History and Philosophy Of Science | Science Revolutions: Plato to Nato
X102 | 3050 | J. Johnson


Modern science, perhaps more than anything else, makes our
contemporary society unique in history.  Observers of science often
point out that the clothes we wear, the cars we drive, the food we
eat, and even the substance of our entertainment are all results of
science.  Most dramatically, perhaps, our attitudes and practices
surrounding medicine and health are inconceivable without modern
science.  It is no wonder then, that our philosphers, ethical
systems, literature, and the length and quality of our lives,
reflect in large measure the omnipresence of science.  Nevertheless,
considering the history of science and medicine, a remarkable
difficulty arises.  Our modern and familiar image of reality is not
selfevident, and in fact did not come into existence until very
recent times.  Past conceptions of nature, and approaches to its
study, differed, often very radically, from our own.

For this reason, we pose some important questions:  How did people
view the world and those areas of study that are now familiar as
sciences?  By means of which transformations and modifications did
our modern scientific attitudes originate and develop from the
ancient ones?  Historians oftn refer to dramatic changes in
worldviews as "scientific revolutions".  This course will discuss
some of these "revolutions" in science and medicine.  We will begin
by examining some general problems we have to deal with, when
studying science in the past, and analyzing the ancient Greek
worldview.  The rest of the semester will be spent considering
several so-called revolutionary episodes in the history of science
and medicine.  We will consider the historical details of what
occurred during these periods of great scientific and social change,
within the overarching framework of scientific and medical
developmenht through history (400BCE-1950CE).  The course will
consist of lectures, readings and discussions.  The course assumes
no background in science or history.