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Questions about the dynamics of scientific change have long been central to both the history and philosophy of science. Yet historians and philosophers have traditionally had very different aims and different perspectives. On the one hand, historians have tended to see science as a cultural activity embedded within a wider social context, while on the other hand, philosophers have tended to focus on normative questions to do with the nature of knowledge. Yet, over the past two decades, there has been a resurgence of interest in more integrated approaches to HPS, pioneered by scholars like Ian Hacking, Hans-Jörg Rheinberger, Hasok Chang and Lorraine Daston. A new wave of studies, now labelled ‘historical epistemology’, has begun to explore the means by which, and the historical conditions under which, structures of knowledge emerge and take shape over time. This subject examines new directions in historical epistemology and integrated history and philosophy of science. In doing so, we explore some of the major epistemological shifts that occurred in the physical, biological, medical and social sciences during the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries. During this period, new ‘objects of knowledge’, new ‘styles of reasoning’ and new ‘modes of objectivity’ came into being.
Intended learning outcomes
Students who successfully complete this subject will:
- possess a critical understanding of some of the major themes in HPS;
- become familiar with a range of different historiographical and philosophical approaches to the understanding of the dynamics of scientific change;
- develop the ability to engage in critical analysis of important texts;
- develop a critical perspective on recent attempts to develop a 'big picture' of the sciences;
- gain the necessary critical acumen and relevant knowledge to be able to engage in contemporary debates in the history and philosophy of science;
- develop an ability to conduct independent critical research at fourth year Honours level.
Students who successfully complete this subject will
- develop skills in written communication;
- conduct independent research;
- make appropriate use of primary and secondary sources in mounting an argument;
- develop skills in synthesizing and analysing literature relevant to a specific discipline or topic;
- form defensible judgements based on a critical evaluation of conflicting arguments.
Last updated: 3 November 2022