Please see University of Chicago Class Search for specific class schedule information.

The courses listed below are subject to change. Please refer to the University of Chicago class search for meeting times.

Autumn 2022

CHSS 33500 - Elementary Logic
Instructor: Virginia Schultheis
Description: An introduction to the concepts and principles of symbolic logic. We learn the syntax and semantics of truth-functional and first-order quantificational logic, and apply the resultant conceptual framework to the analysis of valid and invalid arguments, the structure of formal languages, and logical relations among sentences of ordinary discourse. Occasionally we will venture into topics in philosophy of language and philosophical logic, but our primary focus is on acquiring a facility with symbolic logic as such.


CHSS 34200 - The Nuclear Age
Instructor: Benjamin Goossen
Description: This seminar examines the history of nuclear science, technology, and politics since World War II. The invention of atomic weapons transformed the international security landscape in the middle of the last century, yet most nuclear arms have never been deployed in conflict. This course encourages students to consider the roles of ideas, knowledge, culture, and secrecy in the development and deployment of technologies often considered as quintessentially material.  It asks how nuclear science and technology both reflected and informed social landscapes, intersecting in crucial, often surprising ways with issues of gender, race, and class.  What kinds of people in which places have had access to atomic knowledge, and to what ends?  Who has benefitted, who has not? How have assumptions of social order or civilizational hierarchy alternately promoted and hindered the spread of nuclear know-how, technology, and ideas?  Ranging across national contexts and through social layers that intersect with nuclear industries, we will consider the perspectives of victims / survivors, scientists, workers, environmentalists, miners, diplomats, and other people. We will examine how the tragedies of the Nuclear Age—including mass loss of human life, destructive uranium extraction, radioactive fallout, and industrial disasters—have been enacted, and addressed, and we will situate these stories alongside discussion of proven or potential applications of nuclear knowledge and technologies for medicine.


CHSS 34921 - Darwinism and Literature
Instructor: Dario Maestripieri
Description: In this course we will explore the notion that literary fiction can contribute to the generation of new knowledge of the human mind, human behavior, and human societies. Some novelists in the late 19th and early 20th century provided fictional portrayals of human nature that were grounded into Darwinian theory. These novelists operated within the conceptual framework of the complementarity of science and literature advanced by Goethe and the other romantics. At a time when novels became highly introspective and psychological, these writers used their literary craftsmanship to explore and illustrate universals aspects of human nature. In this course we read the work of several novelists such as George Eliot, HG Wells, Joseph Conrad, Jack London, Yuvgeny Zamyatin, Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, Italo Svevo, and Elias Canetti, and discuss how these authors anticipated the discoveries made decades later by cognitive, social, and evolutionary psychology.


CHSS 35202 - We Other Victorians
Instructor: Kristine Palmieri
Description: This course examines the construction of otherness, difference, and belonging in England during the long Nineteenth Century from a historical perspective. Each week students will study a different “other” by drawing on a variety of primary sources, including novels, autobiographies, government reports, legal documents, private correspondence, newspapers, and scientific publications. Special attention will be paid to how and why emerging social sciences such as anthropology, sociology, and psychology both contributed to and were themselves informed by, (1) broader discussions about cultural ethnicity, biological race, national identity, and modern society; as well as (2) changing conceptions of class, gender, race, religion, and illness. By working historically, students in this course will also develop a conceptual framework for studying otherness that transcends geographic and temporal boundaries. Students will learn about the socio-political, cultural, legal, scientific, and ideological construction of otherness in Victorian Britain while also developing a conceptual framework for studying otherness that transcends geographic and temporal boundaries. This course relies almost entirely on primary sources and is designed to help students develop the skills needed to complete an original research project independently.


CHSS 35270 - Infrastructure Histories
Instructor: Liz Chatterjee
Description: Dams, sewers, container ships, water pipes, power lines, air conditioning, and garbage dumps: the critical infrastructures that enable modern life are so often invisible, except when they fail. This course explores the historical role of infrastructure as a set of planet-spanning systems of resource extraction and crucial conduits of social and political power. Looking at cases from apartheid South Africa and the Suez Canal to Mumbai and Chicago itself, we will consider the relationship of infrastructure with capitalism, settler colonialism, and postcolonial development. We will see how forms of citizenship and exclusion have been shaped and negotiated via wires, leaky pipes, and improvised repairs, and we will consider perhaps the biggest question of all: In this age of ecological crisis, do energy-guzzling infrastructural systems have a strange form of more-than-human agency all of their own?


