HPS Seminars Semester 2 2016-17
University of Leeds School of Philosophy, Religion and History of Science
Centre for History & Philosophy of Science
Seminars are held in Baines Wing G 36
from 3:15 to 5:00
All are on Wednesdays except Tuesday 16 May
For information, contact Adrian Wilson A.F.Wilson@leeds.ac.uk
8 Feb Heather Ellis (Sheffield)
Scholars and Gentlemen: Masculine Identities in British Science in the 1830s
Most cultural histories of science in early nineteenth century Britain have tended to focus on the ways in which scientific discourse, practices and institutions were systematically used to exclude women from scientific culture. Relatively little attention has been paid to the masculine self-fashioning of male scientists. If referred to at all, the masculine identity of ‘men of science’ is often reduced to a fairly simple narrative of professionalization, where an eighteenth-century Enlightenment model of scientific culture, defined by a mixed-sex sociability, was systematically replaced by a male-dominated, specialized scientific profession over the course of the nineteenth century.
This paper, by contrast, questions the extent to which the male scientist constituted a secure masculine identity in early nineteenth-century Britain. It begins by examining the public representation of those pursuing a life in science in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. It suggests that such individuals frequently encountered accusations of effeminacy, linked to assumptions about the socially-isolated life of a scholar. Moreover, it argues that these accusations contributed materially to the perception that itself science was ‘declining’ in Britain during this period. The paper focuses on the foundation of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BAAS) in 1831, born out of the ‘decline’ debate. It suggests that the BAAS founders were keen to popularise a new masculine ideal of science based upon Bacon’s gendered vision of inductive science presented in the New Atlantis.
22 Feb Katherina Kinzel (Vienna)
The Problem of Understanding – Droysen and Dilthey on Historical Knowledge
The concept of “historical understanding” – roughly put, the idea that acquiring historical knowledge involves acts of grasping past meanings, experiences and intentions – is commonly associated with Wilhelm Dilthey’s philosophy of the human sciences. But “understanding” [Verstehen] in Dilthey is less a well-defined concept than a set of problems and of attempts at answering to these problems. Moreover, Dilthey’s views on Verstehen shifted along with transformations of his broader philosophical project. These transformations have often been described as a turn from “descriptive psychology” to “hermeutics”, but there is significant controversy over the precise form and extent of this turn. In this paper, I suggest that in order to illuminate both the concept of Verstehen and its transformations in Dilthey, it makes sense to take a look at the history of that concept, and in particular at the historian Johann Gustav Droysen, in whose methodological treatise, entitled Historik, Verstehen functions as a key epistemological concept. An analysis of the difficulties that are built into the epistemology of Verstehen permits also revaluation of Dilthey’s alleged turn from “psychology” to “hermeutics”.
8 March Chris Millard (Sheffield)
Diagnosing Child Abuse: Technology and Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy in Late Twentieth-Century Britain
In 1977 peadiatrician S.R. Meadow proposed the term ‘Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy’ (MSbP) to describe two cases where mothers had abused their young children by presenting them at hospital as if they were ill (the first has blood added to her urine samples, the second is ultimately killed by the administration of salt). Meadow remarked that the ‘long-running saga of hospital care’ had reminded him of the Munchausen syndrome, which had been named in 1951, describing people presenting at hospitals pretending to be acutely ill. This paper seeks to do two things. First it will contextualize the emergence of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, situating it between two pre-existing concerns - child abuse on the one hand and mothers in hospital on the other. However much it is claimed that certain behaviours have been around ‘since the dawn of time’, medical diagnoses always have an intimate relationship with local, historical conditions. Second, it will show how advanced diagnostic and other technology (including laboratory tests, radioactive blood-marking, and covert video surveillance) play a crucial dual role in MSbP. They enable these cases to become ‘long-running sagas’, with multiple referrals to different specialists; the diagnostic tests themselves become seen as potential instruments of abuse. Ian Hacking has claimed that our modern concept of child abuse is inescapably medical. This paper will chart the roots, contexts and consequences for perhaps the most medical form of child abuse yet known – where hi-tech biomedical diagnostics are transformed into abusive practices. Diagnostic technology enables, performs and detects the abuse.
