Suffering the Bite: Risking Complexity as an Approach to Philosophical History

By Molly Sturdevant.

Published by The International Journal of Humanities Education

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Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: July 16, 2015 $US5.00

Robert Hooke’s illustrations have dominated readers’ focus of his 1665 “Micrographia,” and are typically interpreted as examples from the history of scientific practices. In this essay, I aim to read the “Micrographia” in a new direction, offering a close textual analysis of the philosophical and aesthetic underpinnings of his careful, self-saturated written descriptions. The second aim of my analysis is to challenge our assumptions about how intellectual history in the humanities should be taught. Encouraging students to read Hooke’s written descriptions as I do complicates the traditional distinctions between empiricism and rationalism, as well as between science and philosophy. I demonstrate that this very appreciation of complexity has had compelling results in history of philosophy as well as environmental ethics courses. Thus, the two main threads of this essay weave together both a theoretical and practical engagement with the complex practices of 17th Century natural philosophy, and their current interpretation in undergraduate humanities courses.

Keywords: Early Modern Philosophy, Undergraduate Teaching Methods, Robert Hooke, John Locke, Natural Philosophy, Intellectual History, Environmental Ethics, Appreciating Complexity

The International Journal of Humanities Education, Volume 13, Issue 3, September 2015, pp.43-52. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: July 16, 2015 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 434.047KB)).

Dr. Molly Sturdevant

Assistant Professor, Philosophy Department, Saint Xavier University, Chicago, IL, USA