CHSS 36069 - Scientific Childhood
Instructor: Tal Arbel
Description: The first half of the twentieth century was a period of intensified focus and progressive thinking regarding the rights, development, and well-being of children as interests of utmost importance to all society. This focus was marked, inter alia, by concerted efforts to apply the methods of modern science to the investigation of childhood, efforts that in turn forever changed the way we understand, raise, and educate children. This seminar will revisit the lives of children who had served as subjects of observation and experiment from the 1880s to the 1950s, and whose childhood experiences (their emotions, thoughts, and games; their family lives and institutional realities) had shaped the central dogmas of developmental psychology, as well as our ideas about normality. The course takes a biographical approach to the history of science, but rather than focus on the careers of scientists and doctors, delves into the stories of their objects of study, from the Bostonian first graders who answered G. Stanley Hall’s pioneering survey to the 44 “juvenile thieves” who had informed John Bowlby’s influential attachment theory.


CHSS 36080 - Technologies of the Body
Instructor: Melanie Jeske
Description: From models and measures to imaging technologies and genomic sequencing, technologies have profoundly shaped how we know and understand human bodies, health, and disease. Drawing on foundational and contemporary science and technology studies scholarship, this class will interrogate technologies of the body: how they are made, the ways in which they have changed understandings of the human condition, their impact on individual and collective identities, and the interests and values built into their very design. Course readings will examine how technologies render bodies knowable and also construct them in particular ways. We will also focus on how technologies incorporate, and reinforce, ideas about human difference. Students will conduct an independent, quarter-long research project analyzing a biomedical technology of their choice. By the end of this course, students will be able to identify and explain the social, political and economic factors that shape the design and production of biomedical technologies, as well as the impact of these technologies on biomedicine and the social world more broadly. This course provides students with an opportunity to conduct a quarter-long research project, using a biomedical technology as a case study. Students will be introduced to foundational and cutting-edge scholarship in science and technology studies, and will use this scholarship to conduct their independent research.


CHSS 37400 - Colloquium: Environmental History
Instructor: Liz Chatterjee
Description: This graduate colloquium provides an advanced introduction to the vibrant field of environmental history. We will trace the evolution of this rich historiography, from first-generation classics-often focused on the American West-through to the geographical and thematic diversification of recent years. The course will give a flavor of this diversity, touching too upon influential works in emerging subfields like animal history, climate history, enviro-tech, and evolutionary history. Throughout, we will study how historians have addressed new analytical and aesthetic challenges: negotiating the insights of the natural sciences, incorporating nonhuman agency, and writing history at the vast scales of deep time and the planetary. The course is ideal for PhD students preparing a general examination field and/or designing a research paper, but is open to MA students as well.


CHSS 38400 - Darwin's "On the Origin of Species" and "The Descent of Man"
Instructor: Robert J. Richards
Description: This lecture-discussion course will focus on a close reading of Darwin's two classic texts. An initial class or two will explore the state of biology prior to Darwin's Beagle voyage, and then consider the development of his theories before 1859. Then we will turn to his two books. Among the topics of central concern will be the logical, epistemological, and rhetorical status of Darwin's several theories, especially his evolutionary ethics; the religious foundations of his ideas and the religious reaction to them; and the social-political consequences of his accomplishment. The year 2019 was the 210th anniversary of Darwin's birth and the 160th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species. 


CHSS 45300 - Global Science
Instructor: Emily Kern
Description: Is all science global, and if so, how did it get that way? Are some sciences more global than others? What has been at stake historically in describing scientific activity as variously local, transnational, international, or global, and how have these constructions influenced the historiography of the field? In this graduate colloquium, we will explore different approaches to writing and examining scientific knowledge production as a global phenomenon, as well as considering different historiographic attempts at grappling with science's simultaneously local and global qualities, poly-vocal nature, and historical coproduction with global political and economic power.


