Recent Courses

HPS 0612: Mind and Medicine

This course is designed as an introduction to the philosophical issues that exist at the intersection of psychology and medicine. Among others, we will examine the following questions: What does it mean to be healthy? Can one define health and sickness purely objectively? Should human medical judgments (e.g., clinicians’ judgments) be replaced by purely automatic, computerized procedures? What is the nature of medical expertise? Are medical judgments influenced by various biases and can these biases be overcome? Are psychiatric disorders real? How should scientists explain psychiatric disorders? How much do we learn about them by studying animals (e.g., rats)? Can evolutionary biology be useful to psychiatry? The goal of this class is to provide students with a critical understanding of these philosophical issues. Previous knowledge of biology, psychology, and medicine is not needed for this class. Key notions and theories in these fields will be introduced progressively.

Prerequisites: There are no formal prerequisites for this course. This course is part of a core sequence leading to certification in the Conceptual Foundations of Medicine Program, and is a companion course to HPS 0613 (Morality and Medicine) but may be taken independently. This course is of particular interest to pre-medical and pre-health care students. Recitation: One hour a week.


HPS 1653: Introduction to Philosophy of Science 

This course will provide a broad survey of a number of important issues in philosophy of science. Topics will include the distinction between science and other forms of human knowledge, the nature of scientific theories, theories of scientific method, the growth of scientific knowledge over time, the ways in which scientific claims are tested and supported by evidence, and the sense, if any, in which science provides explanation or understanding.


HPS 1702: Junior/Senior Seminar: Empirical Foundations of Ethics.

This course will explore a number of empirical issues that underlie various philosophical approaches to ethics and political philosophy. The guiding theme will be that various traditional philosophical theories of right and wrong - theories associated with philosophers like Hobbes, Hume, Kant, Locke, and Rawls - have empirical presuppositions that are rarely clearly articulated or systematically assessed. Doing so can help us to choose among competing moral theories. Among the issues we will consider are the following: What is the role of self-interest in human behavior? Do people sometimes behave altruistically and if so, under what circumstances? If people have altruistic preferences, what form do they take? To what extent are people willing to share resources and to co-operate? When they do so, does this reflect a concern for fairness or just sophisticated self-interest? When people do behave fairly, do philosophical theories of justice and fairness accurately describe how they behave? Under what conditions, if any, could non –self-interested behavior evolve? What roles do reasoning and the emotions play in moral decisions and behavior? What role do sympathy and empathy play? What role do anger and indignation play? What is known about the neural structures that underlie moral judgment and behavior? What are the implications of such neurobiological for the assessment of traditional moral theories? We will use readings from philosophy, psychology, neurobiology, evolutionary biology, and economics to explore these questions. This course is for only HPS Majors in their Junior or Senior Year.