Charles T. Wolfe (PhD, Boston University, 2007) is a Research Fellow in the Department of Philosophy and Moral Sciences and Sarton Centre for History of Science, Ghent University, and an associate member of the IHPST (CNRS-UMR 8590, Paris). He works primarily in history and philosophy of the early modern life sciences, with a particular interest in materialism and vitalism. He is the author of Materialism: A Historico-Philosophical Introduction (Springer, 2016), and has edited volumes including Monsters and Philosophy (2005), The Body as Object and Instrument of Knowledge (2010, with O. Gal), Vitalism and the scientific image in post-Enlightenment life-science (2013, with S. Normandin), Brain Theory. Essays in Critical Neurophilosophy (2014), Philosophy of Biology before Biology (w. C. Bognon-Kuss, in progress) along with articles in journals including Early Science and Medicine, History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences, Journal of the History of Biology, Multitudes, Perspectives on Science, Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology, Recherches sur Diderot et l’Encyclopédie,Science in Context, Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciencesand others. His current project is a monograph on the conceptual foundations of Enlightenment vitalism. He is also the Co-Editor of the Springer series in History, Philosophy and Theory of the Life Sciences. Papers and other works available at [http://ugent.academia.edu/CharlesWolfe]
History of Science: Conceptions, methods and problems
Dr Charles T. Wolfe, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ghent University, Department of Philosophy and Moral Sciences,
This class is conceived as an atelier for the elaboration of a jointly historical and conceptual approach to a series of episodes in early modern science (conceived broadly as extending through the Enlightenment, which is less often seen as a significant episode in the history of science). Our goal is both to discuss and acquire some familiarity with these episodes, and to discuss and become more familiar with contemporary conceptual ‘appropriations’ of such episodes. To pick some examples, it seems very difficult to understand the work of Georges Canguilhem or Lorraine Daston without looking at some of the historical material on which they elaborate their ‘epistemology’; similarly, it seems, if not unavoidable, at least difficult to look at Descartes’ mechanism, William Harvey’s vision of the body, Boyle on air and gas or Lockean empiricism without taking into consideration the contemporary debates they have spawned. Without this being a strict procedural norm for each session, readings for each class will combine a ‘primary’ text and a variety of either ‘secondary’ sources or theoretical appropriations, although the final weeks will increasingly depart from the early modern emphasis. In addition to the required readings I will usually indicate some ‘suggested readings’ on the week’s topic. I also welcome suggestions for presentations of other material (e.g. the ‘chemical revolution’, astronomy, optics, Latour and Shapin, and so on). Note that you should not feel daunted by the list of readings: the idea is to extract a few key points from the main texts. Further references may be found in the bibliography
— Class participation, including sending in by email one question on the week’s reading, by midnight on the day before class. This should be a short, precise question on something in the text, ideally with a textual reference. Selected questions will be discussed in class.
— One short presentation of an article or book chapter from either the bibliography or something you are researching on your own (please confirm with me): this should be 20-30 mn long, and will take place during the second hour of class.
— One mini-research paper (1500-2000 words), due in class mid-November.
— Either an expanded version of the paper or a written examination at the end of semester (you can choose: we confirm the choice a few weeks before end of semester).
The final grade will, with some looseness, be based on these as follows: class participation (15 %), oral presentation (25%), first paper (25%) and final paper or examination (35%)
1. What is the history of science? Internalism, externalism, Marxism and fashionable rejections
Peter Dear, “What is the History of Science the History of? Early Modern Roots of the Ideology of Modern Science,” Isis 96 (2005): 390-406.
Boris Hessen, “The Social and Economic Roots of Newton’s Principia” (1931), in Gideon Freudenthal and Peter McLaughlin, eds., The Social and Economic Roots of the Scientific Revolution (Springer, 2009)
Mario Biagioli, “The Scientific Revolution is Undead.” Configurations 6.2 (1998) 141-148, online at http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/configurations/v006/6.2biagioli.html
Suggested further reading:
Edgar Zilsel, “The Origins of William Gilbert’s Scientific Method,” Journal of the History of Ideas 2:1 (Jan. 1941), 1-32, online at http://www.compilerpress.atfreeweb.com/Anno%20Zilsel%20Gilbert.htm
Steven Shapin, “History of Science and its Sociological Reconstructions,” History of Science 20 (1982): 157-211
Gideon Freudenthal and Peter McLaughlin, ‘Classical Marxist Historiography of Science: The Hessen-Grossman Thesis’, in The Social and Economic Roots of the Scientific Revolution, Springer, 2009, pp. 1-38.
