News & Activities
2013 - 2014 Colloquium Series
All talks are on Friday from 4:00 to 5:30 PM in Ballantine Hall 003, unless otherwise noted.
Calendar [click date for details]
|Sep 20||Domenico Bertoloni Meli||VISUALIZING DISEASE||5:00 PM - 6:30 PM|
|Oct 4||Douglas Hofstadter||Analogy as the Fuel and Fire of Thinking||1:30 PM - 3:00 PM|
|Oct 25||Michael Trestman||Does the stream of consciousness have a variable rate of flow?||1:30 PM - 3:30 PM|
|Nov 1||Linnda Caporael||Groups, Bodies, and Minds in Human Evolutionary Theory: A Post Modern Synthesis||1:30 PM - 3:00 PM|
|Nov 8||Nathan Ensmenger||Algorithms, Organisms, and AI: Computer Games as Experimental Technologies||1:30 PM - 3:00 PM|
|Nov 15||Gabriel Finkelstein||“The Most Important Forgotten Nineteenth-Century Intellectual”|
|Dec 6||Elliott Sober||Parsimony and Chimpanzee Mind-Reading|
|Jan 24||Carin Berkowitz||Charles Bell's Seeing Hand: Teaching Anatomy to the Surgeon's Senses, 1800-1840|
|Jan 31||Bret Rothstein||TBA||1:30 PM - 3:00 PM|
|Feb 7||Kathleen Vongsathorn||TBA||1:30 PM - 3:00 PM|
|Feb 21||Kyle Stanford||Catastrophist and Uniformitarian Scientific Realists: The Historicist Challenge and a Realism Dispute Worth Having|
|Feb 28||Jenny Rampling||TBA|
|Mar 7||Shane Zappettini||TBA||1:30 PM - 3:00 PM|
|Mar 21||Carol Cleland||TBA|
|Apr 4||Elisabeth Lloyd||TBA||1:30 PM - 3:00 PM|
|Apr 18||Gianna Pomata||TBA|
|Apr 25||Sean Lei||TBA|
Sep 20 5:00 PM - 6:30 PM
Place: Lilly Library
Domenico Bertoloni Meli
Title: VISUALIZING DISEASE
Abstract: This talk marks the opening of the exhibition on the history of pathological illustrations from the occasional black and white representations of the Renaissance to the systematic color ones of the mid-19th century. Pathological illustrations played a key role in the history of medicine: they both reflected deep transformations in the notion of disease, and at the same time worked as catalysts for those transformations.
Since visual representations of disease can be disturbing, it is almost unavoidable that the exhibition and talk may contain images that some may find upsetting. While my aim is to provide a scholarly and representative documentation, every effort has been made to avoid strong images for their own sake that can be seen as either gratuitous or offensive.
The talk will be followed by a reception.
Oct 4 1:30 PM - 3:00 PM
Title: Analogy as the Fuel and Fire of Thinking
Abstract: In this talk, I will try to summarize the main message of the recent book "Surfaces and Essences" by myself and my French colleague Emmanuel Sander (who is a cognitive psychologist at the Université de Paris 8). That main message is that analogy-making is far more pervasive than is usually thought; indeed, that it is the core mechanism of all thinking at all times. I will attempt to shore up this claim by using a number of examples, mostly taken from the book.
Oct 25 1:30 PM - 3:30 PM
Title: Does the stream of consciousness have a variable rate of flow?
Abstract: Some animals, for example hummingbirds, can control their behavior at timescales that are extremely short by human standards. Do such animals experience the world at a different pace than we do? Does the same event, for example a leaf fluttering to the ground, seem to happen more slowly to such a ‘fast paced’ animal? This idea has a long history in psychology and philosophy, but is challenging to evaluate both empirically and theoretically. In this talk, the question of whether consciousness has a well-defined, variable rate of passage will lead us to delve into the cognitive foundations of subjectivity, time, and agency. At the same time, it will serve as a test case to examine the epistemic structure of knowledge about consciousness.
Nov 1 1:30 PM - 3:00 PM
Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute
Title: Groups, Bodies, and Minds in Human Evolutionary Theory: A Post Modern Synthesis
Abstract: Over 160 years after Darwin’s work, the place of evolutionary theory in the human sciences is still unsettled, controversial and often rejected. In this talk I describe a reflexive two-part framework, the first being a vocabulary, based on observable recurrence, for human evolutionary theorizing that owes more to “descent with modification” than to genetic abstraction. The second part proposes a model of reliably recurring core configurations in face-to-face groups based on subgroup size, bodily form and persistent functional activities. The resulting dynamics constitute the “mind’s natural environment,” a largely novel standpoint for hypothesizing the co-evolution and development of culture and human cognition, now conceived as fundamentally social and materially embodied.
