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 2021

CHSS 32000 - Introduction to Science Studies
Instructor: Adrian Johns
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 32012 - Technologies of Race Making
Instructor: Iris Clever
Description: This course considers the intersections between technology, science, and race. It explores how technologies have been developed and used to assign racial meaning to people’s identities and bodies and how this has impacted economic, political, and social power structures. We will read studies relating to historical and present-day technologies and discuss topics such as racial science, phrenology, biometry, surveillance and policing, artificial intelligence and automation, and data production and reuse. A major theme that runs through the course is the practice of race-making, how biological race is enacted and made relevant in specific technological practices. Which assumptions and expectations about human variation are built into the technologies? What are the effects of its use in practice? How does race making configure into more durable forms, such as standards, databanks, and protocols? This class will be bi-modal, with in class and online options.


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 37402 - History and Philosophy of Biology
Instructor: Robert J. Richards
Description: This lecture-discussion course will consider the main figures in the history of biology, from the Hippocratics and Aristotle to Darwin and Mendel. The philosophic issues will be the kinds of explanations appropriate to biology versus the other physical sciences, the status of teleological considerations, and the moral consequences for human beings.


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 43207 - Climate change, history and Social Theory
Instructors: Neil Brenner and Fredrik Albritton Jonsson 
Description: This course considers some of the major approaches to climate change, history and social theory that have been elaborated in contemporary scholarship. The course is framed with reference to the analysis of major socioenvironmental transformations at planetary, regional and local scales during the last four centuries of global capitalist development, through historical case studies from major world regions and imperial configurations and their present-day legacies. Key topics include the environmental subtexts/contexts of classical and contemporary social theory and historiography; the histories and geographies of environmental crises under capitalism; the conceptualization of “nature” and the “non-human” in relation to societal (and industrial) dynamics; the role of capitalism and fossil capital in the production of “metabolic rifts”; the impact of earth system science on history and social theory, including in relation to questions of periodization and associated debates on the “Anthropocene,” the “Capitalocene” and the “Plantationocene”; the interplay between urbanization, rural dispossession and climate emergencies; the uneven sociopolitical geographies of risk, vulnerability and disaster; the (geo)politics of decarbonization; insurgent struggles for climate justice; and possible post-carbon futures. 


Winter 2022

CHSS 31404 : Britain in the Age of Steam 1783–1914
Instructor: Fredrik Albritton Jonsson
Descritption: In the Victorian era, Britain rose to global dominance by pioneering a new fossil-fuel economy. This course explores the profound impact of coal and steam on every aspect of Victorian society, from politics and religion to industrial capitalism and the pursuit of empire. Such historical investigation also serves a second purpose by helping us see our own fossil-fuel economy with fresh eyes through direct comparison with Victorian energy use. Assignments include short essays based on energy "field work" and explorations in past and present material culture.


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 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 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 figures considered are Gibbon, Kant, Humboldt, Ranke, Collingwood, Acton, Fraudel, Furet, Hempel, Danto.


CHSS 36054 - SIFK MAPSS Core: Ways of Knowing
Instructor: Katherine Buse & Isabel Gabel
Description: This seminar introduces students to the processes of knowledge  formation that shape our understandings of nature, our theories of social life, and our projections of possible futures. “Ways of Knowing” 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 we decide what we know and don’t know? How have societies produced, stabilized, or disrupted knowledge? How do techniques of inscription, observation and mediation—like seismographs, experiments, and simulations—allow us to see what we know and to know what we see? The course will take an expansive approach to knowledge formation by considering the interface of epistemology, social theory, technology, and governance. 

"Ways of Knowing" is a required seminar for all students wishing to undertake the Formation of Knowledge MAPSS track. This course fulfills the elective requirement for a new MAPSS concentration on the Formation of Knowledge https://sifk.uchicago.edu/mapss/.


CHSS 36701 - Knowing Animals
Instructor: Brad Bolman
Description: “What is an animal, and are we them?” In “Knowing Animals,” we will approach this deceptively simple question from multiple angles, exploring the diverse ways that humans come to know and differentiate themselves from other animals and the implications of that labor. How can we understand and write about the lived experience of a bat, an octopus, or a hawk? Who decides which species are essential to experimental science, and which are simply edible? Why do we buy canine pharmaceuticals or construct tiger preserves in Oklahoma? The course will explore how hunting, eating, petkeeping, labor, experimentation, and cohabitation with animals contribute to the formation of knowledge. We will draw on scholarship in history, cultural anthropology, philosophy, and critical theory, as well as novels and films in order to do so. The course is meant to serve in part as an introduction to the topics and methods of animal history and animal studies, so we will read foundational texts as well as recent scholarship on the intersections of animality, capital, disability, gender, and race. Students will leave with core competencies in the field as well as—hopefully—a deeper sense of what it means to be human.