CHSS 47015 - Scientific and Humanistic Contributions to Knowledge Formation
Intructor: Dario Maestripieri
Description: In this course, we will explore whether the sciences and the humanities can make complementary contributions to the formation of knowledge, thus leading to the integration and unification of human knowledge. In the first part of the course we will take a historical approach to the issue; we will discuss how art and science were considered complementary for much of the 18th and 19th century (for example, in the views and work of Wolfgang Goethe), how they became separate (‘the two cultures’) in the middle of the 20th century with the compartmentalization of academic disciplines, and how some attempts have recently been made at a reunification under the concept of ‘consilience’.

In the second part of the course, we will focus on conceptual issues such as the cognitive value of literature, the role of ideas in knowledge formation in science and literature, the role of creativity in scientific and literary production, and how scientific and philosophical ideas have been incorporated into literary fiction in the genre known as ‘the novel of ideas’. As an example of the latter, we will read the novel ‘One, No One, and 100,000’ (1926) by Luigi Pirandello and discuss how this author elaborated and articulated a view of the human persona (including issues of identity and personality) from French philosophers and psychologists such as Henri Bergson and Alfred Binet.


CHSS 60905 - Colloquium: Topics in Early Modern Europe
Instructo: Adrian Johns
Description: This colloquium introduces graduate students to important themes in early modern history, providing an opportunity to get to grips with both classic interpretations and new arguments in the field. The subjects addressed will vary from year to year, depending on the faculty member leading the class and the interests of the participants. They will generally include a comparative element, however. Students will be expected to gain experience in interpreting historical evidence while appraising historiographical debates. The course will require historiography essays and may serve as an incubator for research papers.


Winter 2023

CHSS 30506 - Cities, Space, Power: Introduction to urban social science
Instructor: Neil Brenner
Description: This lecture course provides a broad, multidisciplinary introduction to the study of urbanization in the social sciences. The course surveys a broad range of research traditions from across the social sciences, as well as the work of urban planners, architects, and environmental scientists. Topics include: theoretical conceptualizations of the city and urbanization; methods of urban studies; the politics of urban knowledges; the historical geographies of capitalist urbanization; political strategies to shape and reshape the built and unbuilt environment; cities and planetary ecological transformation; post-1970s patterns and pathways of urban restructuring; and struggles for the right to the city.


CHSS 30574 - Sociology Structure and Agency
Instructor: Marco Garrido
Description: The course will unpack two fundamental concepts in sociology—social structure and agency—and examine how they relate to one another. In this endeavor, we will consult both classical and contemporary sources and discuss theoretical elaborations as well as empirical applications. We will pay particular attention to what may be the three most powerful social structures in America: gender, class, and race. The aim of the course is to impart a distinctly sociological perspective and equip students with sociological modes of explanation (as opposed to, say, economic or biological/evolutionary modes) in the belief that such a framework will enrich their understanding of the world. To this end, students majoring in other disciplines—in economics, STEM fields, and the humanities—are encouraged to enroll. While the readings will include dense social theory, every effort will be made to make the ideas at stake accessible to a non-specialized audience.


CHSS 31202 - Goethe: Literature, Science, Philosophy
Instructor: Robert J. Richards
Description: This lecture-discussion course will examine Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's intellectual development, from the time he wrote Sorrows of Young Werther through the final states of Faust. Along the way, we will read a selection of Goethe's plays, poetry, and travel literature. We will also examine his scientific work, especially his theory of color and his morphological theories. On the philosophical side, we will discuss Goethe's coming to terms with Kant (especially the latter's third Critique) and his adoption of Schelling's transcendental idealism. The theme uniting the exploration of the various works of Goethe will be unity of the artistic and scientific understanding of nature, especially as he exemplified that unity in "the eternal feminine."


