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Thursday, April 10

April 10, 2014

WWTWWT: Today we talked about (Sir) Francis Bacon, the British scientist and philosopher, whose catchphrase was “Knowledge is power,” and who is credited with developing the scientific method we still use to conduct experiments.

With Bacon came a new era in philosophy. No longer was knowledge valuable just for its own sake, because it would make us virtuous to pursue it. Now knowledge was oriented to two ends: the prediction and control of the world around us.

This has obviously led to lots of lots of scientific discoveries that have made life longer and more pleasant. Whether we’re talking about preventative treatment of a serious medical condition or being able to forecast destructive weather patterns, prediction and control of our environment is something we now take for granted.

However, this focus on prediction and control of nature has had some other effects as well. It:

1. reduced the importance of Aristotle’s formal and final causes. To predict and control nature, you only really need to know what something’s made of (material cause) and how it was made (efficient cause). You definitely don’t need to know the final cause of what you’re studying — since that would suggest that things in nature were created with a purpose, i.e., by a creator.

2. made God, as suggested in the point above, less important. Man finally had the science and the technology to predict and control his environment. Knowledge was power — and with that power came less reliance on a Supreme Power.

3. sometimes led to overconfidence, or hubris. Knowledge is power — except, of course, when it’s wrong.

Bacon was a scientist, and Machiavelli was interested in politics. But both of them, if you think about it, were interested in the prediction and control of nature. For Bacon, it was capital-N Nature; for Machiavelli, it was human nature. In both cases, however, the focus was on man doing it for himself — and not worrying much about the consequences in the hereafter.

For Tuesday: re-read the chapters on Hobbes and Locke in your textbook. A quiz is likely.

Addendum: I gave you a list of 10 possible themes for your midterm, based on ideas we’ve discussed thus far. (Relevant philosopher or philosophers in parentheses)

1. Do we have souls, and if so, are they immortal souls? (Plato and Aristotle)

2. Are there universals? (Plato, Aristotle, William of Ockham)

3. Is this world a reality, or is reality found elsewhere? (Plato, St. Augustine)

4. Is there such thing as a just war? (Augustine, Aquinas)

5. Does the end always justify the means? (Machiavelli)

6. What are the responsibilities of a leader? (Machiavelli)

7. Is there such thing as free will? (We’ll get to this soon)

8. Is there a first cause of the universe? (Aristotle, Aquinas)

9. What is our purpose (Plato, Aristotle)

10. Should we fear death? (Epicurus)

This is only a partial list, and of course we’ll be adding to it. In fact, we did so today; “knowledge is power” could be included as well.

Adaptation: Today we finished watching Little Shop… and the alternate “director’s cut” ending. Tomorrow: the live show. No homework… yet.

Siren: Quiz on story organizers, etc. Planning for May/the final bake sale.

Film Studies: Today we did a close analysis of a sequence from Jurassic Park. Here’s the sheet, which you handed in at the end of the hour: Spielberg 4.10.14 – Perimeter Fence Sequence Analysis. If you were absent, you DO need to make this up. See me for the DVD/details.

Bookbinding: Watched Sunset Blvd..

8th Grade: Today we read Twilight Zone stories and chose an unfavorite fictional character we would like to destroy.

Survey: CNF: Prepared for our group interview with Mr. Schaller on Friday out in the park. I gave out the lists of questions for Friday, and I let you ask me some questions, something I’ve never done before and am unlikely to do again.

Takeway: our interview tomorrow gives you a chance to add imagery (by which we mean sound as well as sight). How does the subject answer questions? You don’t have to worry much about writing down the answers to every question (I would like you to try to write down the answers to your own questions), so you can focus on gestures, tone of voice, pauses, speech patterns, etc.

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