SCIENCE: Pros and Cons

In his intellectual history of the 20th century "The Modern Mind" the writer and polymath Peter Watson offers his personal knowledge of the period's interlocking sequences of significant discoveries, inventions and events. With the eye of his intellect trained to observe the symbiotic relations between science, politics, finance and commerce on the local and global levels, Watson gives a riveting and complex account of the various pressures supporting or preventing the advancement of science. Summing up his findings with a generalization Watson writes "The last century may be understood as a period during which the scientific method colonized all modes of thought and changed the way thinking is done."

Who among the leading thinkers of the last century would agree? Logical positivists probably; but existentialists and Marxists would voice vehement dissent. It seems only fair to ask would existentialism even exist in the absence of the intensely felt need to protect the presumed core of the human experience from the crippling threats posed by the efficient, rationalizing force of institutionalized science.

In order to attempt to find valid answers to this and other questions, we will carefully read the key philosophical documents of the existentialists' movements, including liberation theology, and keep company with novels, plays and poems. This will incidentally enable us to better understand the philosophic underpinnings of recent culture collisions on both sides of the Atlantic and perhaps help explain the rapid ascent of Pragmatism.

The period to be 'covered' stretches from the thirties to the late nineties. The course will conclude with the critical study of Richard Rorty's "Mirror of Nature" and three chapters each from Thomas Nagel's "Moral Questions" and "The Last Word". Conference papers are required.

Open to any interested student.