Nov 8 1:30 PM - 3:00 PM
Title: Algorithms, Organisms, and AI: Computer Games as Experimental Technologies
Abstract: Since the mid-1960s, researchers in computer science have famously referred to chess as the "drosophila" of artificial intelligence. What they seem to mean by this is that chess, like the common fruit fly, is an accessible, familiar, and relatively simple experimental technology that nonetheless can be productively used to produce valid knowledge about other, more complex systems. But for historians of technology, the analogy between chess and drosophilia assumes a larger significance. As Robert Kohler has ably described, the decision to adopt drosophila as the organism of choice for genetics research had far-reaching implications for the development of 20th century biology. In a similar manner, the decision to focus on chess as the measure of both human and computer intelligence had important and unintended consequences for artificial intelligence research. This paper explores the emergence of chess as an experimental technology, its significance in the developing moral economy of the AI community, and the unique ways in which the decision to focus on chess shaped the program of AI research in the decade of the 1970s. More broadly, it attempts to open up the virtual black box of computer software --- and of computer games in particular --- to the scrutiny of historical and sociological analysis.
University of Colorado Denver
Title: “The Most Important Forgotten Nineteenth-Century Intellectual”
Abstract: Emil du Bois-Reymond (1818-1896) is best remembered for promoting a mechanist account of biology and for founding the discipline of electrophysiology, where his discovery of the action potential and his use of laboratory instruments fixed neuroscience at the core of modern medical education. He owed most of his celebrity, however, to his skill as an orator. Du Bois-Reymond was the first German professor to teach Darwin’s theory; in other lectures he challenged the primacy of political history, the legitimacy of Louis Napoleon, the rise of nationalism, the vogue of anti-Semitism, the stature of Goethe, the value of aesthetic theory, the dominance of capital, the narrative of progress, the inheritance of acquired characters, the primacy of man, the doctrine of free will, the jargon of philosophy, the record of the Church, and the ambitions of science. Although du Bois-Reymond’s writings influenced the modernist positions of Nietzsche, James, and Wittgenstein, many of his ideas derived the French Enlightenment. The story of du Bois-Reymond promises to realign our understanding of the history of science, the history of ideas, and the history of Germany.
Dec 6 Coffa Lecture
University of Wisconsin
Title: Parsimony and Chimpanzee Mind-Reading
Abstract: Do chimpanzees form mental representations about the mental states of others? Psychologists have carried out a number of experiments to investigate whether chimpanzees are “mind-readers” in this sense, but there has been controversy over how the results should be interpreted. Some think that the experiments provide strong evidence for mind-reading, while others think the results are equivocal. Parsimony has entered the discussion, with both parties claiming that Ockham’s razor is on their side. I’ll discuss the experiments and the use of Ockham’s razor and will use ideas from the causal modeling literature (which trace back to Hans Reichenbach) to describe an experiment that might break the deadlock.
Title: Charles Bell's Seeing Hand: Teaching Anatomy to the Surgeon's Senses, 1800-1840
Abstract: Surgeon-anatomist Charles Bell, who taught London's medical men in the early nineteenth century, developed a pedagogical philosophy that attempted to establish the status of the hand as a knowledge-making organ of the senses, and along with it, to advance the social status of the surgeon. In his Bridgewater Treatise on the hand, Bell argued that sensory reception must be coupled with muscular action to establish true knowledge, elevating the "doing" hand to epistemological parity with the long-superior "seeing" eye. According to Bell, anatomy simply could not teach the sort of feeling that one would encounter inside a living body. Instead, anatomy taught students to map the parts so that their fingers, moving through a surgical field, could “see” and therefore could know and could act. This apparently academic argument contributed to Bell’s reformist politics and attempts to reconfigure the standing of surgeons and their work within the medical community.
Jan 31 1:30 PM - 3:00 PM
Feb 7 1:30 PM - 3:00 PM
University of California
Title: Catastrophist and Uniformitarian Scientific Realists: The Historicist Challenge and a Realism Dispute Worth Having
Abstract: Historicists suggest that the historical record of scientific inquiry itself give us reasons to doubt the truth of even the best contemporary scientific theories. One recent line of thought holds that the most compelling version of such an historicist challenge is posed by a particular pattern in that record: our repeated failure to exhaust the space of theoretical alternatives well-confirmed by the evidence available to us at a given time. Scientific realists have suggested in reply, however, that the failure to recognize such “unconceived alternatives” might be more plausibly attributed to past scientific communities than to those of the present day. I will first argue that this response is rendered unconvincing by what historians of science already recognize as the most profound transformations of the organization and structure of scientific inquiry since the Scientific Revolution. I then go on to suggest, however, that confronting this question invites us to reconceive what really divides the two sides of a realism dispute genuinely worth having, in large part because the answer we give to it carries significant consequences for how we should actually go about conducting the scientific enterprise itself.
Cambridge United Kingdom
Mar 7 1:30 PM - 3:00 PM Hanson Lecture
University of Colorado
Apr 4 1:30 PM - 3:00 PM
Apr 18 Westfall Lecture
Johns Hopkins University
Institute of of Modern History, Academia Sinica