History and Philosophy of Science
Hum/H/HPS 18. Introduction to the History of Science. 9 units (3-0-6). For course description, see Humanities.
HPS 98. Reading in History and Philosophy of Science. 9 units (1-0-8). Prerequisite: instructor’s permission. An individual program of directed reading in history and philosophy of science, in areas not covered by regular courses. Instructor: Staff.
HPS 102 ab. Senior Research Seminar. 12 units (2-0-10). Offered in any two consecutive terms, by arrangement with HPS faculty. Under the guidance of an HPS faculty member, students will research and write a focused research paper of 15,000 words (approximately 50 pages). Work in the first term will comprise intensive reading in the relevant literature and/or archival or other primary source research. In the second term, students will draft and revise their paper. Open to seniors in the HPS option and to others by special permission of an HPS faculty member. Instructor: Staff.
HPS 103. Public Lecture Series. 1 unit; first, second, third terms. Student attend four lectures, featuring speakers from outside Caltech, on topics in the history and philosophy of science. Students may choose from a variety of regularly scheduled HPS lectures, including HPS seminars, Harris lectures, and Munro seminars (history or philosophy of science only). Graded on attendance. Not available for credit toward the humanities–social science requirement. Graded pass/fail. Instructors: Visiting lecturers.
HPS/Pl/CS 110. Causation and Explanation. 9 units (3-0-6); third term. An examination of theories of causation and explanation in philosophy and neighboring disciplines. Topics discussed may include probabilistic and counterfactual treatments of causation, the role of statistical evidence and experimentation in causal inference, and the deductive-nomological model of explanation. The treatment of these topics by important figures from the history of philosophy such as Aristotle, Descartes, and Hume may also be considered. Instructor: Eberhardt.
HPS/Pl 120. Introduction to Philosophy of Science. 9 units (3-0-6); first term. An introduction to fundamental philosophical problems concerning the nature of science. Topics may include the character of scientific explanation, criteria for the conformation and falsification of scientific theories, the relationship between theory and observation, philosophical accounts of the concept of “law of nature,” causation, chance, realism about unobservable entities, the objectivity of science, and issues having to do with the ways in which scientific knowledge changes over time. Instructor: Sebens.
HPS/Pl 122. Probability, Evidence, and Belief. 9 units (3-0-6); second term. Philosophical and conceptual issues arising from the study of probability theory and how it relates to rationality and belief. Topics discussed may include the foundations and interpretations of probability, arguments for and against the view that we ought to have personal degrees of belief, rational change in beliefs over time, and the relationship between probability and traditional epistemological topics like evidence, justification, and knowledge. Not offered 2019–20.
HPS/Pl 123. Introduction to the Philosophy of Physics. 9 units (3-0-6); first term. Prerequisites: Ph 1abc or instructor’s permission. This course will examine the philosophical foundations of the physical theories covered in the freshman physics sequence: classical mechanics, electromagnetism, and special relativity. Topics may include: the goals of physics; what laws of nature are; the unification of physical theories; symmetries; determinism; locality; the reality of fields; the arrow of time. Instructor: Sebens.
HPS/Pl 124. Philosophy of Space and Time. 9 units (3-0-6); second term. This course will focus on questions about the nature of space and time, particularly as they arise in connection with physical theory. Topics may include the nature and existence of space, time, and motion; the relationship between geometry and physical space (or space-time); entropy and the direction of time; the nature of simultaneity; and the possibility of time travel. Instructor: Hubert.
HPS/Pl 125. Philosophical Issues in Quantum Physics. 9 units (3-0-6); third term. Prerequisites: Ph 2b or Ph 12b. This course will focus on philosophical and foundational questions raised by quantum physics. Questions may include: Is quantum mechanics a local theory? Is the theory deterministic or indeterministic? What is the role of measurement and observation? Does the wave function always obey the Schrödinger equation? Does the wave function give a complete description of the state of a system? Are there parallel universes? How are we to understand quantum probabilities? Instructor: Hubert.
