KNOW courses are offered by the faculty of the Stevanovich Institute on the Formation of Knowledge at both the graduate and the advanced undergraduate levels. For graduate students, we offer a number of cross-listed seminars as well as an annual core sequence in topics in the formation of knowledge (KNOW 401, 402, 403). These seminars will be team-taught by faculty from different departments or schools and are open to all graduate students regardless of field of study. Graduate students who enroll in two quarters of this sequence are eligible to apply for the SIFK Dissertation Research Fellowships.
KNOW 27004: Babylon and the Origins of Knowledge
In 1946 the famed economist John Maynard Keynes declared that Isaac Newton “was the last of the magicians, the last of the Babylonians.” We find throughout history, in the writings of Galileo, Jorge Luis Borges, Ibn Khaldun, Herodotus, and the Hebrew Bible, a city of Babylon full of contradictions. At once sinful and reverential, a site of magic and science, rational and irrational, Babylon seemed destined to resound in the historical imagination as the birthplace of knowledge itself. But how does the myth compare to history? How did the Babylonians themselves envisage their own knowledge? In this course we will take a cross comparative approach, investigating the history of the ancient city and its continuity in the scientific and literary imagination.
KNOW 21415: Evolution Before Darwin
This course will explore the emergence and development of evolutionary thought prior to Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species (1859). We will pay particular attention to the way in which transformism was a feature of nineteenth-century thought more generally, connecting natural history to astronomy, theology, and the study of humanity. Natural philosophers and later scientists who wished to make arguments concerning nature's deep past and hidden or obscured processes (such as the long-term transformations of stars, strata, and organic species) faced an essential problem: the power of observation and experiment was limited. Our class will interrogate this problem, and examine the way in which the development of evolutionary thought prior to Darwin was intimately connected to contentious debates regarding speculation and scientific method. We will conclude by contemplating the ways in which the ideas and challenges raised by transformism and evolution influenced the reception of Darwin's work, and the way in which these ideas and challenges remain embedded within seemingly disparate fields of study today.
KNOW 40304: Between Nature and Artifice: The Formation of Scientific Knowledge
This course critically examines concepts of "nature" and "artifice" in the formation of scientific knowledge, from the Babylonians to the Romantics, and the ways that this history has been written and problematized by both canonical and less canonical works in the history of science from the twentieth century to the present. Our course is guided by three overarching questions, approached with historical texts and historiography, that correspond to three modules of investigation: 1) Nature, 2) Artifice, and 3) Liminal: Neither Natural nor Artificial.
KNOW 28900: Magic, Science, and Religion
The relationship between the categories of magic, science, and religion has been a problem for modern social science since its inception in the nineteenth century. In the first half of this course, we will critically examine some of the classical and contemporary approaches to these concepts. In the second half, we will explore a number of detailed historical and ethnographic studies about modern phenomena that call some of the fundamental assumptions behind these categories into question.
KNOW 27860: History of Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences
This course will consist in lectures and discussion sessions about the historical and conceptual foundations of evolutionary behavioral sciences (evolutionary anthropology, evolutionary psychology, ethology, comparative behavioral biology), covering the period from the publication of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species up to the present day. Topics will include new theoretical developments, controversies, interdisciplinary expansions, and the relationships between evolutionary behavioral sciences and other disciplines in the sciences and the humanities.
KNOW 21414: What is Technology?
In the nineteenth century, the word “technology” referred to the science of the useful and industrial arts. While the term is today synonymous with machinery and other material tools, this contemporary usage dates only to the 1930s. A word once used to describe a specialist mode of writing about applied knowledge has come to refer to tools and their use.
This seminar class offers a history of twentieth century scholarship on technology, examining differing meanings and interpretations of technology across the disciplines of history, sociology, anthropology, and literary studies. We will examine the etymology of the term and its social history, as well as the history of ideas regarding the sociocultural contexts and effects of technology. Readings will include works by Veblen, Heidegger, Ellul, Mumford, Leo Marx, Latour, Haraway, Oldenziel, Edgerton, and others.
KNOW 44600: Zion & Zaphon: Biblical Texts of the 7th Cent. BCE
Students will examine biblical texts on the premise they respond to the astonishing turn of events in the eighth century bce, in which Assyria dissolved the Israelian kingdom and nearly destroyed the Judean, with:theoretical orientation from history and historiography, memory studies, and literary theory; survey of ancient written and image-based sources; archaeological evidence.
KNOW 55100: The Development of Whitehead’s Philosophy of Nature
In this course we will read Whitehead with the aim of understanding how he arrived at his mature views, i.e., the “philosophy of organism” expressed in Process and Reality (1929). The development of Whitehead’s philosophy can be traced back to a planned fourth volume of Principia Mathematica (never completed) on space and time. This course will examine how these concerns with natural philosophy led Whitehead to develop his philosophy of organism. Beginning in the late 1910s, we will read over 10 years of published work by Whitehead, supplemented by recently discovered notes from his Harvard seminars 1924/25 and selected commentaries
KNOW 3500: Winckelmann: Enlightenment Art Historian and Philosopher
We approach the first great modern art historian through reading his classic early and mature writings and through the art and criticism of is time (and at the end, our own). Reading-intensive, with a field trip to the Art Institute.
KNOW 24112 / 34112: Screening India: Bollywood and Beyond
Cinema is, unarguably, the medium most apposite for thinking through the complexities of democratic politics, especially so in a place like India. While Indian cinema has recently gained international currency through the song and dance ensembles of Bollywood, there remains much more to be said about that body of films. Moreover, Bollywood is a small (though very important) part of Indian cinema. Through a close analysis of a wide range of films in Hindi, Bengali, Kannada, Urdu, this course will ask if Indian cinema can be thought of as a form of knowledge of the twentieth century.