CHSS 32503 - Capturing the Stars: Exhibiting the History of Women at Yerkes Observatory in early 20th C America
Instructor: Kristine Palmieri
Description: “Capturing the Stars,” the exhibit, that will illuminate the history of women at Yerkes Observatory and demonstrate how their labor contributed to the advancement of astronomy and astrophysics in Fall 2023. In this experimental and hands-on course, students will actively participate in the creation of this physical exhibit for the Special Collections Research Center and its digital counterpart. Students will begin by learning about the history of women in science, the social, economic, and cultural history of early twentieth-century America, as well as the history of astronomy and astrophysics. They will then develop skills in historical research, exhibition development, community outreach, and science communication while working on final projects to be featured in the exhibit. No prior historical, scientific, or museum experience is required for this course. Students will learn how to conduct historical research and how to communicate with a public audience by contributing to the production of a physical exhibit on the history of women at Yerkes Observatory with an ambitious digital footprint. This highly experimental class will move beyond the confines of a traditional history seminar by involving students in the development and execution of an exhibit on the history of women at Yerkes Observatory.


CHSS 32504 - Science, Governance, and the Crisis of Liberalism
Instructor: Isabel Gabel
Description: In the era of "post-truth" it has become common to link a crisis of scientific authority with a crisis of liberalism. Democracies around the world are under threat, this reasoning goes, in part because of an attack on scientific truth. But what does liberalism - as political culture and as a form of governance - need (or want) from science? Depending where you look, the answer might appear to be facts, truth, a model 'public sphere,' an ethic of objectivity, tactics for managing risk and uncertainty, or technologies of population management (to name a few). In addition to exploring the complex historical relationship between science and liberalism in the modern era, this course will critically assess how the history of science and the history of political thought have theorized truth and governance. We will examine what models of "coproduction" and "social construction" - nearly ubiquitous in the historiography of modern science - fail to capture about the histories of science and state power. We will also think about how political and intellectual historians' theories of truth and mendacity in politics might be enriched by more attention to scientific knowledge in both its technical and epistemological forms. This course focuses on 19th- and 20th-century Europe and the United States in global perspective, and readings will draw from political theory, history, economic thought, the natural and human sciences, and critical theory.


CHSS 33300 - Introduction to Philosophy of Science
Instructor: Thomas Pashby
Description: We will begin by trying to explicate the manner in which science is a rational response to observational facts. This will involve a discussion of inductivism, Popper's deductivism, Lakatos and Kuhn. After this, we will briefly survey some other important topics in the philosophy of science, including underdetermination, theories of evidence, Bayesianism, the problem of induction, explanation, and laws of nature.


CHSS 33507 - Scientific Inference
Instructor: Kevin Davey
Description: In this course we investigate the nature of inference in the scientific setting. Topics include induction, abduction, Bayesianism, and theories of hypothesis testing. Close attention will be paid to the question of what contribution formal techniques from probability and statistics make to our understanding of justified inference.


CHSS 34215 - The History of the Book in East Asia: From Bamboo to Webtoon
Instructor: Graeme Reynolds
Description: This seminar offers an overview of the development and history of the “book” and its physical forms, broadly conceived, in East Asia from ancient times to the present. Drawing on recent scholarship, selected primary sources, and rare books housed within the library system, this course familiarizes students with the evolution of the book and methods of book production in China, Korea, and Japan, the principles and practices of material bibliography and the application of such to physical and digital objects, and selected topics salient to the social and cultural meanings of books: authorship, the book trade, reading, censorship, and more. Assignments include a short paper, a short presentation, and a longer final paper. All readings in English, but knowledge of East Asian history or languages helpful.


CHSS 35525 - Environmental Histories of the Global South
Instructor: Elizabeth Chatterjee
Description: Drawing on cases from Africa, Latin America, and especially Asia, this course explores key themes in the modern environmental history of the world beyond the rich industrialized North. Our investigations will focus on the ecological impacts of colonialism, war, and development, and how environmental management has helped to construct modern states and capitalist practices in turn. Ranging from the malarial plantations of the Caribbean to the forests of southeast Asia, we will analyze not-so-natural disasters like floods and chemical spills as well as the slow violence of deforestation and droughts. Combining primary sources with classic scholarship, we will encounter pioneering green activists like the original "tree huggers" of the Himalayas and environmental advocates for brutal population control. The course will conclude by examining the emergence of a newly assertive Global South in international climate negotiations, and its implications for the environmental history of our planet at large. The course is open to all, but may be of particular interest to students who have taken "Introduction to Environmental History."


