History and Philosophy Of Science | Magic, Mysticism, and the Scientific Revolution
X100 | 3045 | Dane Daniel
A general aim of the course is to explore what is meant by "science,"
and to differentiate it from "pseudo-scientific," "superstitious," or
"occult" approaches to the natural world. Another goal is to come to
some understanding of the relationships among science, culture,
religion, and philosophy. Our exploration, occurring in the setting
of the Scientific Revolution of the 16th and 17th Centuries, entails
several case studies revealing an interesting cohabitation of
"science" and "pseudo-science." To what extent does one find
"scientific" elements in the alchemical medicine of Paracelsus or
Johannes Kepler's Neoplatonic depiction of the music of the spheres?
What "occult" elements may be found in Robert Boyle's mechanical
philosophy or Isaac Newton's description of the universe? While
investigating these questions, we shall keep track of the significant
changes that occurred in researchers' understanding of and relation to
nature during the Scientific Revolution. To what extent was science
moving toward a careful, objective investigation of nature, untainted
by cultural, philosophical, and theological prejudices?
We shall also examine ways in which seemingly "superstitious"
approaches to nature (e.g. natural magic, alchemy, astrology) used to
hold "scientific" status. How have "occult" concepts and world views
contributed to the development of science, and should this effect the
way we evaluate "occult" ideas? Also, is it a dubious practice to
selectively choose to examine only those aspects of revolutionary
scientific thinkers that we consider to be "modern," such as
Paracelsus' antisepsis or Kepler's three laws of planetary motion,
excluding the mystical elements of their thought? If so, why?
General Course Outline:
I. Initial thoughts on the meanings of science, superstition, magic,
mysticism, and the occult
II. Paracelsus' iatrochemistry, microcosm-macrocosm theory, creation
theory, and concept of the Christian magus
III. Kepler on the music of the spheres
IV. Boyle on the mechanical philosophy and alchemy
V. Newton on physics, optics, alchemy, ether, and occult qualities