The aim is for the student to reach a conceptual understanding of the relationship between philosophy and science. This understanding is fundamental to the comprehension of many problems posed by ethics and politics within contemporary society.
This course deals with a broad range of themes in the history of science, including relations between science and religion; the changing identity of the ‘scientist’ over the last five hundred years; the use of scientific instruments to investigate the natural world; and the various social, religious and political contexts that affected the content and rate of change of science. It begins with a consideration of the work of Aristotle, which dominated Christian and Islamic scientific thought for 2 thousand years until the early Seventeenth Century. It assesses the importance of the Copernican Revolution and the multiple impacts in the early seventeenth century of the introduction into natural philosophy of the experimental method and new sorts of scientific instrument. Having examined the effects of the mechanical philosophy, the course deals with the implications of ‘the mathematization of Nature’, looking in particular at the work of Johannes Kepler, Galileo Galilei and Isaac Newton.
The second half of the course examines the development of chemical knowledge in the period 1740 to 1840, and in particular the work and influence of Antoine Lavoisier and Humphry Davy. It then examines discoveries and theories that led to the belief that the Earth and the Universe were billions and not merely thousands of years old, discoveries that paved the way for the evolutionary theories of the early nineteenth century. The next focus is on the development of the theory of Evolution by Natural Selection, and on discussions about how human beings could be scientifically 'improved'. Following that, we examine theories of electromagnetism, and of heat and energy in the nineteenth century, and look at the various implications of the mid-century invention of Thermodynamics. Finally, the course deals with the advent of Big Science in the Twentieth Century, and with the various moral problems that have arisen alongside undoubted advances in scientific and technical progress.
The teaching method, based on frontal lectures, will take the specific composition of the students into account, as well as the overall context.
Exam will be in oral form on the whole program. The dialogue will be constructive of knowledge, which will be an example about what is the collective construction of knowledge.
If the course is given in blended learning or distance learning, changes may be made to what is indicated in the syllabus in order to make the course and the exams accessible also in this way.