Cercetare filosofia stiintei programe master

Optional Course
The Scientific Self: body and soul in seventeenth century Europe

Second semester (Feb-June), 2010


Wednesday, 6 P.M.

First course: MARCH 10th, 2010, 6PM

Course description:
This is a new course, jointly designed and taught at the University of Notre Dame and the University of Bucharest in the second semester of the academic year 2009-2010. The course was developed jointly by Dana Jalobeanu, Katherine Brading (University of Notre Dame) and Sam Newlands (University of Notre Dame).

Language: English

The seventeenth century is widely acknowledged as a time of profound change in European thought. It is frequently depicted as a time of “crisis” -- socially, politically, philosophically, theologically. But it is also the century of the “scientific revolution”, the very origin of modern science and a certain way of thinking that is still with us today. Our course will explore one of the major philosophical concepts emerging in this time of crisis and revolution: the concept of the self. We won’t to that in the traditional manner, however, linking the emergence of the self with metaphysics and moral philosophy, but we will inquire into this very modern concept from the perspective of the historian and philosopher of science.

The title ‘The Scientific Self’ is deliberately ambiguous, encompassing two objects that will be the focus of our course:

(1) The 'scientists' themselves: who were they, how did they think of themselves, what did they think they were doing, why were they doing it, and how is s/he engaged in the world?

(2) The story told by the ‘science’ of the seventeenth century about the human self: what is a human being, what is a body, what is a mind, what is a soul, what are the relations between them, what is the nature of body in general, and its relations with the rest of the universe?

The course will focus on primary texts from seventeenth century treatises, scientific correspondence, scientific journals or literary works. We will use secondary texts to complement our readings and understand better primary texts.

The motivation for teaching this seminar jointly is the goal of creating a research environment. The course will be prepared by three professors who, although sharing a number of interests in early modern philosophy, come from different philosophical perspectives. Katherine Brading specialized in philosophy of modern physics, Dana Jalobeanu is a historian and philosopher of early modern science and Sam Newlands comes from metaphysics and philosophy of religion.

To the diversity of teachers we will add the diversity of our two groups of students. The US group will comprise 12 students, mostly advanced undergraduates (Philosophy majors) and a number of graduate students. The Bucharest group will consists primarily in advanced undergraduates (philosophy majors, European Studies majors with preliminary courses in philosophy). For both groups it will be a new and (we hope) forming experience to take part in common activities and interact on regular basis through the discussion list and through posting materials/questions/comments on a specially designed web-page.

Since our groups of students are different and there are also important differences in the schedule and the number of hours per week, there will be (we hope) interesting differences among the materials studied. To help you follow what your colleagues are doing, the course will have an important on-line component. Course materials, seminar requirements and seminar questions will be posted on the course web-page at Notre Dame
The Scientific Self: body and soul in seventeenth century Europe
and the course page at Bucharest Course: The Scientific Self: body and soul in seventeenth century Europe

The course will have a common list of discussions and students are encouraged to post regularly comments and questions regarding the US or the Romanian part of the course. Provisional group address:
Google Groups: The Scientific Self: body and soul in seventeenth century Europe

Some of the lectures will make use of skype as a mean of communication and a professional web-cam so that professors and students from the University of Bucharest and the University of Notre Dame can communicate in real-time. The lectures will be designed so that we can use smart-boards and the slides will be also posted on the web-page.

The students will be required to read from one week to the other a number of texts and parts of relevant texts (approx. 20 pages/week) and are expected to take part on the live and on-line discussions (posting comments on the web-page and exchanging emails with their US colleagues) on the basis of these materials.

The evaluation will have three steps:
1. writing a response paper and establishing a research question
2. writing an abstract/working plan for the final paper
3. writing a final paper
4. presenting the final paper in a final colloquium

The first three students from the Romanian group will be selected to take part in the Princeton-Bucharest seminar in Early Modern Philosophy (taking place in Bran, 1-6 June 2010)

Previous requirements

1. good command of English (reading, writing, speaking abilities)
2. Students are expected to have read before entering the course:
Descartes, Discourse on method
Descartes, Meditations
Bacon, New Atlantis (Francis Bacon, Noua Atlantida, ed. Nemira 2007, introducere si comentariu Dana Jalobeanu)
John Gribbin, The Fellowship

Mid-term requirements

Ian Pears, An instance of the fingerpost(Cercul crucii, Nemira, 2008

Optional: Neal Stephenson, The Quicksilver, (the first volume of the Baroque Trilogy)

Enrollment (Bucharest)

This is an optional course (6 credits) open to graduates and undergraduates. Minimal requirement: at least one semester in the University of Bucharest. The course will take place every Wednesday from 6-8 pm at the Faculty of Philosophy.

Contact details