SOCIOLOGY 242



SCIENCE AND SOCIETY:
CRISIS OF THE ENLIGHTENMENT
AND THE ENVIRONMENT


 

PROFESSOR GEORGE E. MCCARTHY

KENYON COLLEGE
TRELEAVEN HOUSE

SPRING 2016


COURSE DESCRIPTION

This mid-level course represents a critical introduction to the contemporary crisis of the Enlightenment and the Environment. It emphasizes the underlying values and ethical norms that ground modern natural science and its relationship to nature, history, and industrial society. By exploring the delicate fabric binding Science, Nature, and Society, the course outlines the connections between environmental problems and broader social problems. The main goal of the course is to explore the contemporary environmental crisis while asking the central question -- Is this a crisis of Science, Reason, Ecology, or Society? Can the environment be repaired by furthering scientific inquiry, expanding Enlightenment rationality, encouraging alternative and green technology, or by transforming the fundamental structures and ideals of modern industrial society?

The first part of the course will examine the underlying philosophical and sociological foundations of modern science and Enlightenment rationality. It will begin by analyzing the differences between the ancient Greek and medieval view of physics, causality, movement, and organic nature and the modern worldview of natural science in Galileo, Descartes, and Newton. We will then turn to study the debates within the philosophy of science (Burtt, Popper, Kuhn, Quine, Feyerabend, and Rorty) and the sociology of science (Scheler, Ellul, Marcuse, Habermas, and Leiss) about the nature of scientific inquiry and the social/political meaning of scientific discoveries. Does science investigate the essential reality of nature or is it more influenced by the broader social relations and practical activity of modern industrial life? Does science reflect objective reality, essential being, and universal truth or does science construct physical reality and invent truth? That is, is science a social construct reflecting the utilitarian needs and functional interests of society? After responding to these issues, the course then turns to examine the applied relationships between science and society, that is, issues of environmentalism and social justice. We will deal with the full range of the rationalization of modern society: the application of science and technological rationality (efficiency, productivity, and functionality) to economic (workplace), political (state), and social (cultural legitimation) institutions. We will examine the process of modernization and rationalization in science, labor, politics, the academy, nature, and ecology.

Finally, we will discuss the debates about the Enlightenment and capitalism within critical ecology: the environmental movement, deep ecology, social ecology, and radical ecology. Of particular importance is the return to the enchanted nature and physics of Aristotle and the moral economy and classical democracy of the Greek polis by the social ecologists for insights into the crisis of Western reason and Enlightenment science along with their vision of small-scale technology, local communities, and participatory democracy. From this perspective, environmental science and social ecology are sensitive to the broader social issues of the need for structural change of class society and political economy, domination of nature and humanity, and social critique. Readings will be from T. Kuhn, E. A. Burtt, M. Berman, H. Braverman, C. Lasch, F. Capra, M. Horkheimer, H. Marcuse, and C. Merchant.


REQUIRED READINGS

T. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
M. Berman, The Reenchantment of the World
H. Braverman, Labor and Monopoly Capital
Aristotle, Physics and Metaphysics (selections)
E. A. Burtt, The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science
M. Horkheimer, Eclipse of Reason
C. Lasch, The Culture of Narcissism
J. Habermas, Toward a Rational Society
B. McKibben, The End of Nature
F. Capra, The Turning Point: Science, Society, and the Rising Culture

On Reserve in Treleaven House and on Library ERES:
Max Weber, "Science as a Vocation," chapter 22 in Readings in
Introductory Sociology
, edited by Dennis Wrong and Harry Gracey


COURSE REQUIREMENTS

There will be a mid-term and final paper due the last day of class. Questions will be given out prior to the mid-term exam from which two will be chosen the day of the exam. Class attendance is naturally required, as is participation in class discussions. The goal of the course is to encourage students to become involved in their own enlightenment. The final grade will be based on the mid-term, final paper, and class participation.

My office hours are Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 8:15 to 9:45 AM in Treleaven House, Room 202, 105 Brooklyn St. Appointments to see me at other times may be made during the day, or immediately before or after class. My email address is "McCarthy@Kenyon.edu."



OVERVIEW OF SCHEDULE AND REQUIRED READINGS

 WEEKS

1. Thomas Kuhn The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
2. Thomas Kuhn The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
3. E. A. Burtt The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science, pp. 15-124
(Recommended: William Leiss, The Domination of Nature,
Chapter 5: "Science and Domination," pp. 101-123)
4. Morris Berman The Reenchantment of the World, pp. 1-152
(Recommended: Aristotle, Physics, book 2 and Metaphysics, books Theta and Lambda)
5. Morris Berman The Reenchantment of the World, pp. 1-152
(Recommended: Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation: The Political
and Economic Origins of Our Time
)
6. Harry Braverman Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work
in the Twentieth Century

7. Harry Braverman Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work
in the Twentieth Century
8. Max Horkheimer Eclipse of Reason
Max Weber "Science as a Vocation" in Introductory Readings in Sociology,
edited by Dennis Wrong and Harry Gracey, chapter 22, pp. 187-192
9. Max Horkheimer Eclipse of Reason
10. Christopher Lasch The Culture of Narcissism
11. Christopher Lasch The Culture of Narcissism
12. Fritjof Capra The Turning Point: Science, Society, and the Rising Culture
Chapters 2, 5, 7, and 8
13. Carolyn Merchant Radical Ecology: The Search for a Livable World
(Recommended: Herbert Marcuse, "Industrialization and Capitalism in Max Weber," in
Negations: Essays in Critical Theory, pp. 201-226 and "Ecology and the Critique of Modern Society,"
Capitalism Nature Socialism, vol. 3, no. 3, 1992, pp. 29-38 and
Andrew Feenberg, "Can Technology Incorporate Values? Marcuse's Answer to the Question of the Age," at:
http://www.dogma.lu/txt/AF_Marcuse-Technology.htm)
14. Carolyn Merchant Radical Ecology: The Search for a Livable World
(Recommended: James O'Connor, "Capitalism, Nature, Socialism: A Theoretical Introduction,"
Capitalism, Nature, Socialism, vol. 1, Fall 1988, pp. 11-38)



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Science and Society: Crisis of the Enlightenment and Environment