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School of History and Philosophy of Science

Placing science in its historical and social context
At the crossroads of arts and science, we examine past and current developments in all areas of science, technology and medicine from a range of humanistic perspectives.

History and philosophy of science (HPS) is an ideal way to critically engage with science and its social and cultural significance. Any student with a genuine interest in science will derive benefit from the study of this discipline.

Teaching at the School of History and Philosophy of Science

Teaching staff in the School of History and Philosophy of Science have published widely in their fields of expertise and have gained international recognition for their research. This makes them fantastic educators, sharing their knowledge and experiences in the classroom so students can be at the forefront of innovations in the field.

The University of Sydney is ranked first in Australia and fourth in the world for graduate employability.* This stems from our immersive, research-led teaching which prepares students for the real-world and a successful career.

*2018 QS Graduate Employability Rankings 

News bites

Professor Johannes Pols;with Professor Catharine Coleborne; Associate Professor Paul Rhodes; and Professor Anthony Harris

The development of Australian community psychiatry. This project aims to analyse recent developments in Australian psychiatry by considering their broader social, cultural, and political contexts. In the 1970s, Australian psychiatry, primarily based in mental hospital care, came under sustained critique by psychologists, psychiatrists interested in developing alternative treatment methods, and broader social movements. This project will investigate how psychiatrists, psychologists, and other mental health professionals aimed to change mental hospital care and develop community psychiatry to provide alternatives. The project will examine the initiatives of the pioneers in Australian community psychiatry and its relationship to the broader deinstitutionalisation movement. The project will also analyse the resulting changes in research and practice.

Congratulations to our own Honorary Professor Evelleen Richards on being awarded the Suzanne J. Levinson Prize for her book Darwin and the Making of Sexual Selection.

The prize is awarded every years to the best book in the area of history of life sciences and natural history by the History of Science Society. Read more about the prize win here.

HPS Research Seminar Series 2019

Professor Phil Gerrans
Monday 1 April
Level 5 Function Room,
Administration Building (F23)


Real Feelings, Artificial Emotions. Hard Problems for Soft Bodies.

In a recent review article Matthew Leiberman says “relative to all the other topics of psychology, the emotional domain is where sidestepping consciousness does the greatest harm to the thing studied”. As a good neuroscientist he supports this idea with a thought experiment derived from AI. When we “wonder whether androids actually have emotions…the answer comes down to one thing and only one thing – do they have emotional experience? They may have the most exquisitely contextually sensitive emotional expressions and actions and they can have all the physiology of emotion, but if they do not have the experience of emotion then it is just an incredibly sophisticated simulation – the appearance of emotion, but not actual emotion”

This paper suggests that Lieberman is partly right and partly wrong. If in fact androids or AI systems did have the “all the physiology of emotion” regulated by the right neurocomputational architecture the gap he imagines between simulated and actual emotion might vanish. But recent successes and failures in AI (especially Deep Learning networks) and advances in understanding the relationship between emotional experience and physiology provide reasons for skepticism. It is not just that AI systems often have no bodies to regulate, but that their neurocomputational regulatory resources are not suited to the task of producing emotional experience.

Dr James Christie
Monday 15 April
Level 5 Function Room,
Administration Building (F23)

Details to be confirmed closer to seminar

Dr Bradley Garrett
Monday 6 May
Level 5 Function Room,
Administration Building (F23)

Details to be confirmed closer to seminar

Associate Professor David Bronstein
Monday 20 May
Level 5 Function Room,
Administration Building (F23)

Details to be confirmed closer to seminar

Dr Peter Takacs
Monday 27 May
Level 5 Function Room,
Administration Building (F23)

Details to be confirmed closer to seminar

Research Day
Keynote: Michael Hunter-Birbeck
Monday 3 June
Details to be confirmed closer to seminar

Head of School

Professor Hans Pols
View academic profile

School of History and Philosophy of Science

Address
  • Room 389 Carslaw F07