Search result: Catalogue data in Spring Semester 2021

GESS Science in Perspective Information
Only the courses listed below will be recognized as "GESS Science in Perspective" courses.

Further below you will find courses under the category "Type B courses Reflections about subject specific methods and content" as well as the language courses.

During the Bachelor’s degree Students should acquire at least 6 ECTS and during the Master’s degree 2 ECTS.

Students who already took a course within their main study program are NOT allowed to take the course again.
Type A: Enhancement of Reflection Competence
Suitable for all students.

Students who already took a course within their main study program are NOT allowed to take the course again.
853-0726-00LHistory II: Global (Anti-Imperialism and Decolonisation, 1919-1975)W3 credits2VB. Schär
AbstractThe lecture will give an insight into the formation of anticolonial nationalist movements in Asia and Africa from the beginning of the 20th century onwards and discuss the various dimensions of dismantling of colonial empires.
ObjectiveThe lecture will give students an insight into the history of the non-European world, looking specifically into the political, economic, social and cultural transformation on the backgrounds of colonial penetration strategies and the resistance of anti-colonial movements. The aim is to show that societies in Asia and Africa are not just the product of colonial penetration or anti-colonial resistance, but that both aspects influenced the present political, economic, social and cultural perception of these parts of the world to a considerable extent. A nuanced knowledge of the long and arduous process of decolonisation is hence important to understand today's geopolitical constellation, still characterised by the struggle for a just post-imperial world order.
LiteratureJansen, J.C. und Osterhammel, J., Dekolonisation: Das Ende der Imperien, München 2013.
Prerequisites / NoticeA detailed syllabus will be available in due course at
851-0105-01LCross-Cultural Competences Arab World Information
Does not take place this semester.
W3 credits2V
AbstractThis lecture will discuss important topics of the Arab culture involving different value systems, world-views, and paradigms pointing to possible areas of misunderstandings and conflict in an inter-cultural setting as well as approaches to deal with these issues.
ObjectiveThis lectures gives an insight into different areas of the Arab culture such as gender roles, significance of family and marriage, concepts of honor and hierarchy, the role of religion in everyday life, being guest or host, obligations in family and society, and others. The aim is to identify different value systems, world-views and paradigms that may cause problems in an cross-cultural setting as well as possible approaches to deal with these issues. Even though most of the topics concern the Arab region as whole, the lecture will focus on the Arab East (not the Maghreb), especially Egypt, the Levant and the Gulf countries.
851-0812-08LHeureka V: Politics and Society in Discussion in Antiquity and TodayW2 credits2VC. Utzinger, M. Amann, B. Beer, A. Broger, F. Egli Utzinger, R. Harder
AbstractA Lecture Series on Ancient Greece and Rome and Their Impact on Later Periods
ObjectiveInsights into some important fields relating to politics and society in antiquity (forms of government, historical development, social context, meaning for the present).
ContentUnsere Kultur und wissenschaftliche Tradition haben eine lange Geschichte.
In der aktuellen Heureka-Reihe soll diese Kultur ausgehend von der Analyse der verschiedenen Staatsformen und der gesellschaftlichen Diskussionen beleuchtet werden. Insbesondere soll der Bezug zur heutigen Gegenwart mit ihren aktuellen staatspolitischen Fragen hergestellt und die Verwurzelung der modernen Diskussionen in der Antike aufgezeigt werden.
Dabei geht es auch um die enge Verflechtung wissenschaftlicher und technischer Entwicklungen und politischer Systeme: Die Entstehung der Demokratie im antiken Athen ging mit einer kulturellen und wissenschaftlichen Vorreiterrolle dieser Stadt einher. Die frühen Naturwissenschaften entwickelten sich parallel zur ersten Demokratie, wurden aber in der folgenden Krisenzeit von der Demokratie bedroht. Heutige Technik (z.B. facebook-Algorithmen) gefährdet umgekehrt die Demokratie.
