University of Pittsburgh

About Us

The Department of History and Philosophy of Science supports both a graduate and undergraduate program of study of science, its nature and fundamentals, its origins, and its place in modern politics, culture, and society. In the history of science, traditional and non-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. These include archival research, textual analysis, and re-enactment of experiments. 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.

Read about the origins of HPS at Pitt.

News & Events

  • Edouard Machery and David Danks (CMU, Philosophy) are organizing a workshop - “Bayes, the Mind, and the Brain” - on Bayesian models of cognition and neural processing. The workshop will take place at CMU, Baker Hall 154R, on December 12, 2014, 1:30-6:00pm. The participants are: Matteo Colombo (Tilburg), David Danks (CMU), Tai Sing Lee (CMU), and Richard Samuels (OSU). The number of places is limited. If you would like to attend this workshop, please contact Edouard Machery.
  • Nobel prize winning biologist, Dr. Philip Sharp, will present two lectures hosted by HPS and the Biological Sciences Departments. On Wednesday November 12th, Dr. Sharp will present on “Three Revolutions in Molecular Biology”. This will be followed by a lecture on Thursday November 13th, “The Biology of Non-coding RNAs”. See here for details.
  • On October 14, 2014, at an Interdisciplinary Workshop on Robustness, Sandra Mitchell received the medal of the Università Campus Bio-Medico di Roma. Here is a photo of the event.
  • The latest edition of Philosophy of Science includes an article by HPS graduate student Julia Bursten: "Microstructure without Essentialism: A New Perspective on Chemical Classification."
  • The Department of History and Philosophy of Science is pleased to offer a one or two term Mellon Post Doctoral Fellowship in the period August 30, 2015--April 30, 2016.
  • The department has just launched Instant HPS, a new YouTube channel for public information on history and philosophy of science. Visit the channel to view three short videos:
    Is your brain a computer? (Mazviita Chirimuuta, Trey Boone and Michal De Medonsa – content providers)
    Is race real? (Edouard Machery, Sandra Mitchell, and Haixin Dang – content providers)
    Einstein’s astonishing idea (John Norton and Elay Shech – content providers)
  • The First Pittsburgh/London Consortium Lecture will be held at 4pm September 3rd in the University Club, Conference Room A. Nicholas Shea (Philosophy, King’s College London) will speak on “Representations and Functions in Cognitive Science”. For further details see here.
  • The third Wesley C. Salmon Memorial Lecture will take place on Friday, September 12th at 3:30 pm, in 817R Cathedral of Learning. Clark Glymour (Philosophy, Carnegie Mellon University) will present the lecture, “Wes and Me, and Search” For abstract and further details see here.
  • Eric Hatleback and Yoichi Ishida have successfully defended their dissertations. Eric will take up a position as Research Associate Professor at the Pitt School of Information Sciences, and Yoichi will be an Assistant Professor in Philosophy at Ohio University, starting in the fall.
  • Congratulations to Greg Gandenberger and Elizabeth O’Neill who have both been awarded fellowships from the Dolores Zohrab Liebmann Fund to support their doctoral research. Only 13 fellowships were awarded nationally this year.
  • Achievements of HPS undergraduate and graduate students feature in Chancellor Nordenberg's July 2014 University Update.
  • Graduate student, Elay Shech, has an article forthcoming in Synthese, entitled "Scientific misrepresentation and guides to ontology: the need for representational code and contents”.
  • Congratulations to Julia Bursten, who has been awarded the 2014 HPS Teaching Excellence Award! A special mention goes to Julia's introduction of a student podcast project, which can be accessed here.