CU-Boulder: “Towards the Limits of the Possible: The Philosophic Ambition of a Technological Science”

Engineering Leadership Program: “Towards the Limits of the Possible: The Philosophic Ambition of a Technological Science”


On November 5, 2021, the Engineering Leadership Program at the University of Colorado-Boulder will host fellow Tobin Craig for a lecture on science, nature, and Francis Bacon. The lecture is a part the program’s virtual series, “The New STEM Enlightenment: Political Promises and Perils of Science and Technology.”

Today science is publicly defended and justified on the promise that it will yield useful knowledge and beneficial technologies. And yet, at the same time, individual practicing scientists often conceive of and describe their activity as primarily and even ultimately oriented towards the discovery of the truth about nature. This duality in the way science is conceived of and justified is part of the legacy of Francis Bacon’s great effort to refound and reform science. In this lecture, Professor Craig will reconsider Bacon’s original argument for a technological science, focusing on the question of which of these two aims or goals is primary for Bacon, and how Bacon conceived of their relationship.

Friday, November 5, 2021 • 12:00 PM MDT
A virtual event

Free and open to the public, registration required.

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Tobin Craig is an associate professor and historian of political thought at James Madison College, Michigan State University with a focus on early modern political philosophy and the rise of modern science. He also directs an interdisciplinary undergraduate program on Science, Technology, Environment, and Public Policy. He has published essays on Bacon, Descartes, utopian thought and the problem of science in a democracy. He won an “Enduring Questions” grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for a course entitled “What is the Good of Science?” which explores the question of how inquiry into nature is defended and justified. He is currently completing a book-length study of Francis Bacon’s project to refound natural philosophical inquiry.

Professor Craig is a JMC fellow.

Learn more about Tobin Craig >>



The Engineering Leadership Program explores leadership challenges in applied science using liberal arts pedagogy. The program aims to cultivate leaders of curiosity and character, whose technical expertise is enriched through the study of the political, moral, and philosophic dilemmas posed by the perpetual advancement of science and technology. Students in ENLP are encouraged to see engineering leadership as a humane discipline that requires lifelong reflection on questions that arise within the purview of science, but which science alone cannot answer.

The Engineering Program maintains that leadership education is liberal education, or education in intellectual freedom. Liberal education provides effective preparation for engineering leadership because engineering education alone does not train engineers to reflect freely and deeply on the moral, political, and natural aspects of the engineering technologies they create.

Because liberal education poses the question of what the human good is, it supplements technical education by providing moral direction and purpose to the technical mind. Liberal education is valuable for future engineering leaders because it is education in, and exploration of, the manifold complexities and nuances of the human good. Reading widely, reasoning thoroughly, and thinking freely broaden the intellectual range of future engineering leaders, making them more competent to lead engineering enterprises whose missions are to produce technology that accords with the best interests of humanity.

Learn more about the Engineering Leadership Program >>



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