Archive for the ‘Readings’ Category

Readings For June 15th

Posted: June 13, 2017 in Readings

ATTENTION: These are for Thursday. I’m aware that this looks like a lot, but I will try not to overburden you. Consequently, let’s not bother with the two scholarly essays on Alexander von Humboldt. We’ll only read the relatively recent essay by Elinor Shaffer, and the primary texts by F.W.J. Schelling and Wilhelm von Humbolt, all of which are brief.

For the record, Alexander, Wilhelm von Humboldt’s younger brother, was one of the most famous and admired men in the world during 19th century, though scarcely anyone knows him now. I will discuss Alexander in class, but you don’t have to do any actual reading on him. OK, see you soon!

Elinor Shaffer

Elinor S. Shaffer
(living – University of London)
“Romantic Philosophy and The Organization of The Disciplines:
The Founding of The Humboldt University of Berlin”

F.W.J. Schelling
“The Scientific and Moral Functions of Universities”


Wilhelm von Humboldt
(1767 – 1835)
“Theory of Bildung”
“Linguistic Variability and Intellectual Development”


Alexander von Humboldt
(1769 – 1859)

FYI, the novel below, about von Humboldt and Gauss, is my nomination for the Honors summer reading selection.


Karl S. Zimmerer
“Humboldt’s Nodes and Modes of Interdisciplinary Environmental
Science in the Andean World”

Geographical Review, Vol. 96, No. 3, Humboldt in the Americas (Jul., 2006)

Caroline Schaumann
“Who Measures the World? Alexander von Humboldt’s Chimborazo
Climb in the Literary Imagination”

The German Quarterly, Vol. 82, No. 4 (Fall 2009)

Humboldt1805-chimborazo (1)


Frederick E. Church




Readings for June 13th

Posted: June 10, 2017 in Readings

On Tuesday we’ll take up our discussion of Diderot, who is both fascinating and hilarious. Just skim the beginning the “Supplement”. Read the other two more carefully. FYI, “D’Alembert’ Dream,” the longest and strangest of the three, is also the most risqué. Additionally, we will begin to discuss Kant, though I imagine we will only get to the first essay, which was written for the general public and is a mercifully easy read. We’ll probably have to wait till next Tuesday to hit the Critique of Judgement, which as a monumental landmark of philosophy, is significantly harder.

Denis Diderot
(1713 – 1784)
“Supplement to the Voyage of Bougainville” (1770)
“Letter on the Blind For the Use of Those Who See” (1749)
“D’Alembert’s Dream” (1769)

Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) is the central figure in modern philosophy. He synthesized early modern rationalism and empiricism, set the terms for much of nineteenth and twentieth century philosophy, and continues to exercise a significant influence today in metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, political philosophy, aesthetics, and other fields.

–Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Readings for June 8th

Posted: June 6, 2017 in Readings

These are for Thursday. To avoid getting bogged down, I will only assign the Diderot. Please feel free to read the other selections though. Note that Diderot, while fascinating and important reading, will also be a bit raunchy, at least to the discerning reader. I’d encourage students to give him a try nevertheless, because this kind of material is an essential part of the Enlightenment. But I won’t demand that all students must read it, in case anyone is sensitive to innuendo. Please do what makes sense to you.

The first reading, by contemporary scholar Timon Screech, is a bit lengthy; but it is fairly straightforward, and much of its length is comprised of illustrations. In some ways this material will look very different from anything we’ve discussed so far this semester. But just a little reflection on it should reveal to you how well this relates to our earlier readings. I hope you find these essays on the Japanese reception of the Western optical apparatus as fascinating as I do.

Readings For June 6th

Posted: June 3, 2017 in Readings

Sorry we got so bogged down in the discussion of the midterm and Spinoza today. Normally, I would present the assignment in stages, but we just don’t have time for that in this intensive semester. As for Spinoza, I think we treated him remarkably well. Thanks for being patient and participatory.

Here is a new set of readings. I can’t promise we will get to Rousseau, because we still need to discuss Locke and Vico. But I will do my very best to cover all these readings next Tuesday.

OK, see you very soon.


Giambattista Vico
(1668 – 1744)
“On The Study Methods of Our Time” (1709)


Jean-Jacques Rousseau
(1712 – 1778)
Emile: or, On Education (1762)

Readings For June 1st

Posted: May 30, 2017 in Readings


Baruch Spinoza
(1632 – 1677)
Theological-Political Treatise (1670)
Ethics (1677)


Stephen Shapin (Harvard) and Simon Schaffer (Cambridge)
“The Trouble with Experiment: Hobbes vs. Boyle
Winners of the 2005 Erasmus Prize

Readings For May 18th

Posted: May 16, 2017 in Readings

I’ve updated all the files, as I said I would. If they’re still not working for you, please trying refreshing your browser, or try another search engine. These operations have helped students in the past. Good luck, and have a good weekend!

Marcel Mauss
(1872 – 1950)
A General Theory of Magic (1902)

Henry Petroski
To Engineer Is Human (1992)
Success Through Failure (2006)


Daniel Boorstin
U.S. Librarian of Congress
“The Invisible World”

Mario Biagioli
Law and Science and Technology Studies
“Discoveries and Etiquette” (1993)