HPS/Pl 128. Philosophy of Mathematics. 9 units (3-0-6); third term. An examination of conceptual issues that arise in mathematics. The sorts of issues addressed may include the following: Are mathematical objects such as numbers in some sense real? How do we obtain knowledge of the mathematical world? Are proofs the only legitimate source of mathematical knowledge? What is the relationship between mathematics and the world? How is it possible to apply abstract theory to the world? Views of major historical figures such as Plato, Hume, Kant, and Mill, as well as of contemporary writers are examined. The course will also examine philosophical issues that arise in particular areas of mathematics such as probability theory and geometry. Instructor: Hitchcock. Not offered 2019–20.
HPS/Pl 136. Happiness and the Good Life. 9 units (3-0-6); first term. This course will critically examine the emerging science of happiness and positive psychology, its philosophical assumptions, methodology, and its role in framing social policy and practice. Topics to be addressed include: the relation between happiness as subjective well-being or life satisfaction and philosophical visions of the good life; the relation between happiness and virtue; the causes of happiness and the role of life experience; happiness and economic notions of human welfare, attempts to measure happiness, and the prospect for an economics of happiness; happiness as a brain state and whether brain science can illuminate the nature of happiness; mental illness and psychiatry in light of positive psychology. Instructor: Quartz.
HPS/Pl 138. Human Nature and Society. 9 units (3-0-6); second term. This course will investigate how assumptions about human nature shape political philosophy, social institutions, and social policy. The course will begin with a historical perspective, examining the work of such political philosophers as Plato, Locke, Rousseau, and Marx, along with such psychologists as Freud and Skinner. Against this historical perspective, it will then turn to examine contemporary views on human nature from cognitive neuroscience and evolutionary psychology and explore their potential implications for political philosophy and social policy. Among topics to be discussed will be the nature of human sociality and cooperation; economic systems and assumptions regarding production and consumption; and propaganda, marketing, and manipulation. Instructor: Quartz.
HPS/H 160. Einstein and His Generation: The History of Modern Physical Sciences. 9 units (3-0-6); third term. An exploration of the most significant scientific developments in the physical sciences, structured around the life and work of Albert Einstein (1879-1955), with particular emphasis on the new theories of radiation, the structure of matter, relativity, and quantum mechanics. While using original Einstein manuscripts, notebooks, scientific papers, and personal correspondence, we shall also study how experimental and theoretical work in the sciences was carried out; scientific education and career patterns; personal, political, cultural, and sociological dimensions of science. Instructor: Kormos-Buchwald.
HPS/H 162. Social Studies of Science. 9 units (3-0-6); third term. A comparative, multidisciplinary course that examines the practice of science in a variety of locales, using methods from the history, sociology, and anthropology of scientific knowledge. Topics covered include the high-energy particle laboratory as compared with a biological one; Western as compared to non-Western scientific reasoning; the use of visualization techniques in science from their inception to virtual reality; gender in science; and other topics. Instructor: Feingold.
HPS/Pl 165. Selected Topics in Philosophy of Science. 9 units (3-0-6). Instructors: Staff, visiting lecturers.
HPS/H 166. Historical Perspectives on the Relations between Science and Religion. 9 units (3-0-6); second term. The course develops a framework for understanding the changing relations between science and religion in Western culture since antiquity. Focus will be on the ways in which the conceptual, personal, and social boundaries between the two domains have been reshaped over the centuries. Questions to be addressed include the extent to which a particular religious doctrine was more or less amenable to scientific work in a given period, how scientific activity carved an autonomous domain, and the roles played by scientific activity in the overall process of secularization. Instructor: Feingold.
