Analysis of Science and the Modern World
Alfred North Whitehead in his lectures collected in Science and the Modern World (1925) discusses the historical origins of science. The paper is to analyze Whitehead’s views on science and apply those views to at least three of the movies listed in the Project Description. You may approach your application of Whitehead’s views to these films in any manner you believe is both appropriate and interesting, including in your discussion the supporting and contrasting views of other thinkers. The essay should specifically address the underlying assumptions of Whitehead’s views and how, as such, these views reflect upon and define what it means to be human.
Alfred North Whitehead in his lectures collected in Science and the Modern World (1925) discusses the historical origins of science. Your paper is to analyze Whitehead’s views on science and apply those views to at least three of the movies that we’ve watched, discussed or will watch in class. You may approach your application of Whitehead’s views to these films in any manner you believe is both appropriate and interesting, including in your discussion the supporting and contrasting views of other thinkers. Your essay should specifically address the underlying assumptions of Whitehead’s views and how, as such, these views reflect upon and define what it means to be human.
By way of example only, in his introductory chapter 1 as to the origins of science, Whitehead concludes with the following observation:
“Faith in reason is the trust that the ultimate nature of things lie together in a harmony which excludes mere arbitrariness. It is the faith that at the base of things we shall not find mere arbitrary mystery…..To experience this faith…is to know that, while the harmony of logic lies upon the universe as an iron necessity, the aesthetic harmony stands before it as living ideal moulding the general flux in its broken progress towards finer, subtler issues.”
Do the movies that you’ve selected correspond to, or represent a contrasting view with, what Whitehead identifies as “faith in reason” and “arbitrary mystery”? Which, if any, of them express what Whitehead describes as “aesthetic harmony” and how? In speaking of “faith in reason” and “aesthetic harmony”, how does Whitehead implicitly define what it means to be “human”?
Alternatively, you might, for example, wish to consider Whitehead’s views on the “romantic reaction” as described in chapter 5, where Whitehead concludes:
“[T]he nature-poetry of the romantic revival was a protest on behalf of the organic view of nature, and also a protest against the exclusion of value from the essence of matter of fact…..The romantic reaction was a protest on behalf of value.”
What does it mean to protest on behalf of an organic view of nature or value? Do these films “protest” in their depiction of artificial intelligence?
Both style and substance are important. Your paper should clearly and succinctly articulate a thesis at the beginning, in particular, a summary of Whitehead’s view under discussion, and then develop that thesis in a manner that is well organized, insightful, and persuasive. Your paper must also be grounded in an analysis of three (or more) films, including their visuals, plots and dialog.
Moreover, your paper must include (1) text citations in the form of endnotes, (2) a bibliography of reliable sources, and (3) screenshots (with descriptive captions) as an appendix.
Your text citations may consist of either in-text citations or endnotes (but not footnotes). A bibliography alone does not suffice, since it does not indicate what sources provided which insights or ideas. Where appropriate, you should quote Whitehead, movie dialog and third party sources, though your quotes should normally be no more than two or three sentences with longer quotes placed in your endnotes.
Your appendix of screenshots should consist of images taken from the movies that illustrate points developed in your paper, not simply describe visually scenes from the movies. You should include at least nine screenshots; more are welcome. Moreover, each screenshot should be accompanied by a short caption that explains the reason for its inclusion. Your screenshots should act as a separate – but short – visual essay supporting the thesis of your paper.
Excluding endnotes, bibliography and screenshots, your paper must be at least 6 pages but no more than 8 pages in length, double-spaced, in 12-point font and with one-inch margins.
Movie List (Choose 3):
Film: Metropolis (1927)
Film: Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Film: The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
Film: Forbidden Planet (1956)
Film: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Film: Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970)
Film: Blade Runner (1982) (“Final Cut” version)
Film: Robocop (1987)
Film: Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
Film: The Matrix (1999)
Film: A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)
Film: Moon (2009)
Film: Her (2013)
Film: Ex Machina (2015)
Possible Sources (You can use others if you want):
K. Capek’s R.U.R. (1920)
Plato’s Republic, Book IV (“The Allegory of the Cave”)
Hoberman’s Trapped in the Total Cinema.”
B. Aldiss’ “Super-Toys Last All Summer Long”
W.B. Yeats’ “The Stolen Child”;
C. Wright Mills’ White Collar: The American Middle Class, Chapt. 10 (“Work”).
N. Carr’s “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” The Atlantic, July 1, 2008
E.M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops” (1909); R. Frost’s “Mowing” (1913)
Yeats’ “The Second Coming” (1919).