CHSS 36054 - Formation of Knowledge MAPSS Core: Ways of Knowing
Instructors: Tal Arbel and Andre Uhl
Description: This seminar introduces students to the conditions and processes of knowledge formation that shape our understanding of truth, our theories of social life, and our projections of possible futures. It examines how claims to knowledge emerge out of disciplinary, historical, and political contexts, as well as local cultural factors, both explicit and unspoken: how do institutions, technologies, and other normative structures produce, stabilize, or disrupt knowledge? How do scientists and artists examine and represent the world differently? What makes expertise and why do we trust certain ways of knowing over others? Building upon methods and perspectives in the social sciences and humanistic social sciences, this seminar introduces problems, concepts, and analytical tools that will enable students from diverse disciplinary backgrounds to examine how we know what we know.

"Ways of Knowing" is a required seminar for all students wishing to undertake the Formation of Knowledge MAPSS track https://sifk.uchicago.edu/mapss/. It also counts towards a required MAPSS Methods seminar.


CHSS 36078 - Normal People
Instructor: Tal Arbel
Description: Worrying about what's normal and what's not is an endemic feature of both our popular and scientific cultures. Is my intelligence above average? What about my height? Should I be feeling this way? Is there a pill for that? People seem to have always been concerned with fitting in, but the way of describing the general run of practices and conditions as "normal" is a rather recent phenomenon; testament to the vast influence of the modern human sciences on how we understand ourselves and others. This seminar will offer a broad historical overview of the ways that group behaviors and individual traits - bodily, moral, intellectual - were methodically described and measured in the past 200 years. We will become acquainted with the work of sociologists and anthropologists, psychiatrists and psychologists, polling experts and child development specialists, and ask about the kinds of people their efforts brought into being, from sexual perverts to the chronically depressed. The course will focus on the scientific theories and techniques used to distinguish the normal from the pathological, together with the new social institutions that translated this knowledge into forms of control. We will read Émile Durkheim on suicide rates and Cesare Lombroso on born criminals; learn about IQ tests and developmental milestones; and consider whether, with the advent of personalized medicine and self-data, we have indeed reached the "end of average."


CHSS 37901 - Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason
Instructor: Matthew Boyle
Description: This will be a careful reading of what is widely regarded as the greatest work of modern philosophy, Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. Our principal aims will be to understand the problems Kant seeks to address and the significance of his famous doctrine of "transcendental idealism". Topics will include: the role of mind in the constitution of experience; the nature of space and time; the relation between self-knowledge and knowledge of objects; how causal claims can be justified by experience; whether free will is possible; the relation between appearance and reality; the possibility of metaphysics.


CHSS 39405 - Advanced Logic
Instructor: Kevin Davey
Description: In this course, we explore the question of what role modern type theory can play in providing a foundation for mathematics and logic. Topics include logicism, higher order logic, Martin-Lof type theory, and the calculus of constructions.


CHSS 50003 - Sociology of the State
Instructor: Elisabeth S. Clemens
Description: Through taxation, regulation, redistribution, and the provision of services, modern states profoundly shape social life and constitute a principal form of political power. This seminar will survey major theories of the state, engaging with both comparative-historical questions (pre-modern state forms, the rise of nation-states, the development of welfare states and economic policy regimes) and contemporary challenges of governance. The course provides an overview of selected current research and an opportunity for those interested in political, historical, or macro-comparative sociology to develop empirical projects with the state as an important dimension of analysis.


CHSS 67603 - Public History Practicum I
Instructor: Michael Rossi
Description: In this two-quarter course students will engage in the theory and practice of public history in partnership with organizations doing community-oriented work in a variety of areas. In the winter colloquium, we will read and discuss the theory and practice of public history as well as materials relevant to the projects you will pursue in the spring. In the spring practicum, you will work in groups of 3–5 directly with one of the partner organizations. All of the project-based work will be done collaboratively; working with partners means that there will be hard deadlines. Projects and coursework will be designed to be adaptable to current public health conditions. A showcase presentation of the projects is scheduled for the end of the spring quarter, by which time you will have become acquainted with current scholarship on public history and with experience in its actual practice. The final projects will be part of your portfolio and may be listed on your c.v.


