The study of the humanities at Caltech is interdisciplinary, with particular emphasis on history, literature, philosophy, and the history and philosophy of science. With a deep commitment to archival research, the faculty examine how societies change over time, how individuals produce works of the imagination, and how scientific paradigms help explain human behavior and thought. Students not only gain knowledge of specific fields but also acquire the tools necessary for critical thinking and persuasive writing. In 2020, the humanities faculty adopted a statement of the philosophy and goals of the humanities core at Caltech.
In the humanities, HSS offers only undergraduate degrees and minors; there are no graduate degrees. Undergraduate students in the humanities can choose to pursue studies in one or more of the following areas:
- The undergraduate option in English provides students with a broad education in American, British, and European writing and literature, and an emphasis on the historical contexts that inform literary texts. In small seminars, students explore a variety of genres through which they develop their interpretive, analytical, and writing skills.
- The undergraduate option in History examines the past to understand the evolution of culture, science, society, and human behavior. Courses span the medieval, Renaissance, and modern periods; the United States, Europe, and Asia; and special topics such as the law, demography, and race.
- The undergraduate option in the History and Philosophy of Science (HPS) explores the historical evolution of the sciences as well as the philosophical perspectives that inform them. It considers how science and technology influence and are influenced by other human endeavors. The option aims to provide students with a broad understanding of the ways in which science is practiced as well as the ways in which that practice has changed over time.
- The undergraduate option in Philosophy is focused on studying the most fundamental issues regarding the nature of the world and of human knowledge, values, and judgment. In these classes, students probe the philosophy of the natural and social sciences and consider scientific inference, moral and political philosophy, and the philosophy of mind, psychology, and neuroscience.
For more information about the undergraduate humanities options, contact: