Reverential painting of a scientific experiment by Joseph Wright

Day 2: Mechanical Philosophy

On Tuesday,  we will start off with a discussion assignment called Advising the Pope.  Working in groups, students will be teleported back to 1614 to act as advisors to Pope Paul V in appointing a new court astronomer.  Students will evaluate the three leading astronomical systems of the day (Ptolemaic, Copernican, and Tychonic) and advise his Holiness as to which system is the best.

Afterwards, we will have a lecture on Mechanical Philosophy and its influence on the history of physics and astronomy.

Homework

  • Read Charlotte Sleigh’s “Introduction” chapter from Literature & Science.  Sleigh’s book argues the central tenet of this course: the idea that literature can show us the social impact of science and the reciprocal influence of society on science.
  • In the comments explain C.P. Snow’s idea of “two cultures.”  Then quote a passage from Sleigh that refutes this concept and explain the quote.
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15 thoughts on “Day 2: Mechanical Philosophy”

  1. His idea is that the two cultures (science and literature) are so different in their studies that neither can really understand the other; moreover, he argues that neither cares for the other and take pride in the ignorance of the opposite field.
    As Sleigh writes, ” Public intellectual culture has begun to respect the fact that science has a passionate, ‘big questions’ side to it, and that a meaning-saturated approach to the world is not restricted to the arts and humanities, as has sometimes been arrogantly presumed.”
    This may not be the clearest example of refutation; however, it leads to the idea that both are intertwined intricately. The human propensity for curiosity is the drive behind both fields of study. It seems that the two disciplines simply take differing approaches to finding answers to the same questions, namely what are referred to as the ‘big questions.’

  2. C.P. Snow’s reference to the fields of science and literature as the “two cultures” clearly depicts his idea that these two matters are quite separate and distinct. Not only that, but he also seems to view the two fields as opposing and that people of each field proudly knew nothing of the other.
    Sleigh refutes this idea, as he writes, “The most important human motivations to do science aren’t so far away from literary ones: they are to answer life’s big questions.” He mentions the similar pursuits of the two fields, then goes on to say that not only do they attempt to answer many of the same questions, but even conclude with similar answers. This quote refutes Snow’s idea by showing the similarities of the two groups’ goals, which he then claims often have similar outcomes. This relatedness explains how science and literature are much more intertwined than previously depicted by C.P. Snow.

  3. C.P. Snow’s idea of the “two cultures” refers to both the “culture” of science and that of literature. His idea is that science and literature are far apart from each other, and that one who is learned in literature has no knowledge of science and vice versa. He continues that some individuals may actually take pride in not knowing either science or literature and that some don’t show any interest in learning the other “culture” at all.
    Sleigh refutes, writing, “the literary elements of science are integral to its practice. Science cannot be neatly characterized as ‘objective’ in contradistinction to the ‘subjectivity’ of literature, and the pursuits of both science and literature serve many of the same deep human desires”.
    The way I understand it, Sleigh’s view contradicts that of Snow in the sense that science and literature are complementary to each other at the surface and at a deeper level. Yes a scientist must be able to write his or her experiments down, thus creating a scientific literature in its own, but also both scientists and writers both are fueled by similar questions.

  4. The idea of “two culture’s” presented by C.P. Snow, is his idea that literature and science have two different and quite opposite “cultures” which doesn’t allow for a mixing of the two harmoniously. He even believes that the opposite sides are so completely opposite that they often are proud to state they wish to know little of the “culture” of the opposing side.
    Sleigh contradicts this idea saying, “Thus the argument about representation does not state that science is ‘merely fiction’. Rather, it recognises the contingent construction of scientific representation and the embedding of its symbols in the language and culture of its time. This is what makes the literature of science such a fascinating area of study. Science cannot be conducted without language, and language is not a neutral tool.”
    Sleigh shows that through literature, scientific writing can be brought about to new meanings and actually have more meaning to a wider range of audiences, rather than just other scientists and scientific thinkers. The way this contradiction works is by showing that instead of being opposing cultures, science and literature can be integrated to show scientific truths through partially fictional novels.

  5. On pages 2-3 in Sleigh’s introduction, she gives the reader the Two Cultures argument made by physicist and author C.P. Snow in 1959. His thesis is that writers and scientists don’t understand each others fields, especially authors almost being proud of their lack of knowledge about science. Sleigh disagrees with this premise arguing that scientific facts only become facts after discussion and understanding, done with language and writing. She says on page 10, “the literary elements of science are integral to its practice. Science cannot be neatly characterized as ‘objective’ in contradistinction to the ‘subjectivity’ of literature, and the pursuits of both science and literature serve many of the same deep human desires.”

    Sleigh is saying that while literature may not be correct in the complete scientific understanding, it can still work for both the author and the reader. They can help facilitate natural questions such as why are we here, what is out in space, and other human desires to understand why we as humans are as we are, as well as to show what we may become in the future with imagined technology. This is especially true in cases like Star Trek, where much of the imagined technology has been made real science due to the creative minds inspired by what they read/saw.

  6. In the comments explain C.P. Snow’s idea of “two cultures.” Then quote a passage from Sleigh that refutes this concept and explain the quote.

    The idea of the two cultures came from Snow claiming that literature and science were separate realms for representing truth. They could not overlap because science is written in such a style that it “doesn’t have a style”. Sleigh notes, however, that a lack of style is itself a style in the same way that people who refuse to wear cloths with any real fashion are making a potent fashion statement.

  7. In the reading, the two cultures mentioned are science and literature. C.P. Snow argues that both disciplines are too different from each other that there is no overlap between them. Snow goes on to say that scientists and writers have no knowledge of each other’s fields, and that writers take pride in their ignorance regarding science. Sleigh believes that Snow’s thinking is incorrect, and she suggests that science and literature go hand in hand. In the chapter “Shared ground for literature and science ” Sleigh says, “ We cannot simply make objective facts without subjective representations- images, model, metaphors that make them real to us.” In this quote, Sleigh says that when scientist report their findings, they must use “literature” in order to effectively convey their findings to other readers. She gives the example of Robert Boyle who used a common metaphor to describe his research. Specifically, Boyle described pressurized air as a “spring” in order for his readers to understand the behavior of pressurized air.

    I agree with Sleigh’s view. I believe that science and literature are two sides of the same coin. The way that science uses language to convey findings and research can be described as a form of literature.

  8. Clearly, C.P. Snow’s idea of the “two cultures” refers to his belief that science and literature were separate entities. In that they were not to be intermingled. Also, one who studies science would not have any knowledge of literature, and the same for novelists in regards to scientific material. As Sleigh states on page 2, “Snow claimed that participants in science and literature had no knowledge of one another’s fields, and worse, that the writers in particular were almost guilty of taking pride in their scientific ignorance.”

    Sleigh argues that this is indeed not the case at all.
    “In summary, the literary elements of science are integral to its practice. Science cannot be neatly characterized as ‘objective’ in contradistinction to the ‘subjectivity’ of literature, and the pursuits of both science an literature serve many of the same deep human desires.” (Sleigh 10)
    In this quote, she implies that both in science and literature the reader expects to wrap them selves in some sort of truth or belief through their own perspective of the reading. Aspects of both science and literature can compliment each other to achieve a common goal.

  9. C.P. Snow’s idea of “two cultures” refers to his belief that science and literature are two unrelated and separate fields of study. Furthermore, that these two distinct fields are ignorant of one another and lack motivation to gain knowledge of the opposing side.
    Sleigh disagrees with this view and instead argues that science and literature are very much related. “Scientific disputes continue to be conducted through literature, mostly in journals of science and sometimes also in the wider media. These disputes are never ‘purely’ scientific; they are always language-based processes that cannot be reduced to nonlinguistic form.” In this quote Sleigh is conveying the idea that science and literature co-exist and that science must utilize literature in order to be understood and debated.

