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Indiana University Bloomington

Colloquium Series

Spring 2007 Colloquium Series

All talks are on Friday from 4:00 to 6:00 PM in Ballantine Hall 003, unless otherwise noted.

Calendar [click date for details]

Jan 12 Melinda Fagan       *1:30-3:30*
Science as Action: How to Construct Scientific Objectivity
Jan 19 Katharine Park      
Itineraries of the ‘One-Sex Body’: A History of an Idea
Feb 09 Theodore M. Brown      
The Rise and Fall of American Psychosomatic Medicine
Feb 16 Kevin Chang      
The Role of the Dissertation in the Scientific Communication in Early Modern Europe
Feb 24 Workshop       Saturday in Goodbody Hall 107
Disease, Experiment, and Mechanism
Mar 02 Helen Longino       Coffa Lecture
Navigating the Social Turn in Philosophy of Science
Mar 09 Lynn Joy      
Hume's Newtonianism of the Mind
Mar 23 Paul Farber      
Race-Mixing, the Modern Synthesis, and the 60s
Mar 23 IU New Frontiers in the Humanities Symposium
(organized by Karola Stotz & Colin Allen)       starts 6 p.m. and runs through Mar 25
Reconciling Nature and Nurture in the Study of Behavior
Apr 06 Roger Ariew       Westfall Lecture
Apr 13 Gideon Manning      
Experimenting with Experiment: Descartes' Medicine in the 1630s
Apr 20 William Bechtel      
Mechanism and Biological Explanation
Apr 27 Christoph Irmscher       1:30 p.m.
"Headache All Day": Henry James Clark at Agassiz's Museum

Jan 12 | *1:30-3:30*
Melinda Fagan
Indiana University, HPS

Title: Science as Action: How to Construct Scientific Objectivity

Abstract: It has often been observed that scientific knowledge emerges from social interactions. Empirical studies reveal that social interactions pervade our practices of establishing scientific claims. This result has often been taken to indicate that scientific knowledge just is (or is justified by) negotiated agreement or social consensus. Attempts to rebut this constructivist thesis directly (e.g., Goldman, Kitcher, Longino) do not succeed. The result is deep polarization in science studies and social epistemology. I propose a different approach, drawing on the philosophy of social action to construct an account of social interactions in scientific practice that includes norms of scientific objectivity over and above negotiated consensus.

Contemporary theories of social action aim to provide a general explanatory account of the difference between acting alone and acting with others, in terms of mental attitudes involved in practical reasoning beliefs, desires, goals, intentions). The theories currently on offer either explicate the difference in terms of the attitudes of individual agents (e.g., Bratman's account of shared intention) or in terms of irreducibly joint attitudes (e.g., Gilbert's 'plural subjects' theory). I argue that both types of theory suffer from serious and complementary defects, and propose a solution modeled on an analogous problem in evolutionary theory: levels of selection. A multi-level framework for social action provides a general and unified explanatory account of human social activity, without implausible supra-individualistic hypostatization.

Applied to the case of scientific practices, this multi-level framework clarifies the complex social structure of scientific activity and points the way toward a principled alternative to the thesis of 'knowledge by agreement'. Consensus requirements for instrumentally rational social action, together with data from empirical studies of science, entail a characterization of the aim of science that amounts to an instrumentally normative account of scientific objectivity.

Jan 19
Katharine Park
Harvard University-History of Science Department

Title: Itineraries of the ‘One-Sex Body’: A History of an Idea

Abstract: In his treatise On the Use of Parts, the Greek medical writer Galen described the male and female genitals as homologous and inverted versions of one another. In Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud (1990), Thomas Laqueur called this idea the "one-sex body" and argued that it dominated Western thinking on sex difference from antiquity through the end of the eighteenth century. This paper tests Laqueur's thesis by tracing the influence of On the Use of Parts through the Latin Middle Ages and into the sixteenth century, concluding that the early modern period saw the beginning of the widespread influence of the idea of the "one-sex body" rather than its end. It also offers some speculation as to the sources of Laqueur's argument.

Feb 09
Theodore M. Brown
University of Rochester - Division of Health Services Research, Community & Preventive Medicine

Title: The Rise and Fall of American Psychosomatic Medicine

Abstract: A look at psychosomatic medicine as a research field and clinical practice in the United States. The talk will focus on the rise and fall of psychosomatic medicine as both part of and a reaction to the frequently changing shape of twentieth century American medicine. This talk is sponsored by the Center for the History of Medicine.

