History and Philosophy of Science Descriptions

Unit outlines will be available through Find a unit outline two weeks before the first day of teaching for 1000-level and 5000-level units, or one week before the first day of teaching for all other units.
 

HISTORY AND PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE

History and Philosophy of Science major

A major in History and Philosophy of Science requires 48 credit points from this table including:
(i) 12 credit points of 1000-level core units
(ii) 12 credit points of 2000-level core units
(iii) 6 credit points of 3000-level core units
(iv) 6 credit points of 3000-level interdisciplinary project units
(v) 12 credit points of 3000-level selective units

History and Philosophy of Science minor

A minor in History and Philosophy of Science requires 36 credit points from this table including:
(i) 12 credit points of 1000-level core units
(ii) 12 credit points of 2000-level core units
(iii) 12 credit points of 3000-level units drawn from core, interdisciplinary project and selective units

Units of study

The units of study are listed below.

1000-level units of study

Core
HPSC1000 Bioethics

Credit points: 6 Teacher/Coordinator: Refer to the unit of study outline https://www.sydney.edu.au/units Session: Intensive February,Intensive June,Semester 1 Classes: Refer to the unit of study outline https://www.sydney.edu.au/units Prohibitions: HPSC1900 Assessment: Refer to the unit of study outline https://www.sydney.edu.au/units Mode of delivery: Normal (lecture/lab/tutorial) day
Note: This Junior unit of study is highly recommended to Intermediate and Senior Life Sciences students.
Science has given us nearly infinite possibilities for controlling life. Scientists probe the origins of life through research with stem cells and embryos. To unlock the secrets of disease, biomedicine conducts cruel experiments on animals. GM crops are presented as the answer to hunger. Organ transplantation is almost routine. The international traffic in human body parts and tissues is thriving. The concept of brain death makes harvesting organs ethically more acceptable. It may also result in fundamental changes in our ideas about life. Science has provided new ways of controlling and manipulating life and death. As a consequence, difficult ethical questions are raised in increasingly complex cultural and social environments. This course will discuss major issues in the ethics of biology and medicine, from gene modification to Dolly the sheep. This unit will be introductory, but a small number of topical issues will be studied in depth. No scientific background beyond Year 10 level will be assumed.
Textbooks
Weekly readings
HPSC1900 Bioethics (Advanced)

Credit points: 6 Teacher/Coordinator: Refer to the unit of study outline https://www.sydney.edu.au/units Session: Semester 1 Classes: Refer to the unit of study outline https://www.sydney.edu.au/units Prohibitions: HPSC1000 Assumed knowledge: (ATAR 90 or above) or equivalent Assessment: Refer to the unit of study outline https://www.sydney.edu.au/units Mode of delivery: Normal (lecture/lab/tutorial) day
Note: Department permission required for enrolment
The topics covered by HPSC1000 - Bioethics will be treated in more depth, in a special tutorial set aside for Advanced students.
Textbooks
Weekly readings
HPSC1001 What is this Thing Called Science?

Credit points: 6 Teacher/Coordinator: Refer to the unit of study outline https://www.sydney.edu.au/units Session: Intensive February,Semester 2 Classes: Refer to the unit of study outline https://www.sydney.edu.au/units Prohibitions: HPSC2101 or HPSC2901 or HPSC1901 Assessment: Refer to the unit of study outline https://www.sydney.edu.au/units Mode of delivery: Block mode
What distinguishes creationism from evolutionary theory, or astrology from astronomy? Can we have good reason to believe that our current scientific theories represent the world "as it really is"? This course critically examines the most important attempts to describe the scientific method, to draw a line dividing science from non-science, and to justify the high status generally accorded to scientific knowledge. Views studied include Karl Popper's idea that scientific theories are falsifiable in principle, Thomas Kuhn's proposal that science consists of a series of paradigms separated by abrupt scientific revolutions, and various claims that science cannot really be distinguished from other approaches to knowledge. This unit of study also explores contemporary theories of evidence and explanation, the role of values in science, sociological approaches to understanding science, feminist perspectives on science, and the nature of scientific consensus.
Textbooks
Godfrey-Smith, P (2003). Theory and Reality. The University of Chicago Press. USA/ Curd, Cover and Pincock (2013). Philosophy of Science: The Central Issues (2nd edition). W. W. Norton and Company.
HPSC1901 What is this Thing Called Science? (Adv)

