The KNOW core seminars for graduate students are offered by the faculty of the Stevanovich Institute on the Formation of Knowledge.  This two-quarter sequence provides a general introduction, followed by specific case studies, to the study of the formation of knowledge.  Each course will explore 2-3 case study topics, and each case study will be team-taught within a “module.” A short research paper is required at the end of each quarter.  Graduate students from every field are welcome. Those who take both quarters are eligible to apply for a SIFK 6th-year graduate fellowship. For more information, please email your questions to

Winter 2016

KNOW 40200: Case Studies on the Formation of Knowledge - I

Tuesdays & Thursdays, 12:00 - 1:20
CHSS 40200, CLAS 41616, CMLT 41802, HIST 40200, PLSC 40202, SCTH 40200, SOCI 40209

Module 1: Approaches to Knowledge
Shadi Bartsch, Jack Gilbert
The goal of this module is to identify central issues or debates in the theory of knowledge over the past century.  Students will be introduced to basic issues in the sociology of knowledge, to the arguments for and against constructivist perspectives on knowledge, and to 21st century scientific standards for knowledge production.  The course should provide students with a vocabulary and conceptual tools with which they argue about these issues and reflect upon the very conceptual tools they are using.

Module 2 : Democratic Knowledge
Shadi Bartsch, Will Howell
This module offers a variation on studies of the epistemic powers of democracy.  Instead of asking questions such as how effective democracies are at gathering the knowledge they need to function, the module looks at what forms of knowledge democracies need to assume—for example, the validity of decisions taken by the many—in order to justify their own existence as a (“superior”) form of government.  

Module 3 : Progress and Backwardness
Clifford Ando, Jennifer Pitts
Developmental thinking has been central to the European study of society since the early modern period. In the wake of the encounter with the New World and increasing global commercial and imperial connections, the concepts of civilization and progress have been twinned with accounts of savagery, barbarism, and backwardness. Much of modern social science originated in efforts beginning in the late 19th century to understand what had made western Europe’s path of economic development unique. This unit explores theories of progress and modernization from Scottish Enlightenment stadial theories through liberal and Marxist developmental accounts in the 19th century, to modernization theories in the 20th.


Spring 2016

KNOW 40300: Case Studies on the Formation of Knowledge - II
Tuesdays & Thursdays, 1:30 - 2:50

CHSS 40300, CMLT 41803,  EALC 50300, HIST 40201, SOCI 40210

Module 1 : Foundations of Psychology in Linguistics and Biology Robert Richards, John Goldsmith
This module will examine the ways several established disciplines, particularly linguistics and biology, came together in the mid-19th century to establish the science of psychology.  Both linguistics and biology offered empirical and theoretical avenues into the study of mind. 
Researchers in each advanced their considerations either in complementary or oppositional fashion.

Module 2 : Origins of the Social Construction of Knowledge
Robert Richards, Alison Winter
This module will trace the development of the idea of the social construction of knowledge and its relation to philosophy and history of science.  The development lit a spark, then created a conflagration, and yet still smolders.

Module 3 : The Politics of Philosophical Knowledge
Haun Saussy, Andreas Glaeser
The Politics/Philosophy module has to do with the emergence of theories of “schools of thought” in the context of political change. The two examples to be examined are Plato’s criticism of the Sophists and Sima Qian’s account of the Warring States intellectual landscape, terminated by the consolidation of the Empire.