Feb 16
Kevin Chang
Academia Sinica, Taipei

Title: The Role of the Dissertation in the Scientific Communication in Early Modern Europe

Abstract: This paper examines the communicative role of the dissertation, both as an oral disputation and as a text prepared for it, in early modern Europe. It studies in the forms and practice in which the dissertation communicated early modern academics' scholarship, and analyzes the personal and public channels, and the social and intellectual uses of the dissertation in the Republic of Letters. Taking both the oral and the printed forms of the dissertation seriously, this paper challenges the previous historiography that oversimplifies the decline of the disputation in early modern Europe, and elucidates the circumstances in which the dissertation played an important role in the scientific communication in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Feb 24 | Saturday in Goodbody Hall 107
IU Center for the History of Medicine

Title: Disease, Experiment, and Mechanism

Abstract: Sessions: Revival of Anatomy, Infants and Diseases, Anatomical Experiments, and Anatomists and Mathematicians.

Mar 02 | Coffa Lecture
Helen Longino
Stanford University-Department of Philosophy

Title: Navigating the Social Turn in Philosophy of Science

Abstract: Philosophers have recently paid more attention to the social dimensions of scientific knowledge. In some cases this results in a spin towards forms of relativism; in others a resolute defense of rationality and objectivity. Neither of these responses realizes the potential of the social turn. I will suggest that a robust sociality steers between these two extremes, and enables forms of critical analysis they disallow.

Mar 09
Lynn Joy
Notre Dame

Title: Hume's Newtonianism of the Mind

Abstract: Hume's relationship to Newton has a double aspect. On the one hand, he aspired to be the Newton of the mind, explaining how the regularities in our experience of mental and moral phenomena are analyzable in terms comparable to the law-like relations of moving bodies. But, on the other hand, Hume rejected the Newtonian belief in a God whose laws govern the natural world, a belief presupposed by Newtonian conceptions of causal powers and laws of nature. Based partly on this rejection, his criticisms of Newton's concept of force and Locke's view of the causal power of the will resulted in his denial of necessary connections between distinct existences. Hume, as a moral psychologist, could thus argue that there are no necessary connections between our beliefs, motives, and actions—all of which he took to be distinct existences. However, as a Newton of the mind, he still sought to explain how our minds possess a natural disposition to associate our impressions and ideas as cause and effect. Yet his account of such a natural disposition of the mind threatened to undermine his denial of necessary connections between distinct existences. This paper examines the double aspect of Hume's science of the mind.

Mar 23
Paul Farber
Department of History, Oregon State University

Title: Race-Mixing, the Modern Synthesis, and the 60s

Abstract: In 1976, the Supreme Court ruled (in Loving v. Virginia) that state anti-miscegenation laws were unconstitutional. Historians who have discussed this significant change have focused on a number of important factors leading up to the decision. Conspicuously absent, has been a consideration of changes in biological thought. Indeed, William Provine has argued that there were no changes in genetics that were relevant for the shift in attitude on scientific racism which had supported many of the original miscegenation laws. This talk will explore the role biology had in shifting attitudes toward race mixing and will argue that the Modern Synthesis was an important factor. It will also discuss how the legal changes were slow to translate into policy in American universities, and consequently was a part of the history of what we describe as the 60s revolution on campuses.

Mar 23 | starts 6 p.m. and runs through Mar 25
IU New Frontiers in the Humanities Symposium
(organized by Karola Stotz & Colin Allen)

Register free at

Title: Reconciling Nature and Nurture in the Study of Behavior

Abstract: The study of behavior and cognition is highly interdisciplinary, with contributions from philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, computer science, linguistics, and anthropology. Major contemporary debates concern the power of natural field observation versus rigorous laboratory experimentation, and the virtues of behavioral, neurological, or intentional approaches. Arguably the most intractable dispute is the tendency to attribute a behavior or cognitive mechanism to either ‘nature’ or ‘nurture’. The nearly universal ‘interactionist consensus’ of today is said to finally have put the debate to rest, but this ‘dead horse’ continues to kick back, as Susan Oyama pointedly phrased it. The symposium will challenge the widely held view that a physiological or behavioral phenotype derives from either nature or nurture, not even from both nature and nature. Both the exclusive and the additive models make no biological sense whatsoever, since no genetic factor can properly be studied independent of, or just in addition to, the environment. The same is true for the environment, which in itself is a concept that includes a wide variety of very different causes and factors, from the genomic environment of a gene, over its chromatin packaging and cellular context, up to ecological, social and cultural influences of the whole organism. So-called innate traits include effects of the organism's extended inheritance of epigenetic factors, which are reliably reproduced with the help of ontogenetic niche construction.