Credit points: 6 Teacher/Coordinator: Refer to the unit of study outline https://www.sydney.edu.au/units Session: Semester 2 Classes: Refer to the unit of study outline https://www.sydney.edu.au/units Prohibitions: HPSC2101 or HPSC2901 or HPSC1001 Assumed knowledge: (ATAR 90 or above) or equivalent Assessment: Refer to the unit of study outline https://www.sydney.edu.au/units Mode of delivery: Normal (lecture/lab/tutorial) day
Note: Department permission required for enrolment
What distinguishes creationism from evolutionary theory, or astrology from astronomy? Can we have good reason to believe that our current scientific theories represent the world "as it really is"? This course critically examines the most important attempts to describe the scientific method, to draw a line dividing science from non-science, and to justify the high status generally accorded to scientific knowledge. Views studied include Karl Popper's idea that scientific theories are falsifiable in principle, Thomas Kuhn's proposal that science consists of a series of paradigms separated by abrupt scientific revolutions, and various claims that science cannot really be distinguished from other approaches to knowledge. This unit of study also explores contemporary theories of evidence and explanation, the role of values in science, sociological approaches to understanding science, feminist perspectives on science, and the nature of scientific consensus.
Textbooks
Godfrey-Smith, P (2003). Theory and Reality. The University of Chicago Press. USA/ Curd, Cover and Pincock (2013). Philosophy of Science: The Central Issues (2nd edition). W. W. Norton and Company.

2000-level units of study

Core
HPSC2011 Science, Ethics and Society

Credit points: 6 Teacher/Coordinator: Refer to the unit of study outline https://www.sydney.edu.au/units Session: Semester 2 Classes: Refer to the unit of study outline https://www.sydney.edu.au/units Prohibitions: HPSC3107 Assumed knowledge: Students should be familiar will introductory material in Philosophy of Science, Ethics or Sociology. Assessment: Refer to the unit of study outline https://www.sydney.edu.au/units Mode of delivery: Normal (lecture/lab/tutorial) day
What is the role of science in society? What should it be? Scientific knowledge is often difficult to understand without years of training, and yet this knowledge is crucial to social welfare, and to our political and environmental futures. In this Unit of Study, we look at the practical realities of living in a society of which science is an integral part. Our examples come from across the sciences, with an emphasis on the health sciences, and on biodiversity, climate change, and environmental challenges. Major themes are:
1. Science in Society: how can publics relate to scientific knowledge? What is the importance of trust in science? What is the role of experts? What does it mean to say that science and society are co-constructed?
2. The West and the Rest: what are the relations between so-called ¿Western science¿ and other knowledge systems? What role has science played in colonial legacies? Our focus is on relations with Aboriginal Australian knowledges and cultures.
Facts and Norms: how does science relate to social and political values? Can scientific facts be independent of these values? We look at the historical origins of important concepts of science and ethics in response to the Second World War, and at present-day examples e.g. in biomedical research.
Textbooks
Weekly readings
HPSC2100 The Birth of Modern Science

Credit points: 6 Teacher/Coordinator: Refer to the unit of study outline https://www.sydney.edu.au/units Session: Intensive February,Semester 1 Classes: Refer to the unit of study outline https://www.sydney.edu.au/units Prerequisites: 12 cp from (PHIL1XXX or HSTY1XXX or HPSC1XXX or ANTH1XXX) Prohibitions: HPSC2900 Assessment: Refer to the unit of study outline https://www.sydney.edu.au/units Mode of delivery: Normal (lecture/lab/tutorial) day
Modern culture is a culture of science and modern science is the outcome of a historical process of 2,500 years. In this course we investigate how traditional knowledge gradually acquired the characteristics of 'science': the social structure, contents, values and procedures we are familiar with. We will look at some primary chapters of this process, from antiquity to the end of the seventeenth century, and try to understand their implications to understanding contemporary science in its culture.
Textbooks
Weekly readings
HPSC2900 The Birth of Modern Science (Advanced)

