Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The dialectic of knowledge and culture

The University of California, San Diego (UCSD) offers a podcast containing a lecture series of Professor Tal Golan (History of Science). It is part of a scientific program that usually is rather technical. This particular series (CATS2), however, is historical and it proposes to hand the history of science and reveal the relationship between what we know and how we organize the world. (feed)

Golan says, you could title the series with 'Laws of men and laws of nature', which is also a book of his. He intends to show that what is perceived as knowledge and how knowledge is organized and institutionalized in society, is closely related with how society is organized, politically, legally, economically and so on. Considerations about truth designate how research is done (if at all), how theories are conceived (if at all) and who is assumed to have authority in this field. This authority in turn designates who can advise the political leaders, what agendas are served, what problems are detected and how it is assumed they can be handled.

In many ways this is a history of ideas and consequently, a more structured and deeper version of the BBC's In Our Time. At times it is very abstract and since I have not finished the course yet, I cannot begin to make any final review about it. I can only strongly recommend it. You are going to find out why for the Greeks it was not meaningful to conduct experiments, why this was essential for Christianity and the society of the Middle Ages and how the intellectual efforts of Galileo, to Descartes to Kant and others, completely revolutionized the world. Such a deep search is also confusing at times and Golan admits that right from the beginning and occasionally starts all over again. He announces he is not happy with how he has construed his argument and gives it another try. This may seem unstructured, but actually is thrilling.

More UCSD:
Gupta History,
World history guided by the religions,
World history outside the European box,
Making of the Modern World - UCSD,
UC San Diego's podcast courses.

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