The Committee on the Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science
The Committee on the Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science (CHSS)
is an interdepartmental graduate program at the University of Chicago
that offers students the opportunity to work toward the A.M. and Ph.D.
degrees in areas concerned with the foundations, history, and philosophy
of science. Its faculty are drawn from numerous departments within the
University. Though faculty interests range broadly, CHSS has particular
strength in the history and philosophy of physics, astronomy, evolutionary
biology, psychology, and anthropology. CHSS differs from other programs
in the history and philosophy of science in its emphasis on the importance
of training within science proper.
What follows is a brief description of the committees degree requirements and a representative list of courses that have been taught in recent years (not all in any one year). For more complete information, please see the website at http://humanities.uchicago.edu/humanities/chss. It contains a description of faculty research interests, a complete statement of degree requirements, descriptions of individual courses being taught this year, a calendar of special events (including meetings of the CHSS/Fishbein Workshop in the History and Philosophy of Science), a list of students who have received Ph.D.s from the committee with the titles of their dissertations, and more. Those with questions about CHSS should write to the Secretary, The Committee on Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science, The University of Chicago, 1126 East 59th Street, Chicago, IL 60637, or telephone (773) 702 -8261.
Applicants will be expected to submit undergraduate transcripts, scores from the general Graduate Record Examination, three letters of recommendation, short descriptions of their interests and/or reasons for wanting to study in CHSS, and a writing sample. If possible, the writing sample should deal with some topic in the history or philosophy of science.
Every new student in CHSS is assigned an advisor by the chair of the committee with whom he or she designs an individual program of study. Because the interests of students within CHSS vary widely, so do these programs, but all students must satisfy the following degree requirements.
If a student enters the program without an appropriate masters degree, he or she must earn the degree at the University or, at least, convince the committee that he or she has completed an equivalent course of study here. On arrival, the student should consult with the department in question, and with his or her CHSS advisor, to determine exactly what is required for the degree (or what would be considered a proper equivalent). If a student enters the program with a masters degree in an appropriate area, the committee will determine what level of credit is to be given for it, and may decide that some further work is necessary.
Students must choose one of the following options:
All students must complete a total of at least eighteen courses at the
University for a grade of B or better, including at least
seven CHSS courses.
Foreign Language Requirement
Students must receive a high pass in a foreign language exam administered by the University. They are strongly advised to do so as early as possible in their first year. They must do so by the end of their second year.
Examinations in the History and Philosophy of Science
Students must pass oral examinations in the history of science and in the philosophy of science that are, in part, designed by the students themselves. Each lasts approximately two hours. The order in which the exams are taken does not matter. In the case of each exam, the process begins when the student proposes to the chair two faculty members to serve as an exam committee. At least one of the two must be a member of CHSS. The committees for the two exams may overlap, but they must not be identical. If the chair of CHSS approves, and the two members agree to serve, the student will then work with the committee to develop a reading list and a list of questions based on it. The reading list will normally have two partsone general, and one more narrowly focused on a topic or topics of particular interest to the student. The reading list and the questions must be approved by the members of the exam committee. The exam itself will be based on the reading list, and will incorporate some of the proposed questions, but need not be limited to the latter. (The secretary of CHSS should be given a copy of the students approved reading list and questions for inclusion in his or her file.) The student arranges the exact day and time of the exam in consultation with the members of the exam committee.
After all of the above requirements have been satisfied, a student may form a dissertation committee. These normally consist of three faculty members, with one designated as the chair. At least two members of the committee, one of them the chair, must be members of CHSS. The student chooses the committee, subject to the approval of the chair of CHSS and the agreement of the faculty involved. Once the committee has been formed, the student will work with its members to develop a dissertation proposal and will defend it in a proposal hearing when the committee thinks the student ready. If the proposal is approved at the hearing, the student will be considered to have advanced to Ph.D. candidacy. Once the student submits a completed dissertation, and the chair of the dissertation committee secures agreement from all members that it is ready to be defended, a dissertation defense may be scheduled. The faculty present at the defense make the final decision on whether to accept the dissertation.
This text was last revised on 9/03/2003.