History and Philosophy of Science

The University offers a number of courses in the history and philosophy of science, although it does not, at this time, offer a major or concentration to undergraduates in Columbia College or General Studies. The course listings bring together a variety of courses from different disciplines, which should be of interest to anyone wishing to pursue work in the history and philosophy of science. The list is not intended to be all inclusive; students interested in the history and philosophy of science should speak to members of the committee.

Interdepartmental Committee on History and Philosophy of Science

David Albert
706 Philosophy; 212-854-3519

Walter Bock (emeritus)
1106 Schermerhorn; 212-854-4487

Marwa Elshakry
512 Fayerweather; 212-851-5914

Karl Jacoby
424 Hamilton; 212-854-3248

Richard John
201E Pulitzer; 212-854-0547

Matthew Jones
514 Fayerweather; 212-854-2421

Joel Kaye
422B Lehman; 212-854-4350

Philip Kitcher
717 Philosophy; 212-854-4884

Eugenia Lean
925 International Affairs Building; 212-854-1742

Christia Mercer
707 Philosophy; 212-854-3190

Alondra Nelson
607 Knox; 212-851-7081

Samuel Roberts
History/Sociomedical Sciences 
322 Fayerweather; 212-854-2430

David Rosner
History/Sociomedical Sciences 
420 Fayerweather; 212-854-4272

David Rothman
History/Sociomedical Sciences
622 West 168th Street; 212-305-4096

George Saliba
Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies
312 Knox; 212-854-4166

Pamela Smith
605 Fayerweather; 212-854-7662

Fall 2017

HIST BC2101 History of Capitalism . 3 points.

Not offered during 2017-18 academic year.

The aim of this course is to provide students with analytical tools to think critically and historically about the concept of capitalism. By studying how philosophers, economists, and political theorists have defined and described the concept of capitalism throughout its history, students will be provided with a set of terminologies and analytical frameworks that enable them to interrogate the various dimensions of capitalism. 

HIST BC3119 Capitalism and Enlightenment. 4 points.

BC: Fulfillment of General Education Requirement: Historical Studies (HIS).

Prerequisites: Permission of the instructor. Enrollment limited to 15. Preregistration required.

Traces the lively debates amongst the major European Enlightenment figures about the formation of capitalism. Was the new market society ushering in an era of wealth and civilization or was it promoting corruption and exploitation? Particular emphasis on debates about commerce, luxury, greed, poverty, empire, slavery, and liberty.

HIST BC3904 Introduction to Historical Theory and Method. 4 points.

Prerequisites: Permission of the instructor. Enrollment limited to 15. Preregistration required. Preference to JUNIOR and SOPHOMORE Majors. Fulfills General Education Requirement (GER); Historical Studies (HIS); Reason and Value

Confronts a set of problems and questions attached to the writing of good history by examining the theories and methods historians have devised to address these problems. Its practical focus: to prepare students to tackle the senior thesis and other major research projects. The reading matter for this course crosses cultures, time periods, and historical genres. Fulfills all concentrations within the history major.

HIST UN3911 Medicine and Western Civilization. 4 points.

Priority given to majors and concentrators, seniors, and juniors, but other majors are welcome.

Prerequisites: the instructor's permission.

This seminar seeks to analyze the ways by which medicine and culture combine to shape our values and traditions. To this end, it will examine notable literary, medical, and social texts from classical antiquity to the present.

Fall 2018: HIST UN3911
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
HIST 3911 001/73694 M 4:10pm - 6:00pm
Room TBA
David Rothman 4 0/20

Spring 2018

HIST BC2116 The History of Money. 3 points.

Examining the history of money and the history of ways of thinking about money. We investigate how different monetary forms developed and how they have shaped and been shaped by culture, society, and politics. Tracing money from gift-giving societies to the European Monetary Union, the focus is on early modern Europe.

HIST UN3437 Poisoned Worlds: Corporate Behavior and Public Health. 4 points.

Priority given to majors and concentrators, seniors, and juniors.

In the decades since the publication of Silent Spring and the rise of the environmental movement, public awareness of the impact of industrial products on human health has grown enormously. There is growing concern over BPA, lead, PCBs, asbestos, and synthetic materials that make up the world around us. This course will focus on environmental history, industrial and labor history as well as on how twentieth century consumer culture shapes popular and professional understanding of disease. Throughout the term the class will trace the historical transformation of the origins of disease through primary sources such as documents gathered in lawsuits, and medical and public health literature. Students will be asked to evaluate historical debates about the causes of modern epidemics of cancer, heart disease, lead poisoning, asbestos-related illnesses and other chronic conditions. They will also consider where responsibility for these new concerns lies, particularly as they have emerged in law suits. Together, we will explore the rise of modern environmental movement in the last 75 years. 

Spring 2018: HIST UN3437
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
HIST 3437 001/12919 W 8:10am - 10:00am
311 Fayerweather
David Rosner 4 16/22

INSM UN3921 Nobility and Civility II. 4 points.

CC/GS/SEAS: Partial Fulfillment of Global Core Requirement

Prerequisites: one semester of Contemporary Civilization or Literature Humanities, or an equivalent course, and the instructor's permission.

A team-taught multicultural, interdisciplinary course examining traditions of leadership and citizenship as they appear in the key texts of early Indian, Islamic, Far Eastern, and Western civilizations. One goal is to identify and examine common human values and issues evident in these texts while also recognizing key cultural differences

Spring 2018: INSM UN3921
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
INSM 3921 001/13899 W 2:10pm - 4:00pm
Hl-2 Heyman Center For Humanities
Douglas Chalmers, Rachel Chung 4 12/21

Of Related Interest

Biological Sciences
BIOL UN3208Introduction to Evolutionary Biology
Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race
CSER W3222Nature and Power: Environmental History of the US
Colloquia, Interdepartmental Seminars, and Professional School Offerings
INSM C3940Science Across Cultures
HIST UN2523History of Health Inequality in the Modern United States
HSPB UN2950Social History of American Public Health
HIST UN3911Medicine and Western Civilization
HIST GU4584Drug Policy and Race
History (Barnard)
HIST BC2180Merchants, Pirates, and Slaves in the Making of Atlantic Capitalism
HIST BC2305Bodies and Machines
HIST BC2388Introduction to History of Science since 1800
HIST BC3119Capitalism and Enlightenment
HIST BC3324Vienna and the Birth of the Modern
PHIL UN2101The History of Philosophy I: Presocratics to Augustine
PHIL UN2201History of Philosophy II: Aquinas to Kant
PHIL UN3251Kant
Women's Studies (Barnard)
WMST BC3509Gender, Knowledge and Science in Modern European History