This course features extensive reading questions, located in the study materials
In the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin gave us a model for understanding how natural objects and systems can evidence design without positing a designer: how purpose and mechanism can exist without intelligent agency. Texts in this course deal with pre- and post-Darwinian treatment of this topic within literature and speculative thought since the eighteenth century. We will give some attention to the modern study of 'feedback mechanisms' in artificial intelligence. Our reading will be in Hume, Voltaire, Malthus, Darwin, Butler, Hardy, H. G. Wells, and Turing. There will be about 100 pages of weekly reading--sometimes fewer, sometimes more. Note: The title and content of this course, taught steadily at MIT since 1987, predate Michael Ruse's recent 2003 volume by the same title.
*Some translations represent previous versions of courses.