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The history and philosophy of science (HPS) is an academic discipline that encompasses the philosophy of science and the history of science. Although many scholars in the field are trained primarily as either historians or as philosophers, there are degree-granting departments of HPS at several prominent universities (see below).


A Unified Discipline

While it may seem an umbrella term, as described above, people in the branch of HPS consider this fusion of history of science with philosophy of science to be perfectly natural. Others see it as a historical anachronism, resulting from the misguided approach of the logical positivists. The origin of this hybrid approach is reflected in the career of Thomas Kuhn. His first permanent appointment, at the University of California, Berkeley, was to a position advertised by the philosophy department, but he also taught courses from the history department. When he was promoted to full professor in the history department only, Kuhn was offended at the philosophers' rejection because "I sure as hell wanted to be there, and it was my philosophy students who were working with me, not on philosophy but on history, were nevertheless my more important students"[1]. This attitude is also reflected in his historicist approach, as outlined in Kuhn's seminal Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962, 2nd ed. 1970), wherein philosophical questions about scientific theories and, especially, theory change are understood in historical terms, employing concepts such as paradigm shift.

"History of science without philosophy of science is blind ... philosophy of science without history of science is empty"

History and development

More recently the sociology of science and technology studies have become popular topics and a few HPS departments have become Science Studies departments, e.g., the School of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of New South Wales was known as the School of Science and Technology Studies (STS) from the mid-1980s until 2001. For this reason it can be argued that the fields are identical and that the difference is only one of emphasis. While it may seem that STS is a broader concept, leaving room for other approaches to science such as sociology of science, HPS departments are not usually as exclusive as a literal interpretation of the name might imply.

HPS Programs

The following universities have departments dedicated to the History and Philosophy of Science:


The following universities offer degrees in HPS through other departments:

The following universities offer inter-departmental programs in HPS:


Similar Programs

Many universities also have history of science programs, which do not include any philosophy of science. Others may provide a philosophy of science track within normal philosophy departments. Often these departments are named to clarify this emphasis on philosophy of science:

Those departments that study aspects of science apart from history and philosophy often prefer more general descriptions such as Science studies or Science and Technology Studies:


  1. ^ "A Discussion with Thomas S. Kuhn" in The Road Since Structure, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000, p. 302.
  2. ^ A recasting of Kant's quotation: "Thoughts without content are empty, intuitions without concepts are blind." Norwood Russell Hanson, "The Irrelevance of History of Science to Philosophy of Science," The Journal of Philosophy, 59 (1962): 574-586, at p. 580.

See also


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