Wie gehen wir damit um, dass in Diktaturen wissenschaftlich und ökonomisch identifizierte Handlungsfelder, wenn sie politisch anerkannt sind, sofort umgesetzt werden, wie sich aktuell an Chinas Massnahmen zur Verbesserung der Luftqualität zeigt? Naturwissenschaft steht immer im Wechselspiel mit den politischen Systemen und der gesellschaftlichen Matrix, in die sie eingebettet ist.
Veränderungen in der Staatsform können also nie isoliert betrachtet werden. Beispielsweise veränderten materialtechnische Entwicklungen im Heer mehrfach die Truppenzusammensetzung und bewirkten eine Machtverlagerung in der Politik und Gesellschaft.
Die Vorlesungsreihe gliedert sich in sechs thematische Module (1-6):
Sitzung 1-2 (Modul 1): Alle Macht dem Volk? Athenische und moderne Demokratie
Sitzung 3-4 (Modul 2): Fort mit dem König - die römische Republik
Sitzung 5-6 (Modul 3): Ein starker Mann muss her - die römische Kaiserzeit
Sitzung 7-8 (Modul 4): Im Zeichen des Kreuzes - der Aufstieg des Christentums
Sitzung 9-10 (Modul 5): Jetzt sprechen die Philosophen - antike und moderne Staatsutopien
Sitzung 11-12 (Modul 6): Die Macht der Bilder - Bilder der Macht
Sitzung 13: Lernzielkontrolle
052-0806-00LHistory and Theory of Architecture IV Information W2 credits2VL. Stalder
AbstractThis two-semester course is an introduction to the history of architecture from the Second Industrial Revolution in the 1850s to the Oil Crisis in the 1970s in Europe. Students will be able to identify the “things”—technical objects and ensembles—that transformed architecture, and to relate them to the technical, scientific, and cultural concerns that introduced them as key features of modernity.
ObjectiveTo introduce students to the history and theory of architecture, the course has three objectives.
First, students will be able to identify the “things” that transformed architecture in modernity, and the crucial events, buildings, theories, and actors that characterize their history.
Second, students will be able to describe how these “things” operated at different scales, focusing less on the formal level, and naming instead the different forms of expertise that constituted them historically, as well as the processes within which they were embedded.
Third, students will be able to reflect on a series of apparatuses, devices, and building parts that are in fact micro-architectures which have often been neglected, despite their pivotal role in shaping the daily lives of modern societies.
ContentThe course proposes a new approach to the study of the history and theory of architecture in Europe during modernity. It focuses less on single architects or their buildings, and more on those “things” that have brought profound transformations in the built environment and daily life over the last 200 years, such as the revolving door, the clock, and the partition.
The notion of “thing” includes both the concrete building parts and the concerns associated with them, such as material performance, social synchronization, and individual expression. To understand buildings as assemblages of “things,” therefore, does not mean to diminish their significance, but on the contrary to add reality to them, to understand them in terms of the complex, historically situated, and diverse concerns within which they were designed.
Each lecture introduces one “thing” through a genealogy that shaped it, from patents and scientific discoveries and technological advancement, to cinema, the visual arts, and literature. A set of renowned projects as well as lesser-known buildings from all around Europe offer a variety of case studies to describe these “things,” to understand how they operated in relation with one another, and to identify the theories and tactics that architects mobilized to make sense of them.
Lecture notes
Prerequisites / NoticeLocation:
1. hour: Lecture:
2./3. hour: Seminars in groups on Zoom
701-0791-00LEnvironmental History - Introduction and Overview Restricted registration - show details
Number of participants limited to 80.
W2 credits2VM. Gisler
AbstractIntroduction into environmental history as a discipline that ask for the human-nature-relationships from a long-term and spatially defined perspective. By presenting a selection of different topics the lecture provides access to new questions and insights.
ObjectiveIntroduction into environmental history; survey of long-term development of human-nature-interrelations; discussion of selected problems. Improved ability to assess current problems from a historical perspective and to critically interrogate one's own standpoint.