Credit points: 6 Teacher/Coordinator: Refer to the unit of study outline https://www.sydney.edu.au/units Session: Semester 1 Classes: Refer to the unit of study outline https://www.sydney.edu.au/units Prerequisites: An average mark of 75 or above in (24 credit points of 1000-level units of study) Prohibitions: HPSC2100 Assessment: Refer to the unit of study outline https://www.sydney.edu.au/units Mode of delivery: Normal (lecture/lab/tutorial) day
Note: Department permission required for enrolment
The topics covered in 'The Birth of Modern Science' will be covered in more depth, in a special tutorial set aside for advanced students.
Textbooks
Weekly readings

3000-level units of study

Core
HPSC3016 The Scientific Revolution

Credit points: 6 Teacher/Coordinator: Refer to the unit of study outline https://www.sydney.edu.au/units Session: Semester 2 Classes: Refer to the unit of study outline https://www.sydney.edu.au/units Prerequisites: (HPSC2100 or HPSC2900) and (HPSC1001 or HPSC1901 or HPSC2101 or HPSC2901) Assessment: Refer to the unit of study outline https://www.sydney.edu.au/units Mode of delivery: Normal (lecture/lab/tutorial) day
Modern Western science has a number of characteristics that distinguish it from other scientific cultures. It ascribes its tremendous success to sophisticated experiments and meticulous observation. It understands the universe in terms of tiny particles in motion and the forces between them. It is characterised by high- powered mathematical theorising and the rejection of any intention, value or purpose in Nature. Many of these characteristics were shaped in the 17th century, during the so-called scientific revolution. We will consider them from an integrated historical- philosophical perspective, paying special attention to the intellectual motivations of the canonical figures of this revolution and the cultural context in which they operated. Topics will include: experimentation and instrumentation, clocks, mechanistic philosophy, and the changing role of mathematics.
Textbooks
Weekly Readings
Interdisciplinary Project
HPSC3888 HPSC Interdisciplinary Project

Credit points: 6 Teacher/Coordinator: Refer to the unit of study outline https://www.sydney.edu.au/units Session: Semester 2 Classes: Refer to the unit of study outline https://www.sydney.edu.au/units Prerequisites: 12 credit points of HPSC2XXX Assumed knowledge: Students should have demonstrated the ability to explain topics and concepts in HPS at an intermediate level Assessment: Refer to the unit of study outline https://www.sydney.edu.au/units Mode of delivery: Normal (lecture/lab/tutorial) day
Our ever-changing world requires knowledge that extends across multiple disciplines. The ability to identify and explore interdisciplinary links is a crucial skill for emerging professionals and researchers alike. This unit presents the opportunity to bring together the concepts and skills you have learnt in your discipline and apply them to a real-world problem. You will work on a project which involves evaluating theories in HPS based on knowledge drawn from collaborators in another discipline, for instance by taking a recent scientific controversy or theoretical innovation as a case study. For example, you might test a proposal about the theoretical basis of neuroscience by comparing it to a predictive coding model of brain function, or test assumptions about how scientific models work by studying specific models in climatology or ecology In this unit, you will continue to understand and explore disciplinary knowledge, while also meeting and collaborating with students from across the University through project-based learning; identifying and solving problems, collecting and analysing data and communicating your findings to a diverse audience. All of these skills are highly valued by employers. This unit will foster the ability to work in interdisciplinary teams, and this is essential for both professional and research pathways in the future.
SCPU3001 Science Interdisciplinary Project

