This module is concerned with how science has altered human self-understanding, including its implications for other forms of knowledge and knowledge roles in society (i.e. 'intellectual life' in the broadest sense). In the first term, we shall begin by considering what is at stake in claiming that sociology is -- or aspires to be -- a 'science'. We shall then consider the history of science in the West from the Greeks to the present day, following the path charted in Patricia Fara's Science: A Four Thousand Year History (Oxford UP). This book draws attention to the ways in which scientific and technological innovations have shaped the understanding of the human condition as it has enabled us to extend our power over nature. In the second term, we shall bring this story up-to-date by considering recent developments in science and technology that are paving the way to a world of 'Humanity 2.0'.Topics covered
The following is an indicative list of topics for this module; precise seminar content may change from year to year.
- Introduction: How has science and technology changed the human condition in the 21st century?
- Does the 'scientific' status of sociology help or hinder its ability to serve as a force for social justice?
- FARA I: Why are the ancient Greeks given a prominent place in the history of science, and do they deserve it?
- FARA II: Why has science been seen as a uniquely 'European' achievement -- and is that view justified?
- FARA III: What is meant by the 'Scientific Revolution', and has its signficance been overstated?
- FARA IV: What is the best way to organize science -- and are universities the best places to do science?
- FARA V: How has science changed our attitude toward history, and time more generally?
- FARA VI: Has science's search for the very big, the very small, the very old and the very powerful served to alienate humanity?
- FARA VII: Should science's track record make us feel more or less confident about facing humanity's existential challenges?
Timing and CATs
This module is worth 15 CATs