Writing Seminars: A Republic of Science

Instruction in writing well-reasoned analyses and academic arguments, with emphasis on the importance of reading, research, and revision. Using examples of nonfiction prose from a variety of academic disciplines, individual sections focus on topics such as vision, globalization, generosity, experts and expertise, the good life, and dissent in American culture.


The English word science comes from the Latin scientia, which means “knowledge.” But can any body of knowledge, any collection of information, be considered a science? Who decides what counts as real science, and on what authority? Is the scientific community a group of experts who are separate from and superior to the general public, or can this term refer to any society based on rational ideals? How can non-scientists intelligently evaluate political claims expressed in scientific rhetoric? In this writing seminar, examination of the concept of science will lead us to explore relations between objectivity, culture, and ethics. We will begin with Plato’s Republic, a text that tries to imagine a completely rational society. Next, we will assess competing accounts about the nature of legitimate science. In the third unit we will analyze the tensions inherent in a scientific community more closely, and ask whether resistance against science is an important feature of democracy or a dangerous exercise of anti-intellectualism. Finally, we will investigate how scientific rhetoric is used to justify certain normative claims, especially in debates about sexual orientation and gender identity.

Students who wish to enroll in a section of this seminar should participate in online preregistration, which opens at 9:00 a.m. on Monday, December 12, 2016 and closes promptly at 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, January 12, 2017.

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TTh 4:00pm-5:15pm