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Department of

History and Philosophy of Science   

Undergraduate Program


HPS Honors

Requirements for the Major

Undergraduate Course Offerings

Certificate in Conceptual Foundations of Medicine

University of Pittsburgh Summer Sessions

by Antony van Leeuwenhoek
originally published in
Philosophical Transactions, 1678-9

The study of the history and philosophy of science affords a broad appreciation of science, its nature and fundamentals, its origins and its place in modern politics, culture, and society. In the history of science, traditional historical methods are used to develop an understanding of how the sciences originated, how they were practiced, how they developed, and how they related to their intellectual and social contexts. In philosophy of science, the sciences themselves are brought under philosophical scrutiny. We investigate the nature of science in general; what distinguishes scientific activity; how theories explain; how they are confirmed; whether they should be read literally; and the moral dilemmas raised by the sciences. We also investigate the fundamental content of individual sciences, and how it bears on the ancient philosophical questions: what is the nature of space, time, and matter; what is life; and what is thought. History and philosophy of science is distinctive in integrating these two areas of study, with investigations in each area often closely interwoven.

The Department of History and Philosophy of Science (HPS) at Pitt is a world leader in its field. Historians and philosophers of science worldwide come to Pitt for study and research. The undergraduate courses reflect the conviction that science and technology pervade every aspect of our lives, and have played a central role in cultural, religious, and philosophical development of our society.

A major in HPS is an excellent choice for students who wish to combine coursework in the sciences with work in more humanistically inclined disciplines. Because HPS majors are expected to complete fifteen hours of science credits, a double major in HPS and one of the sciences is especially attractive.