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History and Philosophy of Science

History and Philosophy of Science

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About the HPS Program

“All our knowledge begins with the senses, proceeds then to the understanding, and ends with reason. There is nothing higher than reason.”
–Immanuel Kant.

History and Philosophy of Science (HPS) is an interdisciplinary undergraduate program in the CWRU College of Arts and Sciences leading to the B.A. degree. The program seeks to understand the nature and historical development of science and related disciplines (technology, medicine, and mathematics). Science can be studied as a relatively self-contained system of ideas and practices with its own characteristic history, or as an outgrowth of social, cultural, economic, and political influences; both approaches are represented in this program. Science is arguably the most powerful and consequential of all human enterprises, and it behooves us to ponder it through humanistic methods. In this sense, the HPS program at CWRU provides the ideal bridge between the humanistic and the scientific worlds.

HPS embraces resources from the college’s Departments of History and Philosophy, and includes curricular options for both majors and minors. The program is ideal for science students who wish to understand their subject in historical and philosophical ways; for students in the humanities and social sciences whose interest in science is more philosophical or historical; for pre-med students who want to explore a variety of history that allows them to study material that is related to medicine; and for engineering students to provide a valuable new perspective on their discipline. Program faculty have a tradition of advising students closely and often very informally. Classes are small and lively. A truly interdisciplinary group, HPS faculty maintain cooperative and collegial relationships with scholars in many other departments on campus, including the science, math, and engineering departments.

CWRU offers rich resources for the study of history and philosophy of science. Collections in the university’s libraries date back to the founding of Western Reserve College in 1826. Acquisitions of historical materials in science have been emphasized since the graduate program in this field began in 1961, and now constitute a particularly strong part of the university library’s holdings. The Cleveland Health Sciences Library, located on the CWRU campus, has one of the country’s largest and most valuable collections of books and serials in the history of medicine, public health, and the biological sciences. The Dittrick Medical History Center, also on campus, is one of the richest such facilities in the country, including a museum, archives, and fine rare book collection. The Western Reserve Historical Society, adjacent to the university, also has a superb library containing many manuscript collections as well as published materials, and the Cleveland Public Library has the third largest research collection of any city library in the nation.