Akademiforelesningen i humaniora og samfunnsfag


Sted: Det Norske Videnskaps-Akademi, Drammensveien78

13. mars 2018 kl 18:00

Etter invitasjon

Seeing All At Once in Early Modern Science - Forelesning ved professor Lorraine Daston, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin

Fotograf: Tristan Vostry (© 2016)Fotograf: Tristan Vostry (© 2016)

Lorraine Daston (born June 9, 1951 in East Lansing, Michigan) is an American historian of science. Executive director of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (MPIWG) in Berlin, and visiting professor in the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago, she is an authority on early modern European scientific and intellectual history. In 1993, she was named a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Daston divides her year between a nine-month period in Berlin, and a three-month period in Chicago, where she usually teaches a seminar and assists doctoral students. Her Chicago seminars usually take a textualist approach to philosophical, literary, and historical works; at MPIWG she heads the "Ideals and Practices of Rationality" working group, and has concentrated recently on the late-Enlightenment philosophical conceptualization of reason, and the subsequent rise of a rationality based in algorithms and rules. A frequent subject of past inquiry has been the naturalistic fallacy in philosophy and literature, or "the almost irresistible temptation to attempt to extract moral norms from the world of nature."

Daston was appointed the inaugural Humanitas Professor in the History of Ideas at University of Oxford for 2013. She has also held Oxford's Isaiah Berlin Visiting Professorship in Intellectual History. In 2002, she delivered two Tanner Lectures at Harvard University, in which she traced theoretical conceptions of nature in several literary and philosophical works.

Seeing All At Once in Early Modern Science
Lorraine Daston, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin

Historians of Renaissance and early modern European art have long remarked on the many ways in which drawings and paintings gave viewers a glimpse of the impossible: not just depictions of mythical beasts like dragons and centaurs but more subtle impossibilities, in which the cunning of the artist panders to a certain yearning to see more broadly, deeply, or sharply than located human vision ever could.

This lecture explores a kind of impossible seeing attempted time and time again in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century natural history, natural philosophy, and even mathematics: synoptic seeing, or seeing everything all at once, in one glance. The "everything" in question could be the patterns of the prevailing winds across the globe or the type of a plant genus emerging from many individual species or the hidden regularities in the fluctuations of the weather or even the essential features of state administration. In each of these cases, vast amounts of information gleaned from many observers dispersed over centuries and continents had to be distilled into some kind of compact representation: reports from mariners at sea, from generations of botanists, from networks of weather-watchers, or from the stacks of records stored in state archives.

The representation in question could and often was verbal: a terse summary, a list of key points, a short description. But just as often, the representation was visual: a synoptic image that made seeing patterns, essences, and regularities all at once literally possible.




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