History and Philosophy Of Science | The Pyrrhonists, the Poets, and the Post-moderns: Interrogators of Science
X100 | 3046 | Mary Domski

	The main task of this course is to examine the critical
challenges posed to the scientific enterprise by three historically
and philosophically distinct factions:  the Pyrrhonian skeptics of
Antiquity, the poets of the Romantic period, and the post-moderns of
the late 20th Century.  By examination of primary sources from major
thinkers of each group, we will investigate the critical reaction
spurned by science in distinct periods of science's own development.
We will begin the course by looking at the skeptical challenge posted
to the Aristotelian ideal of science, a challenge embodied in Sextus
Empiricus' 2nd Century Outlines of Pyrrhonism.  Our attention will
then turn to the 17th Century and the so-called Newtonian Revolution.
The critics who will occupy us in the unit will include the poets
Blake and Goethe and writers such as Nietzsche and Mary Shelley.  A
good portion of this unit will be dedicated to a close reading of
Shelley's Frankenstein. Finally, we will turn to the post-modern
movement that, in large measure, drew inspiration from Thomas Kuhn's
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.  Among other topics, we will
look at the feminist critique of science, the development of the
sociology of scientific knowledge, and the Sokal hoax of the 1990's.
The ultimate hope is that students will gain a firm appreciation of
how the changing ideal of scientific knowledge has brought about a
change in the nature of its critics.  For as will be emphasized
throughout the semester, the strategies employed when interrogating
science hinge upon a particular interpretation of what science is and
how it purports to provide us some truth about the world external to
	No prior knowledge of the history or the philosophy of science
will be presupposed.  I will introduce each unit with an overview of
the particular form of scientific practice that is characteristic of
the time period under consideration.  Further discussion of the
history of science will be introduced as necessary to understand the
philosophical arguments we will examine.  Student evaluation will be
based primarily on evidence that a student is engaging seriously with
the material as evidenced through in-class discussion and the
completion of 3 essays (one for each unit).  In addition, quizzes will
be given on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, and there will be an in-class
final examination.  Feel free to contact me if you have further
questions about the course at mdomski@indiana.edu.