My Repertory of Courses Taught in the Osher and Encore Program
- Introduction to Kant
- Philosophical Aesthetics
- General Ethics or What is the Good Life?
- Philosophy and Science: Kissing Cousins
- Ancient Greek Roots of Modern Science
- What is Philosophy Anyway (or the Enterprise of Philosophy)
- Metaphysics: The Nature of Reality
- Spinoza’s Ethics
- Philosophies of Human Nature (A Survey)
Philosophy and Science:
Kissing Cousins from Ancient Beginnings to Modern Developments
SPRING 2021, Encore Learning Online
Tuesdays, March 9 to April 27, Tuesdays
2:00PM – 3:30PM
Friendly Zoom Guide: Irmgard Scherer
This course explores the early beginnings of western science, as the ancient Greek “natural philosophers” in the 6th century BC began to strike out on a new path, to ask and answer questions about the physical nature of the universe. They departed from religious mindsets of their time and relied on their own observations and reasonings and dared to formulate new hypotheses of how the world worked. Their theories could be examined and tested by other knowledge seekers—either to accept, reject or further build on them. Their novel strategies to finding the natural causes of observed phenomena launched western science and placed it on a particular trajectory which in time led to spectacular breakthroughs of modern science and technology. As we explore this journey of science we may stop to ponder about the presuppositions of the western scientific outlook, and whether science as we know it today has been an unmitigated success for human life. What are the advantages, what are drawbacks inherent in this worldview?
(1) Milton Munitz, ed. Theories of the Universe, from Babylonian Myth to Modern Science. Free Press, 1957. (Total text available on Internet)
(2) A READER, a collection of fragments from ancient texts, provided as a PDF file early in the course.
- General Introduction. What is ‘philosophical’ about science? / Is certainty of knowledge possible? / “natural philosophy” becomes scientia in 17th century C.E.
- Precursors to the story of science: The Presocratics begin to answer the “Problem of the One and the Many” or the theory of everything (TOE).
Reading the PRESOCRATICS: Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes, Pythagoras, Heraclitus, Parmenides (Reader, 3-12)
- The PLURALISTS: Anaxagoras and Empedocles. Take away: Early version of modern theory of “panpsychism” (Reader, 13-18)
- CLASSICAL ATOMISM: Leucippus and Democritus (Reader, 19-22)
- A THEORY OF TOTAL REALITY: Republic VI, a two-tiered cosmos in the “twice-divided line” (Reader, 23-24)
- A COSMOGONY: Timaeus (Munitz, 67-74)
ARISTOTLE, a model for early European universities in the 14th century C.E.
- HIERARCHIES OF KNOWLEDGE: Metaphysics, Book 1 (Reader, 25-27)
- MATRIX OF SUBSTANCES: Physics and Metaphysics (relevant passages and illustration will be forthcoming in PDF attachment)
LATER ATOMISTS, Lucretius and Epicurus
- Epicurus. A THEORY OF ETHICS based on atomism (Reader, 28-30)
- Lucretius. De Rerum Natura (Nature of the Universe). First theory of INDETERMINACY, foreshadowing quantum physics (Munitz, 41-57).
COPERNICUS and GALILEO (Munitz, 149ff and 190ff respectively).
A RADICAL REVOLUTION and its aftermath. Galileo’s introduces an early theory of the mind-body problem arguing for “the subjectivity of sensible qualities.”
NEWTONIANISM — “the World as a Machine.”
THANKS FOR ZOOMING WITH ME! FEEL FREE TO CONTACT ME BY E-MAIL.