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HSS - Cours - HSS_0F004_EP : Introduction to History of Science

Domaine > Humanités et sciences sociales.


Teacher: Laurent Loison

CNRS, SPHERE, Paris (UMR 7219)



This course is a general introduction to the history of science with two aims. The first is to make accessible certain key moments in the constitution of science, from the elaboration of the Aristotelian cosmos to the advent of molecular biology, via the Galilean and Darwinian revolutions. The second is to offer an epistemological reflection on the nature of scientific activity. From this perspective, the question of finality and finalism will be the major theme of the course. The aim is to understand how and why the empirical sciences (whose object is to understand natural phenomena, i.e. physics, chemistry, biology, etc.) have succeeded in producing non-finalist explanations.

effectifs minimal / maximal:


Diplôme(s) concerné(s)

Pour les étudiants du diplôme Bachelor of Science de l'Ecole polytechnique

Vos modalités d'acquisition :

Two time-limited in-class examinations

Programme détaillé

Week 1: Science before science. The empirical knowledge of the Egyptians and Mesopotamians in ancient times

Week 2: Aristotle’s cosmos

Week 3: Aristotle’s cosmos challenged

Week 4: Rebuilding physics: Galileo

Week 5: A few (failed) attempts at “mechanism” in the life sciences

Week 6: no course

Week 7: mid-term evaluation

Week 8: Teleology and finalism in the 18th-century life sciences

Week 9: Darwin’s solution (1): the path to ‘Natural Selection’

Week 10: Darwin’s solution (2): the content of The Origin of Species   

Week 11: Teleology still there: how to explain embryonic development?

Week 12: A new form of biology: molecular biology

Week 13: The genetic programme

Week 14: final evaluation 

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