History and Philosophy Of Science | Understanding the Demon-Haunted World: Science and the Occult in History
X100 | 18184 | Sarah Smith


Understanding the Demon-Haunted World: Science and the Occult in
History
X100
T R 11:15 a.m-12:30 p.m.
Sarah Smith

This course will provide students with an introduction to the
historical study of the occult as it relates to the history of
science. The class will take the format of a historical survey,
covering ancient Greece and Rome, medieval and Renaissance Europe,
the Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution, modern witchcraft,
the Satanic Panic of the 1980s and 1990s, and contemporary fringe
science. The goal of the course is to provide students with an
understanding of the different intellectual frameworks and social
contexts which governed scientific practice (and skepticism) of the
occult during different periods in Western history, and how these
practices and debates inform the history of science. In the first
week of class, students will be introduced to the philosophical
problem of demarcation, the historical problem of presentism, and to
practical strategies for objectivity and analysis  all of which
should facilitate productive engagement with primary texts in the
history of the occult in the following weeks. Secondary texts will
be geared toward providing the historical, philosophical, and
cultural context for the readings and discussion. Students will be
graded on weekly reading comprehension exercises, active
participation, a midterm, and a cumulative final.