Apr 06 | Westfall Lecture
Roger Ariew
Department of Philosophy, University of South Florida

Title: Modernity

Abstract: Since Descartes' philosophy is generally taken to exemplify early modern philosophy and to set the agenda for the philosophers who came after, the question of philosophical modernity may be resolved by determining what constitutes the break one wishes to depict between the work of Descartes and that of the scholastics, that is, how best to describe the reasons for the rise of modern philosophy and the waning of scholasticism. Numerous elements in Descartes' Meditations have been considered modern and contrasted with scholastic philosophy, including his use of radical skepticism and what he issues as first principle of knowledge, namely the cogito, or something arising from a first-person perspective. These modern elements are sometimes contrasted with what is thought to be a residual scholastic element in Descartes' thought, namely his use of a causal principle to prove the existence of God. I discuss such views and the connection between Descartes' philosophy and modern science, including his rejection of substantial forms (except for the rational soul). In spite of the fact that none of these doctrines are satisfactory in locating modernity, I argue that there is a real social phenomenon to be explained.

Apr 13
Gideon Manning
Philosophy Department, College of William and Mary

Title: Experimenting with Experiment: Descartes' Medicine in the 1630s

Abstract: It is now widely recognized that Descartes was a committed and, on occasion, even a profoundly successful experimenter. In highlighting this aspect of Descartes' science, recent scholarship has cited a method outlined in the Rules and the "essays in this method" accompanying the Discourse. Equally profound examples of careful observation and experimentation can also be found in Descartes' medical work during the 1630s, without nearly as much charitable and creative interpretation. Not only do we have the text of Discourse Five, itself an influential endorsement of the circulation of the blood, we also have Descartes' physiological and anatomical notes, as well as a fruitful exchange with Plempius where anatomical observation and physiological experimentation take center stage. By examining Descartes' evolving views of the human body and cardiac motion in the 1630s, and specifically the interplay between his account of the invisible world and his experimental procedures, I argue that Descartes generates new knowledge using experiments and mechanical reasoning in the medical context. I end the talk by speculating about the wider significance of medicine to Descartes' science. This talk is sponsored by the Center for the History of Medicine.

Apr 20
William Bechtel
University of California, San Diego-Department of Philosophy

Title: Mechanism and Biological Explanation

Abstract: Explanations in biology do not fit traditional philosophical models of explanation via subsumption under laws and a number of philosophers have recently begun to articulate a conception of mechanistic explanation more adequate to biology. I will provide a brief overview of the emerging treatment of mechanisms and mechanistic explanation. These accounts, however, are insufficiently biological in that they do not attend to the distinctive forms of organization required in biological organisms. Biological organisms are autonomous systems which must be able to recruit matter and energy from their environment and deploy them to develop and repair themselves. Of particular importance in such systems are cyclic patterns of organization. I will explore the importance of cyclic organization for maintaining autonomy and its implications for thinking about biological mechanisms.

Apr 27 | 1:30 p.m.
Christoph Irmscher
Department of English, Indiana University

Title: "Headache All Day": Henry James Clark at Agassiz's Museum

Abstract: My talk, excerpted from a chapter of my work in progress, a biography of Louis Agassiz, traces the complicated relationship between Louis Agassiz and his master student and assistant, Henry James Clark (1826-1873). Clark, an avid operagoer, talented writer, brilliant draftsman, and passionate investigator, seems like a character out of a novel: faced with intense pressure at home and the need to take care of his inexorably growing family, he gradually (and almost helplessly) becomes disenchanted with his famous mentor's methods, his grandiloquence, and his unpredictability. There is no avoiding Agassiz: even on a trip to Europe, Clark finds traces of his master everywhere, on labels at the Jardin des Plantes, specimens in the British Museum, as well as on a rock in Switzerland. Agassiz, who had once described Clark an "observer without equal," ended up firing him in 1863 after an ugly fight over the rights to Clark's discoveries and barred him from access to his museum. Relying on Clark's unpublished diaries and drawings, I seek to understand what led to the controversy and what it tells us about Agassiz and the culture of science in nineteenth-century America.