Enlightenment Science and Rationality

History 280S.002

Spring 2013
Day & Time: 
W 10-12
  • Note new room.
  • The Enlightenment is more than a name for the eighteenth century in Europe and in its colonial networks. The term has been used to refer to a more or less coherent set of values and beliefs, to a historical process whose moral and political legacy continues to be fiercely contested. This seminar explores the intersection of these two meanings of Enlightenment, through the lenses of the transformation of scientific practice and of the very notion of rationality during the long eighteenth century. We shall discuss key works in the historiography of the Enlightenment and the cultural history of science, following the demise of the ‘grand narrative’ and the many moves from the transcendent to the mundane: from the mind to the body, from humanity to society, from the universal to the local. Keeping our focus on the universality of modern science as a historical construction, we shall be able to address effectively a set of questions have been defining the modern world ever since, and especially the tension between universality and locality, artificial and natural, centers and peripheries.