History and Philosophy of Science (HPS)

History and Philosophy of Science (HPS) uses the tools and methods of the humanities (especially history and philosophy) to study the sciences understood as human endeavors. This includes historical evolution and context; conceptual foundations and puzzles; theories, methods, and claims to knowledge; institutions, material practices, and social structures, past and present.

Duke HPS incorporates science, technology, engineering, medicine, and mathematics. We promote universal ownership of the sciences as shared cultural inheritance through encouragement and support of HPS in research and in teaching across the academy.

Upcoming Events

Philosophy Colloquium: Sarah Hutton on Emillie du Châtelet’ and James Jurin

sarahDate: Friday, November 15

Time: 3:30 PM

Location: West Duke 202

Title: Emilie du Châtelet and James Jurin: the context and fortunes of their brief correspondence


Abstract: In this paper I discuss Madame Du Châtelet’s critique of James Jurin (1684-1750) fellow of the Royal Society, London, of which he had served as secretary between 1722-1727. Their letter exchange was sparked by Du Châtelet’s critique of Jurin’s position on forces vives  (living forces) in her Institutions physiques. It drew a response from Jurin (now lost), to which she replied. It also figures in her dispute with Dourtous de Mairan, and was printed in Italy in 1747. I shall review Du Châtelet’s arguments and set the correspondence with Jurin in context in order to shed light on Du Châtelet’s standing in scientific circles of her time.

CISSCT Workshop "The Anthropocene, The Technosphere, and Energy Use

Date: Monday, December 9, 2019

Time: 11:30 AM - 2:00 PM

Location: Allen 314

Duke’s Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Science and Cultural Theory (CISSCT) is sponsoring a workshop on “The Anthropocene, The Technosphere, and Energy Use.” The workshop will be held on , from 11:30 a.m. -2 p.m., in the Allen Building (Room 314). The workshop will focus on Peter Haff’s concept of the “technosphere,” and his recent—perhaps counterintuitive—suggestion that addressing the dilemmas of climate change may involve finding ways to use more, rather than less, energy. Participants are asked to read two short pieces before the workshop: Peter Haff’s “The Technosphere and its physical stratigraphic record" (2019), and a short selection from N. Kate Hayle’s Unthought: The Power of the Cognitive Nonconscious (2017) (which links the question of energy to that of information). Pdfs of these readings (as well as several other short optional readings) will be sent to workshop participants.
The workshop will begin with short statements by Peter Haff (Emeritus, Nicholas School of the Environment), Mark Hansen (Literature), and Rob Mitchell (English), and the rest of the workshop will be devoted to discussion among all participants. Boxed lunches will be provided. So that we can order the correct number and kind of lunches, and to keep the group small enough to enable conversation (i.e., maximum 25 people), we ask that you register at the following site if you are interested in participating: https://forms.gle/rVWhRZaLdTKgtuRXA
If you have any questions about this event, please contact Carolin Benack at carolin.benack@duke.edu