HPS/H 167. Experimenting with History/Historic Experiment. 9 units (3-0-6). third term. Prerequisites: Ph 1 abc, and Ph 2 abc (may be taken concurrently). This course uses a combination of lectures with hands-on laboratory work to bring out the methods, techniques, and knowledge that were involved in building and conducting historical experiments. We will connect our laboratory work with the debates and claims made by the original discoverers, asking such questions as how experimental facts have been connected to theories, how anomalies arise and are handled, and what sorts of conditions make historically for good data. Typical experiments might include investigations of refraction, laws of electric force, interference of polarized light, electromagnetic induction, or resonating circuits and electric waves. We will reconstruct instrumentation and experimental apparatus based on a close reading of original sources. Instructor: Buchwald, J.
HPS/H 168. History of Electromagnetism and Heat Science. 9 units (3-0-6); third term. Prerequisites: Ph 1 abc, and Ph 2 abc (may be taken concurrently). This course covers the development of electromagnetism and thermal science from its beginnings in the early 18th century through the early 20th century. Topics covered include electrostatics, magnetostatics, electrodynamics, Maxwell’s field theory, the first and second laws of thermodynamics, and statistical mechanics as well as related experimental discoveries. Instructor: Buchwald. Not offered 2019–20.
HPS/H 169. Selected Topics in the History of Science and Technology. 9 units (3-0-6). Instructors: Staff, visiting lecturers.
HPS/H 170. History of Light from Antiquity to the 20th Century. 9 units (3-0-6); second, third terms. Prerequisites: Ph 1 abc, and Ph 2 abc (may be taken concurrently). A study of the experimental, mathematical, and theoretical developments concerning light, from the time of Ptolemy in the 2nd century A.D. to the production of electromagnetic optics in the 20th century. Instructor: Buchwald, J. Not offered 2019–20.
HPS/H 171. History of Mechanics from Galileo through Euler. 9 units (3-0-6). Prerequisites: Ph 1 abc, and Ph 2 abc (may be taken concurrently). This course covers developments in mechanics, as well as related aspects of mathematics and models of nature, from just before the time of Galileo through the middle of the 18th century, which saw the creation of fluid and rotational dynamics in the hands of Euler and others. Not offered 2019–20.
HPS/H 172. History of Mathematics: A Global View with Close-ups. 9 units (3-0-6); offered by announcement. The course will provide students with a brief yet adequate survey of the history of mathematics, characterizing the main developments and placing these in their chronological, cultural, and scientific contexts. A more detailed study of a few themes, such as Archimedes’ approach to infinite processes, the changing meanings of “analysis” in mathematics, Descartes’ analytic geometry, and the axiomatization of geometry c. 1900; students’ input in the choice of these themes will be welcomed. Not offered 2019–20.
HPS/H 175. Matter, Motion, and Force: Physical Astronomy from Ptolemy to Newton. 9 units (3-0-6); second term. The course will examine how elements of knowledge that evolved against significantly different cultural and religious backgrounds motivated the great scientific revolution of the 17th century. Not offered 2019–20.
HPS/H 180. Forbidden Knowledge. 9 units (3-0-6); first term. Why does the notion of freedom of knowledge and teaching in science and engineering matter? What kinds of restrictions have been placed on scientists and engineers, their publications and institutions? Who restrained scientific and engineering knowledge of what sorts; for what reasons; and how successfully? These questions will be addressed by exploring the strategies developed by the U.S. research community to protect the international circulation of knowledge after World War II, when scientific freedom and the export of technical data had to be balanced with the needs of national security. Case studies will include the atomic bomb, the semiconductor industry in the 1970s and space technologies, notably rockets/missiles, in the 1990s. The threat to U.S. economics and military security posed by the Soviet Union in the Cold War, and by China today, has transformed the practice of research in university and in industry alike building new walls around the production and circulation of knowledge to affirm national sovereignty that is, all the while, being undermined by the global circulation of trained scientists and engineers. Instructor: Krige.
H/HPS/VC 185. Angels and Monsters: Cosmology, Anthropology, and the Ends of the World. 9 units (3-0-6). For course description, see History.
H/HPS/VC 186. From Plato to Pluto: Maps, Exploration and Culture from Antiquity to the Present. 9 units (3-0-6). For course description, see History.