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Indiana University Bloomington

Colloquium Series

Spring 2005 Colloquium Series

April 22 ****1:30 p.m.**** (NOTE TIME)
Joan Weiner
Philosophy, Indiana University

Understanding Frege's Project

Frege begins Foundations of Arithmetic, the work in which he introduces the project which was to occupy him for most of his professional career, with the question, "What is the number 1?" It is a question to which even mathematicians, he says, have no satisfactory answer. Frege intends to rectify this situation by providing definitions of the number one and the concept number. But what, exactly, is required of a satisfactory definition? It seems reasonable to suppose that a satisfactory definition must be a true statement that contains a description that picks out the object to which the numeral "1" already refers. Similarly, it seems reasonable to suppose that a satisfactory definition of the concept of number must contain a description that picks out precisely those objects that are numbers -- those objects to which our numerals refer.

Yet, while Frege writes a great deal about what criteria his definitions must satisfy, he never mentions these. Nor does he attempt to convince us that his definitions of "1" and the concept number are correct by arguing that these definitions pick out objects to which our numerals have always referred. There is, in fact, a great deal of evidence that Fregeb out objects to which our numerals already refer. But this seems puzzling. How can these definitions teach us anything about our science of arithmetic unless they pick out objects that we have been talking about all along? The answer, I will suggest, can be found by taking a close look at other scientific work. My example will be epidemiological research on obesity.

April 8
Cesare Maffioli
Dibner Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The Way of Waters in the Scientific Revolution: from Cardano to Guglielmini

The way of waters is, nowadays, an unusual way of looking at early modern science and entering into the territory of the Scientific Revolution. In the 16th and 17th centuries, however, the study of waters was a particular kind of intellectual appropriation of the mechanical arts, a particular case of the entry of mathematicians, natural philosophers and other scholars into the stage of the mechanical arts. By the word "entry" I do not mean that the intellectuals as a group changed skin and became engineers and artisans. Rather, that they tried to give order and coherence to the new ideas, methods and inventions that had emerged from the world of arts. But the mathematical and philosophical tools of the classical and medieval world were not equal to the task. Therefore the learned had to criticize, to adapt and to divert not only the stream of knowledge coming from the Renaissance arts but also their own stream, the mathematical and philosophical tradition.

In this paper I will discuss some features of this movement by examining a few ideas of Girolamo Cardano (1501-1576), Francesco Patrizi (1529-1597), Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), Benedetto Castelli (c. 1577-1643) and Domenico Guglielmini (1655-1710), and by contrasting their intellectual stance with the background knowledge of the mechanical arts and the mathematical and philosophical tradition. Two aspects will come to the fore: the natural-unnatural dichotomy in the theory of motion and the opposition between continuous and discrete in the theory of matter.

April 1
Serafina Cuomo
Center for the History of Science & Medicine, Imperial College, London

Ancient technology: beyond the steam engine

My current project is a new history of ancient technology, guided by two main ideas. 'Technology', a problematic but convenient translation for the Greek techne and the Latin ars, covered much more than engineering or labour-saving devices (the main topics of many histories of ancient technology). The first idea behind my project is to look at a wider range of forms of expert knowledge in antiquity. Secondly, I aim to use material whose full potential for the history of ancient technology has not been deployed: especially material sources such as inscriptions, funerary art and mosaics. I will exemplify my attempt at a new history of ancient technology through one case-study.

March 4
M. Norton Wise
History, UCLA

What's in a Line?

The practice of representing phenomena of nature as curves became common only in the mid-19th century. In Berlin that development occurred at the intersection of art and science. This paper explores that multi-layered intersection as an intensely local cultural space, where the ambitious young founders of the Berlin Physical Society found the aesthetics, motivations, and material and intellectual resources that contributed to their graphic representations of nature's laws. In their work we can see how such diverse ingredients as the Düer renaissance, neo-classicism, geometrical mathematics, and precision instruments found common expression.

February 25
Stephen Downes
Philosophy, University of Utah

The Animal Within: The application of animal behavior models in the explanation of human behavior

I review several alternate explanatory styles in the biology of human behavior. Most of thise explanatory styles share the assumption that models of the causes of animal behavior are applicable in the human case. While this assumption is widely held by behavioral biologists, philosophers tend to either reject the assumption explicitly or at least downplay the applicability of animal behavior models to explaining human behavior. I argue that certain animal behavior models should play an important role in explaining human behavior and offer some ways of resisting what I take to be the philosophical orthodoxy in this area.

Daniel Garber
Philosophy, Princeton University

Force in Leibniz's Physics

In his classic monograph, Force in Newton's Physics (1971), Richard Westfall offered a history of the central notion of force in seventeenth-century thought leading up to Newton's seminal treatment of the notion. But Newton's conception of force shaped Westfall's, as it has our own, and made it more difficult to understand another, very different conception of force, that due to Newton's great rival, Leibniz. Leibniz, who prided himself on being the inventor of the science of dynamics, the person who coined the term, held force to be at the center both of his physics and of his metaphysics. I shall trace the history of the notion of force in his thought, how and why it became central for him, and discuss the different meanings it has in his work.

February 11
George Reisch
Independent Scholar

McCarthyism and Philosophy of Science in the Cold War

The popular image of logical empiricism as a philosophical project strictly confined to epistemology and logic has been overturned in recent decades. Several logical empiricists of the Vienna Circle of the 1920s and 30s believed instead that their innovations in "scientific philosophy" were ripe with implications for the conduct and management of science as well as the organization of society and economy. These ambitions were tightly connected to logical empiricism under the umbrella of the Unity of Science Movement that flourished in Europe and the United States in the 1930s. This talk, based largely on archival sources, will outline this movement and argue that the birth of logical empiricism as it is popularly understood occurred during the cold war and for reasons that were, at least in part, political and professional. Specifically, the talk shows that logical empiricism did not emigrate ready-made from Europe in the 30s and that its development in the 20th century has much to do with United States social history (including McCarthyism and popular fears of the "red menace"). More generally, Bthis story offers a case study for understanding the kinds of forces and issues involved in contextualizing philosophy of science and understanding its connections to larger social and historical circumstances.

February 4
Thomas Gieryn
Department of Sociology, Indiana University

Leiden/Uppsala, Walden Pond, Gottingen, Indore and Other Authorizing Sites of Science

January 14 (3:00-4:30pm), Lindley Hall Room 102
Nancy J. Nersessian
Program in Cognitive Science, Georgia Institute of Technology

Model-based Reasoning in Distributed Cognitive Systems

This paper examines the role of model-based reasoning in the interplay between theory and experiment in the context of two biomedical engineering (BME) laboratories, where problem solving involves constructing, manipulating, and revising physical models. These physical models are technological devices that either simulate well-understood mechanisms, such as the forces on arterial vessels from the flow of blood through them, or mechanisms under investigation, such as how learning takes place among neurons. The devices provide sites of experimentation where in vitro models are used to screen and control specific aspects of in vivo phenomena the researchers want to examine. They are constructed and modified in the course of research with respect to problems encountered and changes in understanding. As with all models, simulation devices are idealized representations. But devices are also systems themselves, possessing engineering constraints that often require simplification and idealization emanating from these constraints. In this analysis, I draw on research in contemporary cognitive science that construes cognition as a complex system in which cognitive processes are "situated" in environments and "distributed" across people and artifacts. Model-based reasoning in the complex systems of the laboratory is argued to involve a constraint satisfaction process in which mental and physical models are co-constructed of both the phenomena under investigation and the simulation device.