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Quantification and Social Thought

Semester and Year FA 2014
Course Number IDSEM-UG1760
Section 001
Instructor Christopher Phillips
Days Wed
Time 3:30 PM - 6:10 PM
Units 4.0
Level U
Foundation Requirement SCI


In an age of “big data,” “sabermetrics,” and “evidence-based medicine,” statistical concepts and mathematical models for decision-making have become ever more common. Although proponents would argue that these new methods are increasingly powerful, their use raises complicated questions about how decisions can and should be made, in realms from drafting a baseball player to measuring the effectiveness of a federal program. This course examines the history of quantification from the early modern period to the present, with special attention to the ways new technologies and methodologies intersect with changing notions of rationality and causality. Topics include medicine, population statistics, philosophy, professional sports and gambling. Readings may include Laplace, Quetelet, Durkheim, Gould, and Hacking.

Course Type

Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)

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