the emergence of academic (or more properly, university-based) science, sanctioned by the state and characterized by the emergence of distinct professions, disciplines and/or ways of knowing in the 19th century. The second half of the course will be devoted to tracing these themes in the 20th century, giving particular attention to both theoretical transformations and to the relationships between scientific disciplines, between science and the state, and between science and technology. Assignments include review essays and a final exam. Graduate standing or permission of instructor required.
HPS 93793: History & Philosophy of Statistics
Since the Enlightenment, statistical calculation has played an increasingly important role in the natural sciences, in the social sciences, and in state policies. In this course, we will examine three major aspects of this history: statistical theory (e.g., ideas about probability, sampling, correlation, etc.), practical aspects of data collection and the application of numerical knowledge in politics and the sciences. Our focus will be primarily historical, but we will pay close attention to the philosophical puzzles, that have been raised through reflections on statistical analysis. Major topics will include early debates about probability, chance and games; the rise of state statistics and social surveys; biometrics; probability and physics; statistics and psychology; and the transformations in surveys during the early twentieth century. Readings will be a mix of primary and secondary sources addressing theoretical issues, institutional factors and social history. No prior knowledge of mathematical statistics is necessary.
HPS 93651: Science & Democracy in America
This seminar will examine debates over the role of scientific expertise in politics and public policy using secondary sources and case studies from the twentieth century. The readings are designed to probe a set of key questions: Can science provide politically-neutral information for politicians? Is reliance on technical expertise a threat to democratic politics? What role should non-elected experts play in designing public policy? How does scientific expertise function within political controversies? Requirements include substantial reading, class discussion, and a final paper.