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Swarthmore College    
College Bulletin - Course Catalog 
  Jan 17, 2018
College Bulletin - Course Catalog

ANTH 091B. Cultural Dimensions of Scientific Thought

(Cross-listed as INTP 091)
This seminar will explore the deep and often overlooked connections between physical and cultural ways of understanding the universe.  To that end, we will be taking a historical and cross-cultural view of scientific forms of thought in order to examine the multiple, complex relationships that obtain between individual human agents and their social milieus in the processes of creating and advancing scientific theories of the universe.  How, for example, do we take the measure of what we don't know?  How do we ascribe differential values to scientific questions and solutions?  In other words, what makes one question more important than another?  What makes a scientific theory "elegant" or "beautiful," and why do (Western) scientists place epistemological value on such aesthetic considerations?  Potential course topics include: the role of myth in the oral transmission of astronomical knowledge among aboriginal Australians; the materialization of astronomical knowledge in ancient Mesoamerican architecture; early cultures of number and numerology; the technological conditions for advances in scientific thought; the role of social desire in scientific discovery and invention (of the infinitesimally small, of photography, or of relativity, for example); and the role of intercultural interaction in the creation of new approaches to scientific problems.
Social sciences.
1 credit.
Eligible for INTP
Spring 2018. Fraga.
Catalog chapter: Sociology and Anthropology
Department website:

Check the Fall 2017 Schedule of Courses

Check the Spring 2018 Schedule of Courses