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2009-2010 Seminar: Evidence and Explanation in the Arts and Sciences

Few aspects of the modern university are more taken for granted than the notion that the arts and sciences form separate fields of inquiry. The physical plan of the university campus reflects the separation, as do curricula, libraries, administrative organization, and many informal aspects of academic life. But what would it mean to identify areas of conjunction between the arts and sciences rather assuming their separation? The purpose of the seminar will be to examine characteristic methods for defining and handling evidence in the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities and to assess how these fields use evidence to produce plausible explanations about natural, social, and imaginative worlds. Drawing on the research of the seminar participants and the work of distinguished visitors, the seminar will approach the problem of constituting a faculty of the “Arts and Sciences” by proceeding along four primary axes:

an historical inquiry into how fields that we now recognize as belonging to the sciences and the humanities have come to assume the modern contours that shape the intellectual landscape of today’s university;
a philosophical inquiry into the basic concepts and methods that shape the terrain of the sciences and the humanities: problems of induction, hypothesis, modeling and experimentation, of system and theory, among others;
a topical inquiry into longstanding concerns in the arts and sciences, including life, matter, consciousness, time, force, interpretation, and meaning;
a formal inquiry into how evidence is represented, modified, shared, communicated, and made exemplary, including the role of digital media and other new information technologies in the handling of evidence.

Directors: Jonathan Kramnick (English) and Henry Turner (English)
Faculty Fellows: James Delbourgo (History), Joanna Kempner (Sociology), Robert Matthews (Philosophy), Susan Sidlauskas (Art History)
Predoctoral Fellows: Joshua Armstrong (Philosophy), Joshua Gang (English), Devin Griffiths (English), Alexander Morgan (Philosophy), Colleen Rosenfeld (English)
Postdoctoral Fellows: Marilena DiBuccianico (London School of Economics), Michael Fuerstein (Columbia), Peter M. Ainsworth (London School of Economics),
Affiliated Scholars: Alice Jenkins (U. of Glasgow), Steven Meyer (Washington U.)

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