John H. Zammito will analyze recent developments in understanding man's relationship to science and nature. He is the John Antony Weir Professor of History, professor of German and Slavic studies, and chairman of the German department at Rice University, where he teaches European intellectual history.
OCTOBER 18: THE “DEATH OF NATURE” IN THE SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTION
Zammito will examine what happened to the Western idea of nature during the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century by analyzing Carolyn Merchant's 1980 book, The Death of Nature. Merchant combined history of science with feminism to produce a scathing indictment of the violence of science, which stripped spiritual integrity from natural objects and thereby rendered nature “dead” and available to humans for use and abuse.
To read an interview with Carolyn Merchant, please click here.
OCTOBER 25: FROM ENLIGHTENMENT VITALISM TO ROMANTIC NATURPHILOSOPHIE
The late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries were swept by a powerful current of scientific and philosophical innovation. Zammito will describe the idea that nature was “alive” with forces (electricity, magnetism, heat, chemical bonding, and, above all, organic life). This Romantic philosophy of nature has not generally been taken seriously as science (or philosophy). Zammito will reconsider the validity of this view.
NOVEMBER 1: NATURA NATURANS FOR THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY
Our contemporary world is in the throes of an upheaval in the life sciences, and we are faced with unprecedented challenges to determine what it means to be human and what we should permit ourselves to do to nature and ourselves. Zammito will discuss whether ideas from history and philosophy hold clues for orienting ourselves as humans in our “brave new world” of biotechnology.
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