H. Floris Cohen, The Scientific Revolution: A Historiographical Inquiry. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994, § 8.1.
On the new historical epistemology, if curious see:
Epistemology and history from Bachelard and Canguilhem to today’s history of science, MPIWG conference (2012), preprint available at http://www.mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de/Preprints/P434.PDF
2. A Scientific Revolution conception of experiment: Boyle and some critiques
Robert Boyle, “New Experiments Concerning the Relation Between Light and Air” (1668), in Michael Hunter & Edward B. Davis, eds., The Works of Robert Boyle, vol. 6. London: Pickering & Chatto, 1999
Steven Shapin, “The House of Experiment in Seventeenth-Century England,” Isis 79:3 (1988): 373-404
Alan Chalmers, “The Lack of Excellency of Boyle’s Mechanical Philosophy,” Stud. Hist. Phil. Sci. 24:4 (1993)
I’ll also refer to:
Thomas S. Kuhn, “Mathematical vs. Experimental Traditions in the Development of Physical Science,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 7:1 (1976)
Peter Anstey, “Experimental Versus Speculative Natural Philosophy,“ in Gaukroger et al eds., The Science of Nature in the Seventeenth Century, Springer 2005, 215-242
3. Mechanism 1: mechanism and the embodied Descartes (talk by Christoffer B. Eriksen)
Selections from Descartes, Treatise on Man
Geir Kirkebøen, “Descartes Embodied Psychology: Descartes or Damasios Error?”, Journal of the History of the Neurosciences, 10:2 (2001) : 173-191
Ian Hacking, “The Cartesian Body,” BioSocieties 1 (2006): 13–15
Recommended (background, not Descartes):
On embodiment : C.W. Bynum, “Why All the Fuss about the Body? A Medievalist’s Perspective.” Critical Inquiry 22 (1995): 1-33
On ‘mechanisms’ (historical and not):
Machamer, P., Darden, L., & Craver, C. (2000). “Thinking about mechanisms.” Philosophy of Science 67: 1-25.
Theurer, Kari L. “Seventeenth-Century Mechanism: An Alternative Framework For Reductionism.” Philosophy of Science 80.5 (2013): 907-918
4. Mechanism 2: William Harvey: mechanism, teleology and touch
William Harvey, preface to De Generatione Animalium (1653) and selections from De motu cordis (1628)
Roger French, “Harvey, William (1578–1657),” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004
Walter Pagel, “William Harvey: Some Neglected Aspects of Medical History,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 7 (1944)
Peter M. Distelzweig, “Mechanics And Mechanism In William Harvey’s Anatomy: Varieties And Limits” (ms., 2013; forthcoming in Early Modern Medicine and Natural Philosophy, Springer)
Benjamin Goldberg, “A dark business, full of shadows: Analogy and theology in William Harvey,” Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (2013): 419–432
Recommended: works by French, Frank, Whitteridge …
Thomas Fuchs, The mechanization of the heart: Harvey and Descartes, trans. Marjorie Grene (Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2001)
5. Empiricism, medical and philosophical: Locke et al.
Excerpts from Locke (Essay, and early essay ‘Anatomia’)
David Norton, “The Myth of British Empiricism,” Hist. of European Ideas 1:4 (1981)
Charles Wolfe, “Empiricist Heresies in Early Modern Medical Thought.” In CT Wolfe and O. Gal, eds., The Body as Object and Instrument of Knowledge. Embodied Empiricism in Early Modern Science, 333-344 (Dordrecht: Springer, 2010)
J.C. Walmsley (2008). “Sydenham and the development of Locke’s natural philosophy.” British Journal for the History of Philosophy 16(1): 65-83.
Additional possible readings:
Alan Salter & Charles Wolfe, “Empiricism contra Experiment: Harvey, Locke and the Revisionist View of Experimental Philosophy.” Bulletin de la SHESVIE 16(2) (2009): 113-140
Peter Dear, “The Meanings of Experience,” in K. Park & L. Daston, eds., The Cambridge History of Science, vol. 3:Early Modern Science (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), pp. 106-131.
6. Enlightenment 1: Newtonianism
Voltaire, Letters Concerning the English Nation, Letter XIV: “On Descartes And Sir Isaac Newton.”
Scott Mandelbrote, “Newton and Newtonianism” Stud. Hist. Phil. Sci. 35 (2004): 415–425.