ContentHumans live in and with nature, depend on it, change it permanently: as bio- and geological agents they intervene, reshape, leave prints, improve, reproduce and demonize nature; in short, they’re “doing environment”. Namely in the 20th century, the "era of ecology" (Joachim Radkau) or the age of the “Great Acceleration” (John McNeill), human interventions in their environments have increased exponentially. But nature itself is also constantly changing, adapting, striking back. This leads to a constantly changing interrelation between human and nature.
This interdependence is at the core of this lecture. The introduction into “environmental history” offers an overview of the human-environment-relationship in a long-term perspective. It outlines concepts such as the anthropocene, climate and energy as well as questions of environmental policy and the history of the environmental movements. It is meant to expand the competencies for the assessment of current problems and the critical questioning of one's own point of view.
Lecture notesCourse material is provided in digital form.
LiteratureMcNeill, John R. 2000. Something new under the sun: An environmental history of the twentieth-century world, New York: Norton.

Uekötter, Frank (Ed.) 2010. The turning points of environmental history, Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.

Winiwarter, Verena und Martin Knoll 2007. Umweltgeschichte: Eine Einführung, Köln: Böhlau.
Prerequisites / NoticeStudents are asked to write an exam during the last session
851-0080-00LNew Forms and Contents in Nonfiction Writing Restricted registration - show details
Number of participants limited to 30.
W3 credits2SW. Eilenberger
AbstractThe course will give an introduction into the new forms of reflection, also of topics from the natural sciences, in nonfiction writing.
ObjectiveTo develop an understanding for the functions and forms of contemporary non-fiction. To acquire elementary competences in non-fiction writing.
ContentSachbücher (engl. non-fiction-books) erleben auf dem Buchmarkt derzeit eine Renaissance. Als primärer Zweck dieser Gattung gilt oder galt die Wissensvermittlung, insbesondere als Vermittlung wissenschaftlich generierter Inhalte an ein breites Lesepublikum.
Die Entwicklung der Gattung dient damit als aussagekräftiger Indikator für die Dynamik des Verhältnisses von Wissenschaft, Wissensvermittlung sowie den diesbezüglichen Erwartungshorizonten einer interessierten Öffentlichkeit.
Anhand ausgewählter Publikationen (und daran anschließenden Übungen) wird der Kurs diesen Dynamiken nachgehen und dabei insbesondere neuere formale wie inhaltliche Entwicklungslinien untersuchen, wie etwa der Trend zum narrativen Sachbuch, zu explizit wissenschaftskritischen Sachbüchern oder auch stark prominenzgetragenen Publikationen.
851-0008-00LBan on Alcohol and Science: A Global History of Prohibition 1918-1939 Restricted registration - show details
Does not take place this semester.
W3 credits2S
AbstractThe seminar deals with an overview on anti-alcohol campaigns since late 19th century. The focus is on prohibition in the interwar period in different regions. The role of scientific experts in the emergence of prohibition will be discussed from a global historical perspective. Formation of international networks and process of knowledge production on the issue of alcohol are subjects of analysis.
ObjectiveThe reconstruction of the development of prohibitionist regimes helps to understand the process of national institution formations, for example health services. Participants analyze interactions between science, international relations and change of social political context in the process of knowledge production and in the definition of daily life norms on drinking habits.
851-0181-00LA New History of Greek Mathematics Restricted registration - show details W3 credits2VR. Wagner
AbstractThis course will review parts of the history of ancient Greek mathematics, evaluate its characteristic features, attempt to explain them, and reflect on their relation to contemporary mathematics.
ObjectiveThe students will have an overview knowledge of Greek mathematics, and will be able to reflect on it in historical terms and in relation to modern mathematics.
ContentWe will follow extracts from Reviel Netz's upcoming monograph entitled "A new history of Greek mathematics".
851-0182-00LFrom Economy to Mathematics and Back: A History of Interactions Restricted registration - show details W3 credits2SR. Wagner
AbstractThis course will review several historical episodes where economy shaped mathematics, and where mathematics re-shaped economy.
