for Name of the Rose
One of the central issues upon which we will
focus in this course is the impact that modern science had upon
the world views of Western people. I have asked you to watch
Name of the Rose because it conveys quite well a sense
of how the medieval world was organized, at least in terms of
how knowledge was structured.
The idea that different epochs organized knowledge in different
ways may be a new one to you. Michel Foucault, a recent French
philosopher, coined the term episteme to describe the
structure of knowledge appropriate to an age. From this point
of view, we can say that the medieval episteme was very
different from that of our modern, or postmodern, world.
As you watch the film and then reflect upon it, I want you to
focus upon the structure of the medieval episteme. That
is, think about how the film presents knowledge as it was viewed
by the medievals. It may help you to think about what counts
as knowledge for modern folk who treat science as the paradigmatic
form of knowledge. What is it to believe in science? How are
truths established by science? What do the monks see as the source
of truths? How are their truths established?
In a sense, I am asking you to focus less on the particulars
of the story conveyed in this film than to think about the structure
of the world it presents to you. It is a world that is ruled
by very different assumptions than our world, so we need to work
at developing our sense of what those differences amount to.
Please come to class ready to discuss these issues.