English 233:  Introduction to Western Humanities --
Baroque and Enlightenment
Fall 1999
Lyman Baker, Instructor
  Return to Part 1 of the Course Schedule.
  Go to Part 3 of the Course Schedule.

Course Schedule -- Part 2

Where are we going, where have we been?

We have just gotten acquainted with a major cultural trauma that marks the beginning of the "Early Modern Period" in Western Europe:  the Protestant Reformation split Western Christendom into two bitterly opposed camps (and continued splitting into mutually antagonistic camps itself).  These splits resulted in tremendous social violence (persecutions, civil wars, continental wars).  In important part, these conflicts reflect a profound crisis in authority:  people agreed that the ultimate authority in all things human must be God's will, but disagreed on the details of God's plan was for saving fallen man because they disagreed on what God had decreed as the secondary authority for humans to consult to discover these details -- the Church headed by God's Vicar on Earth (the Bishop of Rome, that is, the Pope), or Scripture alone. 

The second quarter of our course will introduce you to a second cultural trauma that emerged in the Early Modern Period -- the "Copernican Revolution," which is actually a revolution in both astronomy and physics, and which stretches from Copernicus to Newton.  The Copernican Revolution may at first glance seem "slow" for a "revolution" -- it took over 150 years to complete -- but compared with the nearly 2000 years in which the model it displaced had been establishing itself, this is indeed an historical "instant," and its ramifications were indeed radical.  We'll find ourselves covering the roughly the same period (1543-1687) we covered in the first quarter (1517-1688), but we'll be looking at a parallel development. 

So far we have kept within the sphere of [Western] Christianity; now we look at developments that ultimately called into question the very bases of authority within Christianity itself, the traditions of the Church, the judgment of the Popes, the Bible itself.  The "Copernican Revolution" presents us with the first of a series of conflicts, in modern Western culture, between "Religion and Science" or "Faith and Reason."

And up to now we have been looking at changes within the traditional Christian picture of history (specifically, the way divine providence accomplishes its ends in time); now we pass to the overthrow of the traditional picture of the nature of nature (specifically, of the structure of space and of the operation of the natural world).  This revolution in the picture of man's situation in the physical cosmos will in turn have a profound impact upon the traditional Christian picture of history that we have been examining so far.  In particular, two basic premises of the traditional Christian picture of history will come under stress:  the doctrine of Original Sin, and the causal role of divine intervention ("advent") in historical process.

24 Sep (F):  Ptolemy and Copernicus.

(1) Read the first part of Chapter 15 in WH. This is pp. 381-391 (top of column 1).  This gives you a broad overview of the revolutions in science and philosophy that occured over the course of the 16th and 17th Centuries.  We will be focusing on the Copernical Revolution and on the lessons Bacon and Descartes thought could be derived, from what they saw of it, for further progress in gaining knowledge of the natural world in general.

(2) Print out and study the following documents on our course web site.

"A New Cosmos" (cosmos1.htm).  The links on this page take you to the next three items below.

"Explaining in the Sciences" (cosmos2.htm) -- Bring this to class today.  (If you have access to a color printer, use it.  It will make it easier for you to follow the crucial methodological distinctions.  If you can't print it off in color, take a set of highlighting pens of 5 different colors and code your black-and-white copy to mark these distinctions.  You might, for example, use light green for green, orange for brown, light blue for navy blue, pink for red and yellow or light purple for purple.)

"Developments in Astronomy and Physics, 1543-1687)" (cosmos3.htm) -- Bring this to class today and Monday. You'll also need to have it on hand when we take up Newton, just before Exam #2.

For today, work through the links in the section on Copernicus.

"Ramifications of the Victory of the New Picture" (cosmos4.htm) --

This is the pay-off / culmination / point of our examination of the Copernican Revolution!  Our discussion of it in class, however, will depend on how students themselves raise specific questions upon it.  This I strongly encourage you to do in class.  Or you can post questions on our course message boardMake sure you are on top of this.  You should understand

  • how the rest of the material we take up in connection with the Copernican Revolution feeds into it.
  • how it bears (by opposition, contrast, strain) on the traditional Christian picture of history that we took up at the beginning of the course
  • how it feeds in turn into the rest of the material we take up in the course.  (That is, in the third and fourth quarters of the course, you will need to be actively bringing these issues to bear.  If you don't, you will not understand the material we will be taking up there.)