ObjectiveStudents will understand how different fields of knowledge can interact in various historical situations. They will also be able to describe various episodes in the history of mathematics and economy.
ContentThe first part of the course will study how practices related to money and commerce affected the development of mathematics in antiquity and the middle ages. The second part will study how mathematical entities shaped the study of various economic problems in the 19th and 20th century. We will review methodologies based on Marxist historiography, sociology of science and contemporary science studies.
851-0297-00LManipulation in Literature and Cultural HistoryW3 credits2VS. S. Leuenberger
AbstractThis lecture focuses on the manipulation and control of individuals and the masses. The power of manipulation is based on subtle use of persuasive linguistic elements and knowledge of the desires and fears of the intended audience. In addition to a theoretical overview, the lecture concentrates on the literary and discursive texts that dispute the control of protagonists.
ObjectiveStudents will learn about manipulation as a linguistic and narrative phenomenon steeped in myth and classical rhetoric. Against the backdrop of cultural-historical developments, particularly with regard to major changes in media technology, we will examine how the reach of manipulation was extended from the individual to the masses. Students will be able to refine their critical discourse analysis skills and interdisciplinary abilities by studying texts from literature, politics, sociology, philosophy and psychoanalysis which reflect this shift in emphasis.
ContentSince the dawn of time mankind has tried to exert influence over others through the utilisation of certain techniques: initially for self-preservation – for example the interpretation of Sigmund Freud in Totem und Tabu. Later, desire became the driving force – centre stage: the desire for pleasure, power and control. Manipulation manifests itself in the form of characters and words, it is an authentically linguistic occurrence: classical antiquity, with the rhetoric, develops a system of verbal power of persuasion and, already then, questions were being raised in literary and discursive texts about how people could, or even should, manipulate. The exertion of influence and its impact will be clearly described, propagated, commented upon, criticised and ironised.
In contrast to oppressive overpowering, the power of manipulation (in Latin, manus hand, plere fill) is on the one hand, based on the subtle use of persuasive linguistic elements – it is always a (literary) discourse, too – and on the other, on knowing precisely what the fantasies, desires and fears of the manipulated are. The discourse of manipulation has its beginnings in the age of sophists and their belief in an omnipotence of language and rhetoric. It underwent further transformation under political and psychological signs in the early modern period through Giordano Bruno and Niccolò Machiavelli and culminated in the 20th century in a critique of the deception strategies of the “culture industry” (T.W Adorno) and “psychotechnology” (B. Stiegler) in global capitalism. Nowadays social media is the “radicalisation machine” (J. Ebner) that present new challenges for society. Written in the 19th century, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion already gave indications of how present-day conspiracy theorists would manipulate their audience, and its impact can still be felt today. Since manipulation is a linguistic, narrative and also literary phenomenon, the central theme of the lecture is how in literature itself this often politically controversial and manipulative behaviour is picked up and reflected through poetry: such as in Tristan from Gottfried von Strassburg, Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister, Friedrich Schiller’s Die Verschwörung des Fiesco zu Genua or Heinrich von Kleist’s Der zerbrochne Krug, the works of Edgar Allan Poe and Thomas Mann (Mario und der Zauberer) and, most recently in Eckhart Nickel’s novel, Hysteria.
851-0525-00LA History of Personal Computing Restricted registration - show details W3 credits2SR. Wichum, M. Mayer
AbstractThe seminar will examine how the personal computer shaped different digital spaces. How personal could a computer actually be? What spaces of user autonomy did operating systems and software create?
ObjectiveStudents become familiar with the interdependence of technical and social change through the history of computers, media and science. It is a text-based seminar. In addition, we practice the handling of source material.
ContentSince the 1980’s computers are placed on office desks or even in a corner of a private hobby room. Silicon chips and developments in microprocessor technology made the size of computers shrink. The personal computer was the result of this technological development. However, how personal could a computer actually be? What spaces of user autonomy did operating systems and software create? The seminar will examine how the personal computer shaped different digital spaces. We research the negotiations between technology and society.
