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.

Offered in Autumn 2019

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
Instructors: Adrian Johns and Karin Knorr Cetina
Decscription: 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 33500: Elementary Logic
Instructor: TBA
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 34921: Darwinsim and Literature
Instructors: Robert J. Richards and 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 37502: Energy and Energy Policy
Instructors: R. Stephen Berry and George S. Tolley
Description: This course shows how scientific constraints affect economic and other policy decisions regarding energy, what energy-based issues confront our society, how we may address them through both policy and scientific study, and how the policy and scientific aspects can and should interact. We address specific technologies, both those now in use and those under development, and the policy questions associated with each, as well as with more overarching aspects of energy policy that may affect several, perhaps many, technologies.


CHSS 37860: History of Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences
Instructor: Dario Maestripieri
Description: This course will consist in lectures and discussion sessions about the historical and conceptual foundations of evolutionary behavioral sciences (evolutionary anthropology, evolutionary psychology, ethology, comparative behavioral biology), covering the period from the publication of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species up to the present day. Topics will include new theoretical developments, controversies, interdisciplinary expansions, and the relationships between evolutionary behavioral sciences and other disciplines in the sciences and the humanities.


CHSS 37901: Kant: Critque 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.


ANTH 54833: Engineered Worlds III: Terraformations
Instructor: Joseph Masco
Description: This experimental seminar is part of a larger series of events in 2019-20 organized under the Engineered Worlds theme. It will be linked to activities on several other campuses as well as a spring 2020 conference. It examines the effects of industrial living on the biosphere and considers the multiple ways that people have been involved in terraforming planet earth. Attending to the ways that race, gender, and class inform industrial life, the seminar will explore (via social theory, ethnography, and history) ways of thinking about planetary scale problems that have local intensities that matter. This is an advanced graduate seminar. Registration is by permission of instructor.
Prerequisites: Consent of Instructor


Offered in Winter 2020

CHSS 33600: Intermediate Logic
Instructor: Anubav Vasudevan
Description: This course provides a first introduction to mathematical logic. In this course we will prove the soundness and completeness of deductive systems for both propositional and first-order predicate logic.


CHSS 35014: Introduction to Environmental History
Instructor: Fredrik Albritton Jonsson
Description: How have humans interacted with the environment over time? This course introduces students to the methods and topics of environmental history by way of classic and recent works in the field: Crosby, Cronon, Worster, Russell, and McNeill, etc. Major topics of investigation include preservationism, ecological imperialism, evolutionary history, forest conservation, organic and industrial agriculture, labor history, the commons and land reform, energy consumption, and climate change. Our scope covers the whole period from 1492 with case studies from European, American, and British imperial history.


CHSS 35110: Philosophy of History: Narrative and Explanation
Instructor: Robert J. Richards
Description: This lecture-discussion course will focus on the nature of historical explanation and the role of narrative in providing an understanding of historical events. Among the authors discussed are Edward Gibbon, Immanuel Kant, R. G. Collingwood, Leopold von Ranke, Lord Acton, Fernand Braudel, Carl Gustav Hempel, Arthur Danto, and Hayden White. 


CHSS 40203: Biopolitics & Posthumanism
Instructor: Nicolette Bruner
Description: Much has been written about the possibility (or impossibility) of creating an integrated political schema that incorporates living status, not species boundary, as the salient distinction between person and thing. In this course, we will explore how biopolitical and posthumanistic scholars like Michel Foucault, Hannah Arendt, Giorgio Agamben, Jane Bennett, Cary Wolfe, and Donna Haraway have acknowledged (and advocated transcending) the anthropocentric ümwelt, to borrow Jakob von Üexküll’s influential term. In parallel with our theoretical readings, we will explore how actual legal systems have incorporated the nonhuman, with a particular focus on Anglo-American and transnational law. Our goal is to develop our own sense of an applied biopolitics—whether to our own research, to future legislation and jurisprudence, or both. 


