Questioning the Concepts of Culture, Diversity and Comparison in the History and Philosophy of Science

Paris, France
11 July 2015


Click on the images to download the flyers in pdf format.

The International Association for Science and Cultural Diversity (IASCUD) is pleased to announce a one-day workshop being held in Paris, France on Saturday, 11 July 2015. The event will consist of a number of presentations from invited expert speakers and round-table discussions/debates to question the notions of "culture", "diversity", and "comparison" in the history and philosophy of science. This workshop, held in English, will be interactive and discussions will be encouraged. We hope you will join us this summer in Paris.

The workshop is generously funded by the Division for History of Science and Technology (DHST) of the International Union for History and Philosophy of Science and Technology (IUHPST).


9:00am. Welcome.

9:15am. Jeremy Tanner (University College London), Thinking through comparison in art history.

Abstract. Very few art historians identify themselves as comparativists, but in this paper he will argue that such central concepts of art history as "style" and "context" presuppose a comparative logic. He will explore the explicitly comparative approaches of such classics of art history as Johann Joachim Winckelmann's History of Ancient Art and Alois Riegl's Group Portraiture of Holland, and consider the eclipse of comparativist approaches to art in the second half of the twentieth century, particularly in light of Ernst Gombrich's classic article Norm and form, and the broader linguistic turn in the human sciences, both of which informed a strong cultural relativism inimical to cross cultural comparison in art history. The last part of the paper will explore the underlying rationale, and the tools, for comparative approaches to art history developed in recent contributions such as David Summers's Real Spaces.

10:30am-12:00pm. Round Table on "Historical and Critical Approaches to Comparative History" (panelists: Takashi Nishiyama, Lisa Raphals, Jeremy Tanner, Justin Smith).

The round table will be based on the talk by Jeremy Tanner, which opens the meeting. He puts forward the thesis that one can establish a relationship between the use of comparison in the history of art history and the key concepts with which art history is carried out until today. Can we identify such phenomena in other disciplines? To address this issue more broadly, we will examine in a historical and critical way how comparisons have been carried out in the framework of various other disciplines (history of art, history of science, history of philosophy and so on). We are interested in the ways in which comparanda have been shaped, and the respects in which depending on the milieus carrying out comparison, comparanda were compared. We want also to understand better the uses that were made of comparison, in a wider context, and the impact of comparison on the fields.

2:00pm-3:30pm. Round table: Questioning "Culture" in the History and Philosophy of Science (panelists: Kenji Ito, Lei Hsiang-lin, Dagmar Schaefer, Koen Vermeir).

"Culture" remains a useful analytical tool in the history and philosophy of science, despite the problems attached to the concept. The round table will attempt to touch upon the problems, especially when concepts of culture are used in relation to science. It will put under discussion some uses of "culture" in the History and Philosophy of Science that appear to be meaningful. We will examine what the term "culture" referred to that could not be grasped without it. In brief, how can "culture" enrich more concrete, empirical, historical, philosophical studies of doing science?

4:00pm-5:30pm. Round Table: Questioning the notion of "diversity" in science (Karine Chemla, Irfan Habib, Benedikt Löwe).

Historical and philosophical studies of science have observed "diversity" in many different ways and at many different levels. But what do we mean by "cultural diversity"? Why should we care, and what should we expect when we engage in historical and philosophical studies of science in the world? What are some benefits and risks to assuming the presence of diversity, uniformity/universality, or both in science? How have the notion of "diversity" and its historiographic description changed over time? How can an understanding of "diversity" help us in decision-making processes relating to science policy?

PANELISTS. Our panelists have provided a position statement to catalyse discussion during the panel. You can find the position statements by clicking on the link behind the name of the panelist.

Registration, Participation, and Deadline. Registration is free and required ahead of time. On-site registration will not be available. Participation via Skype is possible with a requisite arrangement. Attendees will be expected to meet their own costs for travel and accommodation. On-line or physical participation will be limited, so please let us know as soon as possible if you with to attend this workshop. For registration, please contact Takashi Nishiyama (tnishiya(at)brockport.edu) by midnight of your local time on July 1, 2015.

Université Paris 7/CNRS Laboratoire SPHERE UMR 7219
Bâtiment/Building Condorcet
Room 366A
10 rue Alice Domon et Léonie Duquet
75013 Paris

Public transport: Metro line 14 / Station: Bibliothèque François Mitterrand, Metro line 6 / Station: Quai de la Gare, RER C / Station: Bibliothèque François Mitterrand, Bus 64 / Stop: Tolbiac-Bibliothèque François Mitterrand, Bus 62 & 89 / Stop: Avenue de France or Bibliothèque François Mitterrand, Bus 325 / Stop: Watt.

IASCUD Conference Committee. Kenji Ito, Benedikt Löwe, and Takashi Nishiyama.