Credit points: 6 Teacher/Coordinator: Refer to the unit of study outline https://www.sydney.edu.au/units Session: Intensive February,Intensive July,Semester 1,Semester 2 Classes: Refer to the unit of study outline https://www.sydney.edu.au/units Prerequisites: 96 credit points Assessment: Refer to the unit of study outline https://www.sydney.edu.au/units Mode of delivery: Normal (lecture/lab/tutorial) day
This interdisciplinary unit provides students with the opportunity to address complex problems identified by industry, community, and government organisations, and gain valuable experience in working across disciplinary boundaries. In collaboration with a major industry partner and an academic lead, students integrate their academic skills and knowledge by working in teams with students from a range of disciplinary backgrounds. This experience allows students to research, analyse and present solutions to a real¿world problem, and to build on their interpersonal and transferable skills by engaging with and learning from industry experts and presenting their ideas and solutions to the industry partner.
Selective
HPSC3002 Hist and Phil of the Biomedical Sciences

Credit points: 6 Teacher/Coordinator: Refer to the unit of study outline https://www.sydney.edu.au/units Session: Semester 2 Classes: Refer to the unit of study outline https://www.sydney.edu.au/units Prerequisites: (HPSC2100 or HPSC2900) and (HPSC2101 or HPSC2901) Assessment: Refer to the unit of study outline https://www.sydney.edu.au/units Mode of delivery: Normal (lecture/lab/tutorial) day
This Unit of Study is dedicated to the science of life, and focuses on the history and philosophy of biology and medicine. Theories about the origins of life, evolution, the nature and importance of DNA and various environmental factors have been debated by scientists but also in the public sphere. Medical and biological researchers continuously articulate new and innovative theories on the nature of disease and propose novel intervention strategies to alter those conditions. In this Unit of Study, we will take a closer look at the theories of life, disease, and death. We will focus in particular on the contributions historians and philosophers of science can make to discussions in the life sciences.
Textbooks
Weekly Readings
HPSC3023 Psychology and Psychiatry: History and Phil

Credit points: 6 Teacher/Coordinator: Refer to the unit of study outline https://www.sydney.edu.au/units Session: Semester 1 Classes: Refer to the unit of study outline https://www.sydney.edu.au/units Prerequisites: (12 credit points of HPSC2XXX OR 12 credit points of PSYC2XXX) OR (6 credit points of HPSC2XXX AND 6 credit points of PSYC2XXX) Assessment: Refer to the unit of study outline https://www.sydney.edu.au/units Mode of delivery: Normal (lecture/lab/tutorial) day
Across the unit we examine one of the most interesting aspects of the history and philosophy of science. viz., the scientific practices and assumptions involved in making human beings an object of study. We will examine the ways in which psychologists and psychiatrists have investigated human nature, the kinds of experimental approaches they have developed to that end, the major controversies in this field, and the basic philosophical assumptions that have been made in the sciences of human nature. We investigate the developments of psychological theories and investigative methods as well as the development of psychiatric theory, treatment methods, and institutions.
HPSC3108 Hist and Phil of the Physical Sciences

Credit points: 6 Teacher/Coordinator: Refer to the unit of study outline https://www.sydney.edu.au/units Session: Semester 1 Classes: Refer to the unit of study outline https://www.sydney.edu.au/units Prerequisites: HPSC2101 or HPSC2901 Assessment: Refer to the unit of study outline https://www.sydney.edu.au/units Mode of delivery: Normal (lecture/lab/tutorial) day
This unit of study deals with a selection of contemporary debates in the history and philosophy of natural sciences. It covers four main themes: (1) the question of how evidence is gathered in the natural sciences and how it is (and/or other factors) go into confirming theories-we also consider what confirmation consists in (including an examination of Bayesianism). (2) Issues of modelling, representation, and measurement, including an analysis of the ways idealisation, approximation, and simulation are to be understood. (3) Models of scientific explanation, including recent work on laws, prediction, and causality. (4) issues of emergence and reduction, including the problems associated with defining such concepts - we also consider notions of simplicity and the impact of the sciences of complexity. The unit of study involves case studies from the natural sciences that allow students to apply their knowledge and test their understanding. Upon completion of the unit, students will have developed a range of skills that will allow them to explore the physical sciences with more critical attitude.
Textbooks
Weekly readings