CHSS 40205: Ecological Thinking
Instructor: Nicolette I. Bruner
Description: What is the environment, anyway? Is it a collection of resources? An entity in need of protection? An autonomous state of being? In this course, we will engage with writers and thinkers who have grappled with what it means to think ecologically. We will examine how environmental concerns have reached across borders to shape law, culture, and theories of knowledge on a global scale. Course themes will include environmental justice, the energy humanities, postcolonial environmentalisms, ecocriticism, ecofeminism, queer ecologies, and critical life studies. Readings will include works by Rachel Carson, William Cronon, Lawrence Buell, Helena Maria Viramontes, Christopher Stone, Rob Nixon, Tamara Giles-Vernick, Timothy Morton, and others.


CHSS 40206: Assaulting the Paradigm: Franz Boas and His Contemporaries
Instructor: Isaiah Wilner
Description: How do ideas succeed? What challenges do those who voice new ideas face as they try to gain adherents, and how do they rise to influence against the odds? This course examines how the unexpected, the unconventional, and the radically original can dethrone accepted truths. We will investigate this question through a case study of the anthropologist Franz Boas and his contemporaries, who assaulted the paradigm of race at the turn of the twentieth century. In addition to reading Boas, we will study the works of John Dewey, W. E. B. Du Bois, Sigmund Freud, Zora Neale Hurston, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Margaret Mead, and Thorstein Veblen. By tracing the mutual influence between Boas and thinkers in fields from psychology to philosophy, we can examine how knowledge is contested and propagated—including the challenges those who frame ideas face as they break away from the pack, the role of social networks in the success of concepts that go “against the grain” of conventional wisdom, and the special agency of multidisciplinary collaboration in the periods of ferment produced when authority is tested and new ideas are demanded.


CHSS 40207: Human Rights and Humanitarianism in the Modern World
Instructor: Yan Slobodkin
Description: The related concepts of human rights and humanitarianism form the basis of contemporary ethical and political thought. Acting in the name of “humanity” is seen as unequivocally noble, and very few of us would ever claim to be anti-humanitarian or anti-human rights. Yet the moral consensus surrounding these terms obscures a contested and often disturbing history. Rather than uncritically accepting a triumphalist story of the progressive victory of human rights and humanitarianism, this course will explore how these concepts were constructed over time, paying special attention to how they were used in practice, what kind of rhetorical work they accomplished, and whose interests they served.

The course will consider the origins of modern concepts of humanity, rights, citizenship, and social responsibility during the enlightenment and trace how they developed over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries. We will study the role of human rights and humanitarianism in the transformative events and processes of modern history, including the rise of nation-states, the trans-Atlantic slave trade and its abolition, imperial expansion and decolonization, the world wars, and twentieth-century genocides. Students will leave the course with an understanding of how human rights and humanitarianism can be applied to their own research interests. 


CHSS 40208: Man and/as Machine
Instructor: Anastasia Klimchynskaya
Description: Recently, Amazon employees fighting for better working conditions united under the slogan “We are not robots!” Recalling Karl Capek’s R.U.R., which coined the word robot (from the Czech word for slave), the slogan suggests the importance of the machine as an object and a concept in relation to which human identity has been – and continues to be – defined. Throughout the history of human thought, the machine has existed as both something that we are like (for example, Descartes comparing the brain to a machine) but also as an opposite to humanity (as in the aforementioned slogan). This course will trace this tension between the machine as an ‘Other’ and as a metaphor for our human self from the early modern period to the present. Beginning with theoretical and philosophical writing on the importance of oppositions and binaries to human identity and language, it will trace the history of the idea of the machine as it relates to the human in texts by Rene Descartes, La Mettrie, Emile Zola, Karl Capek, Alan Turing, and Donna Haraway, among others. In addition to confronting the complexity and ambiguity of a concept that ubiquitously shapes our lives today, students in this course will also wrestle with broader humanistic questions regarding the nature of the Self, the boundaries between self and other, and the relationship between human identity and technology.


CHSS 45125: Seminar: Anthropology of the Body
Instructor: Pierre Sean Brotherton
Description: Drawing on a wide and interdisciplinary range of texts, both classic and more recent, this seminar will variously examine the theoretical debates of the body as a subject of anthropological, historical, psychological, medical and literary inquiry. The seminar will explore specific themes, for example, the persistence of the mind/body dualism, experiences of embodiment/alienation, phenomenology of the body, Foucauldian notions of bio-politics, biopower, queering the body, and the medicalized, gendered, and racialized body, among other salient themes.


