Course Identification

History and Philosophy of science

Lecturers and Teaching Assistants

Dr. Anat Leibler
Yael Oran

Course Schedule and Location

Second Semester
Thursday, 16:15 - 18:00, FGS, Rm 2

Field of Study, Course Type and Credit Points

Life Sciences: Lecture; Elective; 2.00 points
Life Sciences (Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience Track): Lecture; Elective; 2.00 points
Life Sciences (Brain Sciences: Systems, Computational and Cognitive Neuroscience Track): Lecture; Elective; 2.00 points
Life Sciences (Computational and Systems Biology Track): Lecture; Elective; 2.00 points







Language of Instruction


Attendance and participation


Grade Type

Numerical (out of 100)

Grade Breakdown (in %)


Evaluation Type

Take-home exam

Scheduled date 1


Estimated Weekly Independent Workload (in hours)



The purpose of this course is to introduce students to some of the fundamental issues that animate contemporary studies of science. To this end, we look at traditional approaches to the history and the philosophy of science that predated the seminal work of Thomas Kuhn. We consider how Kuhn’s writings reformulated questions dealing with the significance of social factors in scientific work and in the production of scientific knowledge. Then we will follow new developments in studies of science that address themes as truth and objectivity, power and interests, controversies, laboratory studies, scientific consensus, scientific credibility, and boundaries of science. Reading’s emphasis is primarily on the life sciences and medicine.


·     Attendance 

·     Weekly Reading 

·     Seminar presentation 

·     Take-home exam 

Grade breakdown: 

·     Take-home exam: 80%

  • Section attendance, classpresentations and participation - 20%.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course students should be able to:

  1. Manifest familiarity with key issues and debates in history and philosophy of science;
  2. Develop a critical stance and contextual thinking toward scientific theories and practices.

Reading List

Tentative Reading List


Cutcliffe, Stephen H. "The historical emergence of STS as an academic field in the United States."  (2002): 281-292 

Sismondo, Sergio. "Science and technology studies as an engaged program." The handbook of science and technology studies 3 (2008): 13-32.

Symmetry in scientific controversies

Bloor, David. Knowledge and Social Imagery. 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, [1976] 1991, pp. 3-23, 46-54 (chapters 1 and 3).

Scientific Revolutions

Kuhn, Thomas S. The structure of scientific revolutions. University of Chicago Press, 2012.

Scientific credibility

Shapin, Steven, Simon Schaffer. Leviathan and the air-pump. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1985

What about the natural sciences?

Hacking, Ian, and Jan Hacking. The social construction of what?. Chapter 3, pp. 63-99. Harvard university press, 1999.

And what about genetics?

Kohler, Robert E. Lords of the fly: Drosophila genetics and the experimental life. University of Chicago Press, 1994

And what about genetics? #2

Fujimura, Joan H. Crafting science: A sociohistory of the quest for the genetics of cancer. Harvard University Press, 1996  

Clarke, Adele E., and Joan H. Fujimura, eds. The right tools for the job: At work in twentieth-century life sciences. Vol. 149. Princeton University Press, 2014

Scientific consensus on climate change

Oreskes, Naomi. "The scientific consensus on climate change." Science 306.5702 (2004): 1686-1686.

Latour, Bruno. "Why has critique run out of steam? From matters of fact to matters of concern." Critical inquiry 30.2 (2004): 225-248.

Local knowledge

Jasanoff, Sheila. Designs on nature: Science and democracy in Europe and the United States. Princeton University Press, 2011

10. Knowledge and activism

Epstein, Steven. Impure science: AIDS, activism, and the politics of knowledge. Vol. 7. University of California Press, 1996

Cultures of objectivity

Theodore M. Porter, Trust in Numbers: The Pursuit of Objectivity in Science and Public Life (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995), 

Biographies of scientific objects:

Daston, Lorraine, ed. Biographies of scientific objects. University of Chicago Press, 2000.