Spring 2023

CHSS 31108 - Time After Physics
Instructor: Thomas Pashby
Description: This course provides a historical survey of the philosophy of time. We begin with the problems of change, being and becoming as formulated in Ancient Greece by Parmenides and Zeno, and Aristotle’s attempted resolution in the Physics by providing the first formal theory of time. The course then follows theories of time through developments in physics and philosophy up to the present day. Along the way we will take in Descartes’ theory of continuous creation, Newton’s Absolute Time, Leibniz’s and Mach’s relational theories, Russell’s relational theory, Broad’s growing block, Whitehead’s epochal theory, McTaggart’s A, B and C theories, Prior’s tense logic, Belnap’s branching time, Einstein’s relativity theory and theories of quantum gravity.


CHSS 32000 - Introduction to Science Studies
Instructor: Michael Rossi
Description: This course explores the interdisciplinary study of science as an enterprise. During the twentieth century, sociologists, historians, philosophers, and anthropologists all raised interesting and consequential questions about the sciences. Taken together their various approaches came to constitute a field, "science studies." The course provides an introduction to this field. Students will not only investigate how the field coalesced and why, but will also apply science-studies perspectives in a fieldwork project focused on a science or science-policy setting. Among the topics we may examine are the sociology of scientific knowledge and its applications, actor-network theories of science, constructivism and the history of science, images of normal and revolutionary science, accounts of research in the commercial university, and the examined links between science and policy.


CHSS 34908 - Being Human: Histories of Paleoanthropology, Origins, and Deep Time
Instructor: Emily Kern
Description: What does it mean to be "human," and how have different sciences been used at different points in time to answer that question? While the scientific discipline of paleoanthropology—the study of human evolution and the deep human past—only emerged at the start of the twentieth century, it grew out of both nineteeth-century investigations into mysterious stone tools and the fossils of strange prehistoric creatures and much older traditions about origins, creation, and the nature of human difference drawn from history, religious faith, and the mythological tradition. This seminar will explore the connected histories of paleoanthropology, prehistory, and the geosciences from the late eighteenth to the early twenty-first century, and consider how these sciences have been shaped by ideas about history, human nature, gender and race, and the earth itself.


CHSS 55792 - Naturalized Metaphysics
Instructor: Thomas Pashby
Description: This course examines the feasibility of doing metaphysics in a way that is responsive to, or determined by, the results of the natural sciences. In an influential book, Everything Must Go: Metaphysics Naturalized, published just over 15 years ago, philosophers of science James Ladyman and Don Ross advocated for a newly naturalized metaphysics and argued forcefully against alternative analytic approaches to metaphysics (in a chapter later described by Kyle Stanford as “embod[ying] the most admirable characteristics of a good slap across the face”). Unsurprisingly, many analytic metaphysicians responded defensively to this assault. Aside from providing the occasion for a good philosophical dispute, however, this debate resulted both in a literature full of fascinating methodological reflections on metaphysics, and a camp of metaphysicians who decided that being responsive to the results of science might not be a bad idea, leading to the creation of a (now thriving) Society for the Metaphysics of Science. As it happens, though, the outgoing President of the Society, Kerry McKenzie, has apparently become disillusioned with the project, arguing against the possibility of metaphysics tout court in a recent paper entitled “A Curse on Both Houses.” Against this argument we will place the detailed work of self-avowed naturalized metaphysicians, including David Wallace’s award-winning book The Emergent Multiverse. 


CHSS 67604 - Public History Practicum II
Instructor: Michael Rossi
Description: In this two-quarter course students will engage in the theory and practice of public history in partnership with organizations doing community-oriented work in a variety of areas. In the winter colloquium, we will read and discuss the theory and practice of public history as well as materials relevant to the projects you will pursue in the spring. In the spring practicum, you will work in groups of 3–5 directly with one of the partner organizations. All of the project-based work will be done collaboratively; working with partners means that there will be hard deadlines. Projects and coursework will be designed to be adaptable to current public health conditions. A showcase presentation of the projects is scheduled for the end of the spring quarter, by which time you will have become acquainted with current scholarship on public history and with experience in its actual practice. The final projects will be part of your portfolio and may be listed on your c.v. Prerequisites - CHSS/HIST 67603