CHSS 50755: Race/Capital/Extraction
Instructor: Ryan Jobson
Description: In the concluding chapters of Capital, Vol. 1, Karl Marx describes the origins of capitalism as an enterprise “written in the annals of mankind in letters of blood and fire.” This process that Marx christened as “so-called primitive accumulation” rests fundamentally on the extraction of raw materials through colonial regimes of enclosure and the brutal exploitation of racialized labor. Nonetheless, the relationship between race and capital is not sufficiently elaborated in Marx’s oeuvre. In turn, this course will reconsider Marxist concepts and categories through a critical evaluation of the analytical domains of “race,” “capital,” and “extraction.” Moreover, students will consider the extent to which these domains productively modify each other: Does capitalism as an economic system depend on race as its ideological substrate? Can race be understood as an extractive project founded the violent enslavement and mercantile transit of racialized laboring subjects? How are the production of race and the accumulation of capital transformed by extractive economies of fossil fuels and metallic ores? To this end, students will consult the writings of W.E.B. Du Bois, C.L.R. James, Claudia Jones, Walter Rodney, Sidney Mintz, Norman Girvan, Lloyd Best and Kari Polanyi Levitt.


CHSS 51947: Techno-Natures: Anthropology and Science Fiction
Instructor: Michael Fisch
Description: This graduate seminar explores science fiction narratives alongside anthropological theory and ethnographic practice in an attempt to develop novel theoretical and methodological interventions into questions concerning environment, governance, the body, and the relationship between humans and machines. In so doing the course aims to elaborate potential correspondences between anthropology and science fiction, with particular focus on re-conceptualizing nature in relation to post-apocalyptic narratives and crises of the Anthropocene. Following science fiction’s speculative process, the course encourages a mode of inquiry that is experimental in order to explore the ways in which science fiction might operate as ethnographic thought experiment while challenging received understandings of the nature of empirical evidence. Course material will include science fiction texts as well as films.


Offered in Spring 2020

CHSS 30928: Thinking the Present through the Past: Classic Works of History since 1750
Instructor: Lorraine Daston
Description: As proudly empirical as the sciences, as interpretive as the humanities, and as analytical as the social sciences, history as the pursuit of knowledge about the past resists classification. Because all history is written through the lens of the present, most works of history cease to be read after a generation, especially during the modern period, as the pace of change accelerated. In this seminar we will read some of the exceptions, including works by Kant, Tocqueville, Michelet, cCassirer, Huizinga, Lovejoy, and Frances Yates, to understand how powerful vision of the past can transcend its own present.


CHSS 32709: Introduction to Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics
Instructor: Thomas Pashby
Description: In this class we examine some of the conceptual problems associated with quantum mechanics. We will critically discuss some common interpretations of quantum mechanics, such as the Copenhagen interpretation, the many-worlds interpretation and Bohmian mechanics. We will also examine some implications of results in the foundations of quantum theory concerning non-locality, contextuality and realism. 


CHSS 32900: History of Statistics
Instructor: Stephen M. Stigler
Description: This course covers topics in the history of statistics, from the eleventh century to the middle of the twentieth century. We focus on the period from 1650 to 1950, with an emphasis on the mathematical developments in the theory of probability and how they came to be used in the sciences. Our goals are both to quantify uncertainty in observational data and to develop a conceptual framework for scientific theories. This course includes broad views of the development of the subject and closer looks at specific people and investigations, including reanalyses of historical data.


CHSS 53003: Explanation
Instructor: Thomas Pashby
Description: This course surveys recent work on explanation across philosophical disciplines. Beginning with classic accounts of scientific explanation we will proceed to consider recent work on mechanical explanation, mathematical explanation, causal explanation (particularly in the physical and social sciences), the relation between explanation and understanding, and metaphysical explanation (particularly the idea of explanation as ground). 


CHSS 55978: AdvRdgs in Technoscience
Instructor: Joseph Masco
Description: Advanced Readings