  10. C.P. Snow’s idea of the ‘two cultures’ dealt with the relationship of science and literature. Snow felt that the two schools of thought could not be linked in any way. Snow went as far as to say, “writers in particular were almost guilty of taking pride in their scientific ignorance”. I feel like this is similar to a high school beauty queen. This young lady feels as though she is defined by her beauty and is not only afraid to show her actual intellect in a classroom setting, but also acts like she knows very little(perhaps the root of ‘dumb blonde’). According to this school of thought, both the beauty queen and the writer disregard or even downplay their greatest strengths because they feel that these characteristcs would alter their peers’ perceptions of them in a negative way.

    Sleigh chooses to dispute this school of thought as he pulls a quote from ‘shared ground for literature and science’. He states, “It explains the nature and importance of historicised readings, and claims that a contextualised reading of novels involving science is a good way to understand science of the past”. Sleigh is clearly saying that the great literary works are where we should turn if we are investigating the scientific knowledge and customs of cultures throughout history.
    #classtenet

  11. Reblogged this on dollyjpatel and commented:
    C.P. Snow believes the “two cultures” of science and literature are extensively different from each other to the point were both sides take pride in the ignorance and carelessness of the opposing field.
    Sleigh refutes this concept by stating, “science cannot be neatly characterised as ‘objective’ in contradistinction to the ‘subjectivity’ of literature, and the pursuits of both science and literature serve many of the same deep human desires.”
    Sleigh believes that both science and literature have the same goals and essentially are depicting the same big ideas. Also, science cannot be objectively written rather it has to be written with such literature in order to gain credibility.

  12. C.P. Snow believes the “two cultures” of science and literature are extensively different from each other to the point were both sides take pride in the ignorance and carelessness of the opposing field.
    Sleigh refutes this concept by stating, “science cannot be neatly characterised as ‘objective’ in contradistinction to the ‘subjectivity’ of literature, and the pursuits of both science and literature serve many of the same deep human desires.”
    Sleigh believes that both science and literature have the same goals and essentially are depicting the same big ideas. Also, science cannot be objectively written rather it has to be written with such literature in order to gain credibility.

  13. C.P Snow’s idea of “two cultures” basically states that science and literature are two separate cultures, each one ignorant and perhaps even hostile to the other. Where science is supposed to be purely objective and unpassionate in nature, whereas literature is the opposite, purely subjective.

    I think probably the best opposition to this idea is when Sleigh states, referring to the use of metaphors in explaining scientific fact, that “Such metaphors and images act as frames for knowledge. They allow us to understand scientific ideas, and they actively affect our understanding. As such, scientific facts are always embedded in their representation, a phenomenon that is in large part subjective and literary or artistic.” The meaning here is that, as humans, we can’t very easily digest pure fact and figures, we have to be able to grasp what they “mean”, often by comparing them to other things, and some of the best explanations of scientific fact do so through the use of metaphors and hypothetical situations, which can often amount to the same thing as parables. As such, the subjective nature of literature is often neccessary as a means through which to explain objective scientific fact.

  14. C.P Snow’s idea of two cultures is basically the idea that Science and literature are each their own form of culture. Science is used to prove something is factual while literature is opinionated and used to persuade views of others or it can also be used to describe situations or explain what is going on. Each of these can stand alone as an independent category, how ever they are both used as a method to persuade. In this article it is stated that science has components of research and other things more hands on while literature does not, but each of these are used to answer life’s questions. “science is used to answer questions like why am I here, and literature is used to describe why and how with earlier written literature, or with oral forms of literature, like hymns “. As a result it can be inferred that literature and science could go hand in hand.

  15. C.P. Snow holds the belief that science and literature have their own distinct cultures. He believes that the two fields are ignorant of each other and unwilling to learn about the other.
    Sleigh counters this by saying that literature is an integral part of persuading someone in a scientific argument.
    “Let’s begin with the common undergraduate belief that science is about objective facts while literature deals in subjective opinions. The idea can be dispatched in a number of ways. For a start, science is all about persuading others that certain hypotheses are true: that they should be elevated to the status of fact. Persuasion is primarily an art of language and literature, and so the presentation of an argument that is, its literary form – is central to its credibility. No fact will be agreed as true unless it is presented in an acceptable style. At different times, different literary styles have been seen as persuasive and therefore desirable.” In order for us to understand science it must be presented adequately.

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