HPS202 Progress (+ Tutorial)

History and Philosophy of Science and Technology
Course Code

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Thursday, September 29, 2011
Progress as Enlightenment Idea
Enlightenment, late 17CE to end of 18CE
intellectual culture strongly influenced by rationalism and Baconian natural philosophy,
scientific observation, quantification
associated with mathematization of natural investigation and application of reason to
all aspects of life
Renaissance scholars see selves as attempting to regain glories of Ancient Greece
and Rome, Enlightenment scholars believe surpass Ancients and have reached new,
more perfect social, political and intellectual age
saw history as building up to them
“If I see a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants” - Isaac Newton
also believed Enlightenment ideals would inevitably lead to the creation of a better
enlightenment -> utopia
better world being defined as one was more aligned with western rationalist ideals
science and tech taken as important visible signs of progress because moral and
social betterment hard to measure
ahistorical (for any given time and place) definition of progress: idea holding mankind
has advanced from aboriginal condition of primitiveness, and is advancing and will
continue towards some goal of technologically advanced utopian society
concerned with moral and social betterment of society
in western culture strongly associated with material betterment as symbolized by tech
goal oriented, deterministic, Eurocentric (i.e. Enlightenment)
Cabinets of Curiosities
trend among wealthy beginning 16CE, wealthy patrons funded collection of
designed to amaze, excite curiosity by displaying wonders of natural world
increased status of patron and served as social events for wealthy that drew on
fashion for natural investigation
gradually began to include manmade wonders among natural wonders
by 19CE commercialized, no longer only purview of wealthy
Science Museums
Charles Wilson Peale’s Philadelphia Museum (-> Peale Museum) open with displays
of natural history and tech early 19CE
National Gallery of Practical Science, London 1832
Royal Polytechnic Institution, London 1838, main hall display wonders of science and
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