Christopher Hitchcock, a distinguished philosopher of science at the California Institute of Technology and member of the PGR Advisory Board, has drafted, with input from some other philosophers of science on the Advisory Board (Craig Callender, Peter Godfrey-Smith, Alexander Rosenberg, and William Wimsatt), a very useful statement for students interested in philosophy of science and cognate fields and trying to decide about whether to pursue PhD studies in a philosophy program or a specialized program, such as "History and Philosophy of Science." This advice will appear in the new PGR, but I thought it might be useful to flag it here for the benefit of interested students and their advisors:
Students interested in the philosophy of science, the history of science, and/or logic may face the choice of whether to pursue a graduate degree in a traditional philosophy department, or in a separate department of history and philosophy of science (HPS), or logic and philosophy of science (LPS). In the English-speaking world, the following schools have separate HPS or LPS departments:
University of Pittsburgh (HPS)
University of California, Irvine (LPS)
Indiana University (HPS)
Cambridge University (HPS)
London School of Economics (LPS)
(Note: LSE has a department of philosophy, logic, and methodology of science, but no separate philosophy department.)
University of Leeds (HPS)
University of Toronto (Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology)
University of Sydney (HPS)
University of Melbourne (HPS)
University of New South Wales (HPS)
Members of HPS and LPS departments were included together with philosophy faculty in the faculty lists used both for overall rankings, and for rankings in specialty areas. (There are, of course, philosophy departments that are strong in philosophy of science that do not appear on this list because they do not have independent HPS or LPS programs. Prospective students should consult the relevant specialty rankings elsewhere in this report,)
In addition, a number of schools have interdisciplinary graduate programs in HPS or LPS that can be pursued from within the philosophy department (or other relevant department). These include Stanford University (HPS), University of California, Berkeley (LPS), University of Notre Dame (HPS), University of Chicago (HPS), University of California, San Diego (Science Studies Program, including HPS and also Sociology of Science), Duke University (History and Philosophy of Science, Medicine, and Technology), University of Washington, Seattle (HPS), Carnegie Mellon University (Program in Logic, Computation, and Methodology), Arizona State University (HPS; some of ASU’s philosophers are actually housed in the School of Life Sciences, rather than in the philosophy department) and Florida State University (HPS).
Graduates of HPS and LPS programs who focus on philosophy of science will often be competing with graduates of philosophy departments for jobs in philosophy. Of course, students who are interested in pursuing graduate work in an HPS or LPS department should seek detailed information about the placement record of that department, just as they would for a philosophy department. Note also that departments may differ in where they place their students. Pittsburgh’s HPS department places most of its graduates in philosophy departments. Indiana’s HPS department frequently places graduates in the history of science in history departments. Carnegie Mellon places a number of its graduates from its program in Logic, Computation, and Methodology in departments of mathematics, computer science, and statistics.
Typically, students in an HPS or LPS graduate program will be able to take courses offered by the school’s philosophy department, and will have opportunities to interact with faculty in the philosophy department. (And likewise, philosophy students will have an opportunity to take HPS or LPS courses and interact with HPS or LPS faculty.) Prospective students would do well to inquire of current students to determine to what extent this actually occurs. Those who plan to make extensive use of a school’s philosophy department would do well to consider the overall quality of that department, as well as of the HPS or LPS department. Moreover, students in HPS or LPS programs who plan to do extensive study in another department, such as history, or some branch of science, should consider the quality of the relevant department.
One important difference between and HPS or LPS department and a philosophy department will be the curriculum and academic requirements. Students in an HPS program can be expected to take a number of courses in the history of science, and may also have to take qualifying exams in the history of science. (This may be less of an issue at British and Australian schools, that put less emphasis on graduate coursework.) Moreover, students in HPS and LPS programs are often encouraged to take courses in the sciences. Most philosophers who pursue research in the philosophy of science find that a solid education in science and its history provides them with a deeper appreciation of their field, as well as a wealth of case studies. Moreover, students in HPS programs will typically receive a good education in the history of philosophy, as this field overlaps importantly with the history of science. On the other hand, it may be harder for students in an HPS program to obtain a background in other central areas of philosophy, such as metaphysics and epistemology, philosophy of mind and language, or ethics and political philosophy. Students in HPS programs are usually well advised to try to learn about some of these areas from the school’s philosophy department, to help them compete effectively for jobs in philosophy. Students in an LPS program will obtain a strong background in formal logic, which can be helpful in the philosophy of science and mathematics, as well as in areas like philosophy of language. These students may find that it is harder to obtain a background in other areas of philosophy, such as the history of philosophy.
Another difference is that HPS and LPS departments are sometimes willing to admit students whose background in philosophy is less extensive than that which is required for most philosophy programs. This is not to say that students can be expected to be admitted to HPS or LPS departments if they have done poorly in philosophy courses. But if a student has a strong background in a relevant area, say history or some branch of science for an HPS program, or mathematics or computer science for an LPS program, this may partially compensate for a shortage of philosophy courses on one’s transcript. This can be a mixed blessing, however, as all graduates of HPS or LPS programs will eventually need acquire a solid grounding in philosophy to compete effectively in the philosophy job market. Obviously, this is less of a concern for those who plan to seek employment outside of philosophy.