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Undergraduate Places: On Knowing in the Human Sciences/ On Responsibility in the Human Science

///Undergraduate Places: On Knowing in the Human Sciences/ On Responsibility in the Human Science

Undergraduate Places: On Knowing in the Human Sciences/ On Responsibility in the Human Science

The University of Chicago and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (Berlin) are sponsoring two conferences in the history of the human sciences. A conference on knowing in the human sciences will occur in Berlin at the end of August; another on responsibility in the human sciences will take place in Chicago at the end of October. We wish to solicit participation of a few undergraduates who might be seriously contemplating graduate work in the history of the human sciences. Travel and lodging for such students would be provided. A statement of interest by the undergraduate and a letter of recommendation from his or her adviser should be sent to Lorraine Daston ([email protected]) or Robert Richards ([email protected]) by May 10. The prospectus for the conferences here follows.

On Knowing in the Human Sciences

A workshop to be held in Berlin, 24-25 August 2006, co-organized by the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science and the University of Chicago

What kind of knowledge do the human sciences produce? Against the background of the polarization between the natural and human sciences, this is less a question than a challenge. Throughout Europe and North America, in diverse scholarly traditions, the human sciences and their practitioners are under increasing pressure to justify themselves as essential components of university curricula, recipients of public and private support, and, above all, worthy vocations for the best and brightest young people. Can the human sciences grow, discover, invent, probe, prove, explain, predict – in short, create knowledge as it has come to be defined on the basis of successes in the sciences of life, matter, and energy? The human sciences are repositories of learning; are they also engines of research? This workshop aims to bring together a small group of scholars and students to explore the knowledge-making practices of the human sciences.

In contrast to the rich recent literature on the history of scientific practices, there has been almost no sustained historical inquiry into the practices of the human sciences. Yet it is out of these practices that disciplines crystallize. Taught since the early nineteenth century in university seminars, the skills by which historians learn to ferret out archival secrets, philologists to construct text stemmata, economists to model mathematically, art historians to look at a painting, anthropologists to go into the field, literary scholars to read a text – all these skills create a discipline, as both a well-bounded domain of inquiry and a distinctive habitus. In contrast to explicit doctrines of methodology, practices are mostly implicit, so deeply internalized as to be invisible – except when they are bungled or violated. They are the handiwork of the human sciences, which admits of degrees of proficiency: apprentice, journeyman, master. Methods dictate the standards of evidence of a discipline; practices, the standards of self-evidence.

Participants in the workshop would be asked to explore one such practice taken from the history of the human sciences since the Renaissance on hand from a specific, focused case. Examples might include: “Leopold Ranke Visits the Archive”; “William Stanley Jevons Models the Business Cycle”; “Sigmund Freud Interprets a Dream”; “Claude Lévi-Strauss Takes Field Notes”; “Karl Lachmann Constructs a Stemma”; “The Brothers Grimm Trace an Etymology”; “I.A. Richards Reads a Poem”; “A.J. Ayer Dissects an Argument”; “Erwin Panofsky Looks at a Picture”. The emphasis on verbs is deliberate: this how research is done in the human sciences, knowledge in the making.

In order to leave ample time for discussion, only eight presentations are planned. Instead of pre-circulating papers, the texts upon which the papers are based would be distributed beforehand as preparation for discussion. This is an exploratory workshop; no publication is planned. The objective is to open up a new area of research that seeks better to understand the nature of knowledge in the human sciences.

Because the history of practices in the human sciences has barely begun, it is an especially inviting topic for talented undergraduate students with an interest and at least an introduction to some aspect of the history of the human sciences. Five fellowships would be advertised internationally to select and fund student auditors at the workshop.

On Responsibility in the Human Science

A workshop to be held in Chicago, 20-21 October 2006, co-organized by the University of Chicago and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science

The human sciences establish, from a variety of perspectives, knowledge about human beings, their activities, and communities. These sciences range from history, anthropology, sociology, and economics to psychology, evolutionary biology, and neuro-physiology. And close by these enterprises stand literature and the other arts. The acquisition and portrayal of knowledge do not exist in a vacuum, but occur within a context of norms, injunctions of the discipline and those principles governing human behavior. This workshop, similar to the first in Berlin, will emphasize responsibility in the human sciences. Scientists exercise (or should exercise) various modes of responsibility: representations well grounded in the evidence; appropriate attributions; restraint on generalization; fair treatment of other races, nationalities, groups; illustrations that are not molded to the ends of argument; consideration of the psychological state of subjects. For instance, a scientist might offer an illustration as evidence for a conclusion, when it more properly ought to be regarded as a pedagogical aid to make clear the theory at issue. Another kind of question might be posed: Should contemporary human scientists use data derived from Nazi experiments? On the other side of the text, historians bear responsibility to their readers and to the subject of their concern. Among the kinds of questions pursued will be: When Gibbon tells a scurrilous story of Mohamed’s burial, has he abrogated historical responsibility, committed an act of bad taste, or legitimately deployed an ironic twist? Should historians morally judged their subjects or remain true to a non-normative account? When an historian claims Darwin to be a racist, has he or she made an appropriate judgment? Should Foucault write history to liberate the reader from hidden epistemological and social constraints? How do normative considerations enter into the very writing of history? Texts from a variety of scientists and historians will serve as the common reading for the discussions.

In order to leave ample time for discussion, only eight presentations are planned. Instead of pre-circulating papers, the texts upon which the papers are based would be distributed beforehand as preparation for discussion. This is an exploratory workshop; no publication is planned. The objective is to open up a new area of research that seeks better to understand the nature of knowledge in the human sciences.

Because the inquiry into the responsibilities of the human sciences, like that into the practices in the human sciences, has barely begun, it is an especially inviting topic for talented undergraduate students with an interest and at least an introduction to some aspect of the history of the human sciences. Five fellowships would be advertised internationally to select and fund student auditors at the workshop in Chicago.

By | 2017-11-10T10:01:42+00:00 December 13th, 2010|Conferences, Symposia & Workshops|Comments Off on Undergraduate Places: On Knowing in the Human Sciences/ On Responsibility in the Human Science

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