John Gascoigne, "Ideas of Nature: Natural Philosophy," ch. 12 in The Cambridge History of Science, vol. 4: Eighteenth-Century Science, ed. Roy Porter (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003)
Robert Schofield, “An Evolutionary Taxonomy of Eighteenth-Century Newtonianisms,” Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture, vol. 7 (1978): 175-192
J.B. Shank, The Newton Wars and the Beginning of the French Enlightenment (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008)
Theodore M. Brown, “Medicine in the Shadow of the Principia,” Journal of the History of Ideas 48:4 (1987), 629-648
7. Enlightenment 2:Materialism: the 18th century and us
Denis Diderot, Le Rêve de D’Alembert(excerpts)
Julien Offray de La Mettrie, Man a Machine (translation of L’Homme-Machine, 1748)
Mathieu Aury & Charles Wolfe, “Sommes-nous les héritiers des Lumières matérialistes?”, Phares (Université de Laval, Québec) vol. 8 (2008), pp. 11-33
Charles Wolfe, “Materialism,” in Aaron V. Garrett, ed., The Routledge Companion to Eighteenth-Century Philosophy (London: Routledge, 2014), 90-117
J.J.C. Smart, The Mind/Brain Identity Theory,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2000, revised 2007) http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/mind-identity/
8. Enlightenment 3: vitalism
J.-J. Ménuret de Chambaud, “Œconomie Animale (Médecine).” Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des arts et des métiers, eds. D. Diderot & J. D’Alembert, XI (1765): 360-366. Paris: Briasson.
Albrecht von Haller, A Treatise on the Sensible and Irritable Parts of animals (London: J. Nourse, 1755)
Elizabeth Haigh, “Vital Forces and Vital Laws in Eighteenth-Century French Physiology,” Man and Nature 4 (1985): 1-15.
C.T. Wolfe & M. Terada, “The ‘animal economy’ as object and program in Montpellier vitalism.” Science in Context 21(4) (2008): 537-579
(Or shorter version: Charles T. Wolfe, “From substantival to functional vitalism and beyond, or from Stahlian animas to Canguilhemian attitudes,” Eidos 14 (2011): 212-235)
Peter Hanns Reill, Vitalizing Nature in the Enlightenment (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005)
Joseph Caron, “‘Biology’ in the Life Sciences: A Historiographical Contribution,” History of Science 26 (1988): 223-268
Peter McLaughlin, “Naming biology,” Journal of the History of Biology 35 (2002): 1-4.
9. Modern times 1: Function and health in philosophy of biology (talk by Barnaby Hutchins)
Robert Cummins, "Functional Analysis," Journal of Philosophy 72 (1975): 741.765. Reprinted in various anthologies.
Christopher Boorse, “Health as a Theoretical Concept,” Philosophy of Science 44(4) (1977): 542–573
Arno Wouters , "Four Notions of Biological Function." Studies in history and philosophy of science Part C: Biological and Biomedical sciences 34(4) (2003): 633-668.
For a historical version of such analysis:
Deborah J. Brown, "Cartesian Functional Analysis," Australasian Journal of Philosophy (2011). DOI:10.1080/00048402.2011.566274.
Lisa Shapiro, “The Health of the Body-Machine? Or Seventeenth Century Mechanism and the Concept of Health.” Perspectives on Science 11 (4) (2003): 421-442
Andre Ariew, Robert Cummins and Mark Perlman eds., Functions. New Essays in the Philosophy of Psychology and Biology (OUP 2002)
J. Gayon , A. de Ricqlès eds. Les fonctions : Des organismes aux artefacts (Paris: PUF, 2010)
10. Modern times 2: Canguilhem & the historical epistemology of the life sciences
Selections from Canguilhem (cf. the recently translated collection Knowledge of Life, in French La connaissance de la vie) to be made available. See also ‘The object of the history of science’.
Peter Trnka, “Subjectivity and Values in Medicine: The Case of Canguilhem,” The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 28:4 (2003): 427-446
Hans-Jörg Rheinberger, ‘Reassessing the historical epistemology of Georges Canguilhem’, in Gary Gutting, Continental philosophy of science, Oxford, Blackwell Publishing, 2005, pp. 187-207.
Additional suggested reading:
Michel Foucault, “ La vie: l'expérience et la science,” Revue de métaphysique et de morale 90, no. 1 (1985) : 3-14.
Jean Gayon, “The Concept of Individuality in Canguilhem’s Philosophy of Biology.” Journal of the History of Biology 31 (1998): 305-325. (this also exists in French)
11. Theoretical, methodological wrap-up
* unless otherwise indicated texts will be posted in electronic form in Athena / Dropbox for those not on Athena. (Not necessarily the recommended readings.)