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Freedom and Authority - Syllabus

Instructor: Hoover (Spring 2008)

Texts      Objectives and Content      Requirements      Schedule
Readings for this course will be a mix of short, focused selections from primary sources—Plato, Aristotle, Petrarch, Leonardo, Copernicus, and Galileo, etc.— along with selections from secondary sources. All primary sources and some of the secondary sources will be in the form of photocopied materials which will be distributed to students in the course at the beginning of the semester:
    •  Re-Visioning the Cosmos (collection of photocopied material)             [available from the instructor]

In addition two secondary texts are required as well:
    • Dear, Peter.   Revolutionizing the Sciences
    • Lindberg, David.  The Beginnings of Western Science

Objectives and Content
The character of this course will resemble what some might call a “history of ideas” approach in which the focus tends to be more on the developments within the cultural and intellectual frameworks of a society, and the relation of successive artistic and philosophical movements to each other rather than on the explanations of these changes in terms of the details of economic, political and social realities. This history of ideas emphasis is a matter of degree and will not entirely exclude a study of historical causal explanations. But as a result of this approach, students will become familiar with such general movements as scholasticism, humanism, neoplatonism, mechanism, etc. However, the course will also be informed by the sensibilities of recent scholarship on the history of renaissance Europe which caution against the periodization and reductionist accounts that typify a more traditional history of ideas approach. We will discover that the conceptions of the natural world both before and during the early modern era are complex and do not adhere to any single orthodoxy and that there exist continuities of thought between the views of medievals and that of the early moderns. Yet there is also some justice in regarding the intellectual changes that occur in the conception of the natural world from 1500 to 1700 as “revolutionary”. A rapid transformation in the kind of explanations that are given for natural events occurs during these years. We will seek to come to some understanding of the intellectual and cultural developments that anticipate these changes. We will seek to understand which catalysts within European culture provide the ingredients for the revolution within the sciences. This course will focus on the Italian Renaissance as furnishing important clues to these concerns

Course Requirements
This course is not designed with the intent to simply “download” as much information as possible from instructor to student. Rather, the course will aim for an interactive classroom environment, in which material will be presented with the expectation that students will have questions and will feel free to pursue those questions in class. Accordingly, students will be expected to work through the assigned readings, both primary and secondary, prior to class meetings. There will also be occasional short writing exercises or quizzes that pertain to the readings and which will check the level of students’ engagement with the material and also serve as a springboard for class discussions. Performance on these exercises will be included as an element in class participation. A class participation grade will be assigned and will count for 20% of the course grade. Class participation will be graded on the basis of student performance in four areas: atten¬dance; prep¬aration; the quality of in-class participation; and performance on any short writing assignments.

As an honors course this class will meet the requirements for writing emphasis and stress the development of writing skills. Three papers of four to five pages in length will be required (see syllabus for tentative due dates). The topics for these papers will be assigned at least one week prior to their due date. These papers may be rewritten and resubmitted (and on occasion rewrites may be required). There will be no specific due dates for voluntary rewrites (although none will be accepted after the last class day) and there is no maximum number of times that a student may submit a rewritten paper. When submitting rewrites, please include the previously submitted versions (only significantly revised papers, please). The grade for rewritten papers will replace the previous grade if the new grade is higher. The two paper grades will be weighted equally (each counts one-sixth of the course grade).

Each student will also be required to complete two examinations over the course of the semester. These exams will all include a significant essay component. Each exam will be weighted equally (one-sixth of course grade). 
The final course grade is broken down as follows: 1/6th = class participation grade; 3/6ths = three exam grades; 2/6ths = two paper grades.

Proposed Schedule
(This schedule is for planning purposes only.  The actual day-to-day assignments
will be given in-class and posted on the "Daily Assignments" webpage.)

Jan.    11    F    (Course Introduction)
Jan.     14    M    Establishing the Problematic

The Inherited View of the Cosmos

Jan.    16    W    Plato and his predecessors
Jan.    18     F    Plato’s Timaeus
Jan.    21    M    Plato’s Timaeus
Jan.    23    W    Aristotle
Jan.    25     F     Ptolemy
Jan.    28    M    Ptolemy           
Jan.    30    W    Neoplatonism
Feb.      1     F    Medieval revivals - Chartres
Feb.      4    M    Medieval revivals - Scholasticism   
Feb.      6    W    Dante       

The Renaissance: Early Humanism and Renaissance Platonism

Feb.        8     F     Artistic precursors
Feb.      11    M    Artistic precursors
Feb.      13    W    Petrarch   
Feb.      15     F     Petrarch
Feb.      18    M    Recovery of texts        PAPER DUE
Feb.      20    W    Ficino
Feb.      22     F     Ficino               
Feb.      25    M    Pico
Feb.      27    W    (Review/Catch-up)   
Feb.      29     F     EXAM

The Renaissance: A New Art and Architecture

March    3    M      Architecture all’antica           
March    5    W      Architecture all’antica       
March    7    F       Architecture all’antica


March    17    M    A new artistic vision   
March    19    W    A new artistic vision
March    21     F     A new artistic vision       
March    24    M    A new artistic Vision
March    26    W    Leonardo
March    28     F     Leonardo                PAPER DUE

A New Cosmology

March    31    M    The renaissance paves the way
April        2    W              [no classes – Scholarship Recognition Day]   
April        4     F    The renaissance paves the way
April        7    M    The renaissance paves the way
April        9    W    Copernicus   
April      11     F     Brahe, Kepler            PAPER DUE
April      14    M    Galileo
April      16    W    Galileo
April      18     F    Descartes
April      21    M    Newton
April      23    W    Wrap-up

April      25     F    (8:00 AM)   FINAL EXAM

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