27 Sep (M):  Brahe, Kepler, Galilei.

Consult "Developments in Astronomy and Physics, 1543-1687)" (cosmos3.htm).  (You will already have a copy of this if you did the assignment for last Friday.)  For today, work through the links in the section on

29 Sep (W):  The trial of Galileo before the Roman Inquisition.

In class today, we will view the video of Jacob Bronowski's "The Starry Messenger" (Part 6 of the television series The Ascent of Man), which gives a brief summary of astronomy up to Galileo and then devotes itself to the trial of Galileo.

In preparation for this, print off a copy of the Study Guide to this video.  Study it carefully and bring it with you to class.  Take your notes on the video directly on this sheet as the video is being shown.

1 Oct (M):  The trial of Galileo, continued.

In class today, we will explore in detail the issues concerning authority at stake in the trial of Galileo.  In preparation for this, you should

(1) print off and study carefully the Follow-up Study Guide to the video, and

(2) bring to class the printout you made in the first quarter of the class Luther's account of his final response at the Diet of Worms.

4 Oct (W):  Francis Bacon proposes a new method for discovering truths of nature (natural law).

(1) Review WH (p. 388) on Francis Bacon.  (Who are some famous contemporaries of Bacon?  What was going on in America when Bacon was alive?)

(2) Read our introduction to Francis Bacon.  Check out the links there.  (One of them is to the next item listed below.)

(3) Print off a copy of our excerpts from Bacon's Novum Organum.  Bring it with you to class today and Friday.

(4) Study these excerpts up through Aphorism #36.  Be sure to work through the relevant notes.

6 Oct (F):  Continuation:  the empirical method proposed in Bacon's Novum Organum.

(1) Finish reading our excerpts from Bacon's Novum Organum.  Be sure to bring your copy with you to class.

Try your best to make sense of the famous passage on the "idols of the mind" (Aphorisms 39-44) and the parable of the ant, the spider, and the bee (Aphorism 95).

(2) Read the discussion on Bacon's and Descartes' challenges to scholasticism.

9 Oct (M):  René Descartes proposes a new method for obtaining certain knowledge.

(1)  Review WH (pp. 388-9) on René Descartes.  (Who are some some famous contemporaries of Descartes?  What was going on in America when Descartes was alive?)

(2)  Read one of the following biographical sketches of Descartes:  1, 2, or 3.

(3)  Read and bring with you to class the "Preface" and Chapters 1, 2, and 3 of Descartes Discourse on Method.  [The full title of this work is Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting the Reason, and Seeking Truth in the Sciences.]  You may also obtain the text at this alternate web site.

11 Oct (W):  Continuation:  "methodical doubt" and rationalism in Descartes' Discourse on Method

(1)  Read and bring with you to class the Chapters 4 and 6 of Descartes Discourse on Method.  [You may want to make a copy of Chapter 5 for reading on your own later, but we will not be taking it up in our course.]  You may also obtain the text at this alternate web site.

(2)  If you want to know more about Descartes, an excellent place to start is Philosophy for Everyone--Rene Descartes.  (This is recommended, not required.)

13 Oct (F):  Newton.

(1) Read one of the following biographical sketches of Newton:  1, 2, 3 or 4.  (Students interested in knowing more about Newton will find Newtonia: pages about Sir Isaac Newton an excellent place to start.  Recommended, not required, of course.)

(2) Study the material on Newton on our page "Developments in Astronomy and Physics, 1543-1687)".  (You made a copy of this as part of the first assignment in this 2nd quarter of the course.)

(3) Review the summary of "Ramifications of the Victory of the New Picture" (which you have been studying since we began our study of the Copernican Revolution and the methodological break with medieval philosophy).

15 Oct (F) through 1 November (M):  Completion/continuatin of our discussion of the issues raised in the readings so far in the readings so far assigned since Exam #1 and in the video on the trial of Galileo.

There will be much to clarify in the individual readings themselves, and concerning the various ways in which they relate to each other.  These readings are difficult, so you should expect to spend intense attention in re-reading them and in reflecting upon them in the light of class discussion.

3 Nov (M):  Exam #2.  You'll want to consult the prep sheet to this exam.


  Return to Part 1 of the Course Schedule.
  Go to Part 3 of the Course Schedule.

  Go to the Home Page of the course.

  Suggestions, comments and questions are welcome.  Please send them to lyman@ksu.edu .

      Contents copyright © 1999 by Lyman A. Baker

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      This page last updated 09 November 1999.