15 March Jacalyn Duffin (Queens’ University, Ontario)
The 1964 Medical Expedition to Easter Island (METEI)
In 1964, an international scientific team, led by McGill gastroenterologist Stanley Skoryna, convinced Canadian Prime Minister Lester Pearson to donate a navy vessel to a plan to document the biosphere of the word’s most remote community: Easter Island. METEI was predicated on the imminent prospect of an airport to link this sheltered island with humans, animals, plants, and microbes everywhere else. With WHO support, the scientists would characterize all life forms in terms not only of genus and species, but also of genetics, physiology, metabolism, and immunology. It would be complete only when repeated decades later – an exercise that never took place.
Few historians have examined this adventure. With special focus on its medical aspects, this paper focuses on its scientific justifications and products through the publications and personal papers of researchers and the ship’s captain. This evidence is amplified by interviews with surviving scientist-travellers from Canada, US, Sweden, and South Africa.
Skoryna boasted 100 percent success, but his opinion was quietly contested; relationships were strained, publications few, and several surprise findings limited the impact. Furthermore, in light of postmodern sensitivities, uncomfortable racist overtones underlie the plan. Nevertheless two unexpected and previously unrecognized benefits, concerning polio and cancer chemotherapy, continue to exert influence even now.
22 March Marta Halina (Cambridge)
The role of values in animal cognition research
The role of non-epistemic values in accepting and rejecting scientific hypotheses has long been recognized. As Rudner (1953) observes, “how sure we need to be before we accept a hypothesis will depend on how serious a mistake would be”. Non-epistemic values play a role whenever the hypothesis under consideration has practical consequences. Despite this, discussions aimed at evaluating scientific evidence often fail to take non-epistemic values into account. This is particularly true in comparative psychology, which is surprising, given the vast practical implications that accepting or rejecting hypotheses in this field might have. In this talk, I argue for the importance of non-epistemic values in evaluating claims about nonhuman animal mindreading. I show how taking these values into account reveals that the consequences of false negatives are much worse than traditionally conceived.
3 May Ellen Clarke (Leeds)
Is cultural selection Darwinian?
I’ll argue that the “California school”’s model of cultural group selection (i.e. the model defended by Boyd, Richerson, Henrich and others) is ambiguous about several details that are necessary to treat a process as properly evolutionary in a Darwinian sense. I’ll then describe how we might clarify these details to make a coherent Darwinian model.
TUESDAY 16 May Henry Cowles (Yale)
How We Think: Mind and Method in Modern America
This talk stems from my current book project, which links “the scientific method”—an idealized account of science that is still taught in schools and debated in public today—to the rise of psychology in the American Gilded Age. The book shows how a generation of American psychologists claimed the authority to define what counted as science by turning it into an object of their own expertise: namely, a product of the adaptive human mind. This transformation of science from a kind of knowledge into a way of thinking enabled its expansion into new areas, from scientific medicine to scientific management, and paved the way for the “scientism” of the Progressive Era. Uncovering the psychological roots of “the scientific method” casts the history of scientific expertise in the United States—not to mention its troubled status today—in a new light.
24 May Trevor Pinch (Cornell)
Stanley Milgram and the Sonic Imaginary
This paper is part of the larger project of thinking through the implications of the new interdisciplinary field of “sound studies” for social science methodology. How does the emphasis upon sound change the way we think of, say, experimentation in social psychology? Taking Stanley Milgram’s early experiments as my example, I point to the crucial role played by sound in some of those experiments. Milgram’s Harvard PhD Dissertation in particular was based upon transforming Asch’s well-known visual experiment on conformity into a sonic experiment (by comparing the lengths of two sounds rather than two lines and by replacing confederates with tape recordings). Furthermore, sound played a crucial role in Milgram’s famous obedience experiments where the supposed working of the fake electric shock machine was simulated through sound effects and where the supposed trauma of the victim was again rendered sonically. This role of sound seems to have been largely ignored up until now and is worthy of attention. I develop the notion of a sonic imaginary to try and situate Milgram’s use of sound.