851-0526-00LProducing Emptiness and Working with Nothing. Vacuum Technology in the 20th Century Restricted registration - show details W3 credits2SD. Gugerli, R. Delucchi
AbstractThe seminar examines the powerful effects of emptiness. We want to understand the materiality, the production and the (industrial) effects of the liminal space called “vacuum", on which scientists and engineers worked in the 20th century. We observe pumps, coating systems, rockets and thin films in essays and catalogs, at exhibitions and in patents.
ObjectiveStudents learn to read very different types of text against the grain and understand technical change.
Lecture notesThe reading program is available on Moodle at the beginning of the semester. Participation in the sessions is required. A graded semester performance will take place. Students should complete research tasks resulting from the individual sessions.
Prerequisites / NoticeDie Zahl der Teilnehmenden ist auf 40 beschränkt.
851-0088-00LHistory and Philosophy of Artificial Intelligence Restricted registration - show details W3 credits2SO. Del Fabbro
AbstractIn this course we read important texts in the historical development of the field of artificial intelligence, for example: Alan Turing, Warren McCulloch & Walter Pitts, John Searle's Chinese Room Argument, Ray Kurzweil's Singularity etc. The main focus of the seminar is to trace the development of the field of AI and to better understand what the concept of intelligence means in this context.
ObjectiveStudents should learn to critically assess historical, scientific and philosophical texts. The focus will lie on the field of artificial intelligence and the concept of intelligence. Students should learn about the different types of argumentative texts and scientific theories. They should learn to understand the descriptive and critical value of texts.
851-0173-00LHistory of Formal Logic: The Emergence of Boolean Logic Restricted registration - show details W3 credits2VJ. L. Gastaldi
AbstractThe invention of Boolean logic in the middle of the 19th century is considered a major event in the history of modern thought. However, Boole’s original system does not correspond to what we came to understand as Boolean logic.
We will study the early history of Boolean logic in relation to the mathematics of its epoch, in search of an alternative philosophy of formal knowledge for the present.
ObjectiveDuring the course, students will be able to:
-Acquire a general perspective on the history of formal logic
-Review relevant aspects of the history of modern mathematics
-Obtain philosophical and historical tools for critically assessing the status of formal sciences
-Develop a critical understanding of the notion of formal
-Discuss the methodological capabilities of historical epistemology
ContentThe invention of Boolean logic in the middle of the 19th century is considered a major event in the history of modern thought. Boolean algebras and Boolean rings lay at the basis of propositional logic and digital communication, contributing in a decisive way to the theoretical and technical conditions of our time. However, if attention is paid to Boole’s own work, it will quickly appear that his Calculus of Logic does not correspond to what we came to understand as Boolean logic. Instead of disregarding those differences as inevitable mistakes of any pioneering enterprise, waiting to be corrected by successive developments, we will try to understand them as the sign of an alternative philosophy of logic and formal knowledge, which later developments excluded and forgot, and from which recent advances in formal sciences could take advantage. Such an inquiry will give us the occasion of exploring the philosophical and scientific landscape in which formal logic emerged in the first half of the 19th century (focusing on the works of Babbage, De Morgan and Boole), and to build a critical perspective on the notion of “formal”, at the crossroad of the history and philosophy of mathematics and logic.
851-0009-00LThe 'Dutch East Indies' and Science in German Speaking Europe, c. 1800-1950 Restricted registration - show details W3 credits2SB. Schär, M. Ligtenberg
AbstractBetween about 1800 and 1945 the Netherlands was a small country with a huge empire in what is now Indonesia and the Caribbean. In order to conquer and explore this empire, the Dutch depended also on the help of German-speaking scientists. How did German-speaking science and Dutch imperialism mutually benefit from each other? What consequences did it have for whom?
