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Masters and Possessors of Nature: On Science and Politics

Modern science promises to make our lives better—offering us more health, wealth, convenience, and safety. At the same time, science gives us tremendous new capacities to remake the physical world, or even to destroy it. And the new knowledge that science opens up can radically change our understanding of the universe and our own place in it. All this new power and knowledge represents a profound political challenge: How are we to wisely govern science so that we can enjoy its blessings while minimizing its potential harms? This course will introduce students to some of the philosophical and practical questions at the intersection of science and politics.



Sample Readings:

  • Excerpts from philosophers (including Bacon, Descartes, and Hume)
  • Excerpts from scientists (including Galileo, Newton, and Darwin)
  • Excerpts from statesmen (Jefferson, Churchill, and Eisenhower)
  • Excerpts from writers of fiction (Tolstoy, Melville, and Hawthorne)
  • Information relevant to two case studies for focused discussion (one from bioethics, one from computer science)

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