CHSS 36088 - The Scientist in the Nineteenth-Century Imagination
Instructor: Anastasia Klimchynskaya
Description: The nineteenth century saw both the professionalization of science and the specialization of its practitioners. In this age of “human empire” produced by industrialization, new technologies offered humanity unprecedented dominion over the natural world, and the “scientist,” a term coined in 1834, marked the advent of the idea of a vocation dedicated to that mastery. Moreover, by the end of the century, the natural philosophers and polymaths of earlier ages had given way to chemists, physicists, biologists, and statisticians, whose scope of study was necessarily both deeper and narrower. These developments produced a new social and political positioning for the scientist – an expert, an authority, a wielder of power. This class explores how nineteenth-century fiction writers, from Mary Shelley and Edgar Allan Poe to Jules Verne and Arthur Conan Doyle, engaged with these emerging and transforming conceptualizations of the scientist figure. We will pair our literary explorations with non-fiction readings texts by thinkers and scientists such as Humphry Davy, Karl Pearson, Claude Bernard, William Whewell, and Max Weber (“Science as Vocation”) about what the scientist should be and science should do. Additionally, we’ll consider how this literary genealogy influences both our fictional portrayal of science to this day as well as our perceptions of it – from our contemporary distrust of expertise to our fear of the scientist playing god.


CHSS 38003 - Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit
Instructor: Robert Pippin
Description: Our goal in this course will be to read through and understand the most important chapters of Hegel’s revolutionary book. Main topics will include Hegel’s new conception of philosophy and philosophical methodology, his agreements and disagreements with Kant, the nature of self-consciousness and human mindedness in general, individuality and sociality, and the relation between philosophy and history.


CHSS 41920 - The Evolution of Language
Instructor: Salikoko Mufwene
Description: This course is designed to review critically some of the literature on the phylogenetic emergence of Language, in order to determine which questions have been central to the subject matter, which ones have recurred the most, and to what extent the answers to these are now better informed. The class will also review new questions such as the following: What is the probable time of the emergence of modern language(s)? Should we speak of the emergence of Language or of languages, in the plural?


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
Instrcutor: 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 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 Sylvia Wynter, W.E.B. Du Bois, C.L.R. James, Claudia Jones, Walter Rodney, and Octavia Butler.


CHSS 53506 - Non-Deductive Inference
Instructor: Kevin Davey
Description: This course will examine modern non-Bayesian ways of understanding non-deductive inference. Topics include the problem of induction, Pierce’s theory of abduction, inference to the best explanation, and the general connection between explanation and non-deductive inference. (III)


CHSS 57200 - Colloquium: Infrastructure in History—Theory, Materiality, and Power
Instructor: Elizabeth Chatterjee
Desceiption: Dams, sewers, railroads, water pipes, power lines, barbed wire, and garbage dumps: long treated as virtually invisible, the study of infrastructure has exploded in recent years. This colloquium will explore different theoretical and methodological approaches to the history of infrastructure. What are the best methodological tools for studying the history of large technological systems? What is the relationship of infrastructure with capitalism, settler and liberal colonialism, and postcolonial development? How should we theorize and write about nonhuman agency, especially in an age of ecological crisis? While reading and critiquing recent historical classics, we will also venture across interdisciplinary boundaries to examine innovative approaches arising out of science and technology studies, anthropology, urban geography, and the environmental humanities.


Spring 2022

SCTH 30961 - The Values of Attention
Instructor: Lorraine Daston
Description: Attention confers value – aesthetic, moral, epistemic, and now monetary value – upon whatever it singles out from the stream of experience. This seminar explores the long history of the theories and practices of attention in philosophy, religion, science, psychology, and the arts. Guiding questions include what objects are deemed worthy of attention and why, extreme states of attention such as religious contemplation or scientific observation, the schooling of attention through practices such as reading and web-surfing, theories of how attention works, and pathologies of attention.


CHSS 33519 : The Arts of Number in the Middle Ages: The Quadrivium
Instructor: Rachel Fulton Brown
Description: Alongside the arts of language (grammar, rhetoric, and logic), medieval students would encounter the arts of number: arithmetic, the study of pure number; geometry, number in space; music, number in time; and astronomy, number in space and time (in Stratford Caldecott's formulation). In this course, we will be following this medieval curriculum insofar as we are able through some of its primary texts, many only recently translated, so as to come to a better appreciation of the way in which the study of these arts affected the development of the medieval European intellectual, scientific, and artistic tradition. This is a companion course to "The Arts of Language in the Middle Ages: The Trivium," but the two courses may be taken in either order.


CHSS 35415 - History of Information
Instructor: Adrian Johns
Description: Everybody knows that ours in an information age. No previous generation ever enjoyed access to the mass of material made available by Google, iTunes, Amazon, and the like. At the same time, however, no previous generation ever had its reading, listening, and traveling so thoroughly tracked, recorded, data-mined, and commercialized. Information thus shapes our culture for both good and ill, and it is up to us to understand how. This course provides students with the materials to do that. It ranges across centuries to trace how information has been created, circulated, and controlled. In short, it tells us how our information age came into being, and why it has generated the issues with which it now confronts us.


CHSS 56900 - Colloquium: The Scientific Image—Formalism, Abstraction, and Realism
Instructor: Michael Rossi
Description: This course explores the broad field of scientific image-making, focusing in particular on problems of formalism, abstraction, and realism. What makes a "good" scientific image? What kind of work do scientific images do? What philosophical, ideological, and political constraints underwrite attempts to render the complexity of events and entities in the world in stylized visual vocabularies? And how might we approach the work of aesthetics and style in image-making? We will examine these questions through a survey of several contemporary scholarly frameworks used for thinking about problems of representation in scientific practice and will attend to such image-making practices as graphing, diagramming, modeling, doodling, illustrating, sculpting, and photographing, among other methods.