Contemporary Approaches in HPS

Subject HPSC40016 (2016)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2016.

Credit Points: 12.5
Level: 4 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2016:

Semester 1, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period 29-Feb-2016 to 29-May-2016
Assessment Period End 24-Jun-2016
Last date to Self-Enrol 11-Mar-2016
Census Date 31-Mar-2016
Last date to Withdraw without fail 06-May-2016

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 24 hours - 1 x 2 hour seminar each week for 12 weeks
Total Time Commitment:

170 hours


Admission to fourth year Honours or the Graduate Diploma (advanced) in the discipline of History and the Philosophy of Science

Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge: None
Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the Disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Student Support and Engagement Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Overview, Learning Outcomes, Assessment and Generic Skills sections of this entry.

It is University policy to take all reasonable steps to minimise the impact of disability upon academic study, and reasonable adjustments will be made to enhance a student's participation in the University's programs. Students who feel their disability may impact on meeting the requirements of this subject are encouraged to discuss this matter with a Faculty Student Adviser and Student Equity and Disability Support:


Dr Kristian Camilleri



Subject Overview:

In the opening sentence of his landmark work The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn proclaimed, "history of science ... could produce a decisive transformation in the image of science by which we are now possessed". Kuhn's vision of a historically informed philosophy of science inspired a number of new approaches in the 1970s. But it also met with considerable resistance from both historians and philosophers of science, who saw little value in crossing established disciplinary boundaries. Yet the last few years has witnessed a resurgence of interest in integrated approaches to HPS. Many of these approaches draw inspiration from the work of earlier thinkers such as Ludwik Fleck, and the French tradition of historical epistemology associated with Gaston Bachelard and Georges Canguilhem. In this subject, we examine these new approaches, as well as the work of earlier thinkers, in providing an overview of current directions in historical epistemology. Cases studies include the chemical revolution, the historical development of the concept of temperature, and the rise of statistical reasoning in the nineteenth century. We will also look at topics such as concept of thought styles, the role of metaphors in science, and the history of scientific observation.

Learning Outcomes:

Students who successfully complete this subject will:

  • possess a critical understanding of some of the major themes in HPS;
  • become familiar with a range of different historiographical and philosophical approaches to the understanding of the dynamics of scientific change;
  • develop the ability to engage in critical analysis of important texts;
  • develop a critical perspective on recent attempts to develop a 'big picture' of the sciences;
  • gain the necessary critical acumen and relevant knowledge to be able to engage in contemporary debates in the history and philosophy of science;
  • develop an ability to conduct independent critical research at fourth year Honours level.
  • Three seminar papers of 800 words, to be submitted during the semester on dates to be determined (15% each)
  • A research essay of 2600 words, due during the end of semester examination period (55%)

Hurdle requirement:

  • Students must attend a minimum of 75% of classes in order to pass this subject.
  • All pieces of written work must be submitted to pass this subject.

Note: Assessment submitted late without an approved extension will be penalised at 10% per day. After five days late assessment will not be marked. In-class tasks missed without approval will not be marked.

Prescribed Texts:

The coordinator will advise students of any required texts.

Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:

Students who successfully complete this subject will

  • develop skills in written communication;
  • conduct independent research;
  • make appropriate use of primary and secondary sources in mounting an argument;
  • develop skills in synthesizing and analysing literature relevant to a specific discipline or topic;
  • form defensible judgements based on a critical evaluation of conflicting arguments.
Links to further information:
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: Graduate Certificate in Arts (Advanced) - History and Philosophy of Science
Graduate Certificate in Arts - History and Philosophy of Science
Graduate Diploma in Arts (Advanced) - History and Philosophy of Science
Graduate Diploma in Arts - History and Philosophy of Science
History and Philosophy of Science
MA (AS&&ST) History and Philosophy of Science
PC-ARTS History and Philosophy of Science
PD-ARTS History and Philosophy of Science

Download PDF version.