ObjectiveStudents learn about new approaches to the global history of knowledge. They gain insights into Dutch colonial history in present-day Indonesia, as well as into the history of various disciplines such as geography, biology or anthropology. They will learn to create their own analyses of the relationship between science and imperialism using sources.
ContentAs a small country with the second largest colonial empire after Great Britain, the Netherlands was permanently dependent on more imperial know-how, capital and expertise in the 19th and 20th centuries than it had available on its own territory. This opened up opportunities for development above all for those European regions that late or never formed their own colonial empires overseas. This is particularly true for German-speaking Europe. In the 19th century, German-speaking researchers and universities rose to become the world leaders of their kind. A substantial part of the German-speaking history of science unfolded in the "Dutch East Indies", today's Indonesia. However, the close and long-lasting historical relations between German-speaking science and Dutch imperialism in this region have hardly been examined by historians so far. In this seminar we will first of all use the secondary literature to gain an overview of the development of this relationship. Using case studies and historical source materials, we will then develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which the German-speaking sciences and their research institutions and the project of Dutch imperialism influenced each other. Particular attention will be paid to the question of what role Southeast Asian knowledge Producers played in the colonial construction of German-language scientific knowledge.
851-0010-00LGlobal Histories of the Anthropocene Restricted registration - show details W3 credits2ST. Bartoletti
AbstractThe seminar will critically examine the discursive history of the Anthropocene. It gives an overview of debates on the Anthropocene narrative and its transdisciplinary framework. A global history approach to these debates arises as a substantial contribution to better analyze global processes of exploitation of natural resources, territorial dispossession and imperialism.
ObjectiveThe aim is to examine how natural scientists and historians analyze climate change and the human imprint on the environment, processing data in a transdisciplinary way. Students will select a research project related to climate change, environmental research or similar issues conducted at ETH Zurich and write an essay on how the Anthropocene narrative operates in the scientific agenda.
ContentAccording to the standard Anthropocene narrative, the Industrial Revolution marks the onset of large-scale human modification of the earth. Nevertheless, several scholars, especially from the global south, have noted that the Anthropocene concept constructs a single and unilineal narrative about humans as a species. Only considering measurements of carbon dioxide levels, it naturalizes the specific cultural behaviors (colonialism, inequality, etc.) arguably responsible for climate change. Contrary to ‘pure’ natural science and ‘human species’ explanations, this Eurocentric pattern has been strongly questioned due to its lack of socio-historical differentiation and intra-species distinction. For example, as of 2008, the advanced countries of the ‘North’ accounted for 18.8 percent of the world population and were responsible for 72.7 percent of the carbon dioxide emitted since 1850, while the poorest 45 percent of the human population accounted for 7 percent of emissions. Is it methodologically appropriate to refer to all humans as agents of a new geological era? This seminar will explore the slipping between natural/cultural explanations and critically tackle how the Anthropocene narrative is marking scientific and political agendas.
851-0157-49LWhat is Life? Introdution Into the History of the Life SciencesW3 credits2VM. Hagner
AbstractThe aim of this lecture is to introduce into the most important theories of life from ancient times until the early 21st century. I will put a focus on philosophical concepts and on the modern life sciences since Chalres Darwin.
ObjectiveIn the lecture course, attendants will learn to distinguish historically and systematically various theories of life.
851-0157-74LPhotography Between Science and Art Restricted registration - show details
Number of participants limited to 20
W3 credits2SM. Hagner
AbstractThis seminar is devoted to the role of photography in art and science since its beginnings in 1839. We will read selected texts on the theory of photography and analyse photographs for getting an overview over its fascinating history.
ObjectiveWhen photography started to conquer the world in 1839, it was unclear whether it belonged to the arts or to the sciences. Since those times and despite the digital revolution, this double function of photography has not changed significantly. The aim of this seminar is twofold: First, we want to reconstruct the transformations of photography in the trading zone of the sciences and the arts. Second, we want to analyse epistemological and aesthetical theories, which reflect the function of photography. The use of the photography archive of ETH Zurich will be part of the seminar.
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