KNOW courses are offered by the faculty of the Stevanovich Institute on the Formation of Knowledge at both the graduate and the advanced undergraduate levels.
For graduate students, we offer a number of cross-listed seminars as well as an annual core sequence in topics in the formation of knowledge (KNOW 401, 402, 403). These seminars will be team-taught by faculty from different departments or schools and are open to all graduate students regardless of field of study. Graduate students who enroll in two quarters of this sequence are eligible to apply for the SIFK Dissertation Research Fellowships.
For undergraduate students, we offer courses cross-listed in departments and schools across the University, as well as unique courses taught by SIFK's Postdoctoral Scholars. To browse courses, search by department, quarter, academic year, or type in a keyword that interests you. In addition, SIFK will launch the Experimental Capstone (XCAP) in 2018-19, team-taught courses for fourth-year undergraduate students interested in building upon their UChicago educational experience by adding practice, impact, and influence as important dimensions of their undergraduate work.
KNOW 27007: The First Great Transformation: Economies of the Ancient World
This class examines the determinants of economic growth in the ancient world. It covers various cultural areas (especially Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome and China) from ca. 3000 BCE to c. 500 CE. By contrast with the modern world, ancient cultures have long been supposed to be doomed to stagnation and routine. The goal of this class is to revisit the old paradigm with a fresh methodology, which combines a rigorous economic approach and a special attention to specific cultural achievements. We will assess the factors that indeed weighed against positive growth, but we will also discover that far from being immobile the cultures of the ancient world constantly invented new forms of social and economic organization. This was indeed a world where periods of positive growth were followed by periods of brutal decline. But if envisaged on the longue durée, this was a period of decisive achievements, which provided the basis for the future accomplishments of the Early Modern and Modern world. This course is part of the College Course Cluster program, Economic History.
KNOW 40104: Battle in the Mind Fields
The goal of this course is to better understand both the ruptures and the continuity that we find in the development of linguistics, psychology, and philosophy over the period from early in the 19th century up until around 1960. Among the topics we will look at are the emergence of 19th century linguistics through the methods developed to reconstruct Proto Indo-European, and at the same time, the emergence of two wings of German psychology (exemplified by Brentano and by Wundt); the transplanting of both of these disciplines to the United States at the end of the 19th century; the rise of behaviorism in psychology and its interaction with Gestalt psychology as German scholars were forced to leave their homes in Europe in the years before World War II; the development of an American style of linguistics associated with the Linguistic Society of America; and the interactions after World War II of cybernetics, cognitively-oriented psychology, and a new style of linguistic theory development.
This course fulfills part of the KNOW Core Seminar requirement to be eligible to apply for the SIFK Dissertation Research Fellowship. No instructor consent is required, but registration is not final until after the 1st week in order to give Ph.D. students priority.
KNOW 27002: Foucault and the History of Sexuality
This course centers on a close reading of the first volume of Michel Foucault’s The History of Sexuality, with some attention to his writings on the history of ancient conceptualizations of sex. How should a history of sexuality take into account scientific theories, social relations of power, and different experiences of the self? We discuss the contrasting descriptions and conceptions of sexual behavior before and after the emergence of a science of sexuality. Other writers influenced by and critical of Foucault are also discussed.
Prerequisites: One prior philosophy course is strongly recommended.
KNOW 17403: Science, Culture, & Society in Western Civilization II: Early Modern Period
Section 1, offered by Robert J. Richards - “Renaissance & Enlightenment.” This lecture-discussion course examines the development science and scientific philosophy from the mid-fifteenth to the mid-nineteenth centuries. The considerations begin with the recovery of an ancient knowledge in the works of Leonardo, Vesalius, Harvey, and Copernicus. Thereafter the course will focus on Enlightenment science, as represented by Galileo, Descartes, Newton, and Hume. The course will culminate with the work of Darwin, who utilized traditional concepts to inaugurate modern science. For each class, the instructor will provide a short introductory lecture on the texts, and then open discussion to pursue with students the unexpected accomplishments of the authors under scrutiny.
KNOW 17403: Science, Culture, & Society: Early Modern Science: Revolutions in Astronomy and Anatomy
Section 2 - "Revolutions in Astronomy Anatomy." This course explores scientific developments in Western Europe from the sixteenth-century Scientific Revolution to the eighteenth-century Enlightenment. During this period, European understandings of the natural world-and ways of achieving such understandings-underwent a series of radical and far-reaching transformations that are often called the Scientific Revolution.
KNOW 29628: Knowledge of Man, Society, & Culture, 1700-1914
TUTORIAL - Questions about man, and by extension woman, have been asked by intellectuals throughout human history. Some of the most basic and essential of these questions have been: What is man? What is his position in the world? Why does he live the way that he does? And, why does he do the things that he does? The answers to such questions have, in turn, shaped the way that men, and women, understand themselves as well as the societies in which they live (and those with which they come to interact). These kinds of questions, and the variety of answers that they have been given over the course of human history, ultimately formed the basis of the modern Social Sciences and Humanities. Consequently, numerous publications exist that trace the development of specific disciplines from their origins in the distant or more recent past to the present. This course intentionally takes a different tact and, instead, aims to look at how considerations of man, society, and culture evolved over time, holistically and in situ, with an explicit focus on historical context. This course probes the kinds of questions that were being asked about man, society, and culture. It asks why certain problems were explored at certain times in certain ways and why different kinds of knowledge were produced at different times by different people.
KNOW 29632: The Poet’s Scientist: A Pre-Disciplinary Course in Science & Literature
I’m interested in understanding a way of writing about scientists that is not readily available to historians of science, a more expressive, more intuited way of writing that we can find in some poets and novelists: Osip Mandelstam writing of the way “Lamarck wept his eyes out over his magnifying glass”; Arthur Koestler of how Kepler laid “a monstrous egg” with his elliptical orbit. I am interested in the particular license taken in these instances—that flash of soul; I think the same license is taken to great effect in, for instance, the historical fiction of Hilary Mantel, and I want to see what we can win by it if we permit ourselves to tolerate it in real histories, and particularly in histories of science. That’s a larger inquiry than this course undertakes, but I try to begin here by studying some writers who have won by it.
KNOW 29629: Romantic Bodies: Theater in the History of Science and Medicine
It seems that science and theater have longed shared an ambiguous treatment as amoral yet bordering the ethically suspect. Scientific, medical, and technological advancements alter our everyday lives in profound ways and theater can play with the development and repercussions of these advancements, altering our memories of history. This stimulates a line of questioning for historians who view “science plays,” or plays that use science as the basis of their content and often also their form. In this tutorial, we will explore how these plays can (or cannot) fit into intellectual history as well as social and cultural histories of science. We will investigate how these plays can act as vehicles for remembering (or reconstructing) histories of science, reminding ourselves that the moral quandaries and ethical dilemmas that we juggle in science and medicine are as recurring as the theatrical productions are.
KNOW 29630: History and Philosophy of Social Science
Sociology and anthropology are highly self-reflexive disciplines. Their own contested histories have been taught and critiqued as a matter of course in the majority of sociology and anthropology departments in the US and Europe since their inception--hardly a surprise, given how dense, kaleidoscopic, and political they are. Meanwhile, the philosophy of social science has been gaining popularity in philosophy departments, apparently independently of the centuries-old reflection on social scientific methodologies that can be found within sociological and anthropological texts2. In true interdisciplinary fashion, this course seeks to marry these areas of scholarship, bringing together readings in philosophy, sociology, anthropology, and classical social theory, under the common themes that unite (and divide) them. We will cover debates on the epistemological priority of the individual or of society, the priority of naturalist or humanist perspectives, and the generalisability or spatio-temporal specificity of social scientific explanations.
KNOW 27004: Babylon and the Origins of Knowledge
In 1946 the famed economist John Maynard Keynes declared that Isaac Newton “was the last of the magicians, the last of the Babylonians.” We find throughout history, in the writings of Galileo, Jorge Luis Borges, Ibn Khaldun, Herodotus, and the Hebrew Bible, a city of Babylon full of contradictions. At once sinful and reverential, a site of magic and science, rational and irrational, Babylon seemed destined to resound in the historical imagination as the birthplace of knowledge itself. But how does the myth compare to history? How did the Babylonians themselves envisage their own knowledge? In this course we will take a cross comparative approach, investigating the history of the ancient city and its continuity in the scientific and literary imagination.