Wednesday, 27 May 2009

The post-scientific society

A seminar at KTH with Professor Christopher T. Hill, George Mason University

May 28 at 13:15-14:30 in Hall E2, Lindstedtsvägen 3, KTH Campus

In a frequently cited paper ( Christopher T. Hill stated that innovation-based wealth in the United States gradually is arising from something other than organized research in science and engineering. This post-scientific society will have several key characteristics, the most important of which is that innovation leading to wealth generation and productivity growth will be based principally not on world leadership in fundamental research in the natural sciences and engineering, but on world-leading mastery of the creative powers of, and the basic sciences of, individual human beings, their societies, and their cultures. The leading edge of innovation in the post-scientific society, whether for business, industrial, consumer, or public purposes, will move from the workshop, the laboratory, and the office to the studio, the think tank, the atelier, and cyberspace.

Professor Hill’s primary interests are in the history, design, evaluation, and politics of federal policies and programs intended to stimulate technological innovation in the commercial marketplace. From 1997 to 2005, he served as Vice Provost for Research at George Mason. He has held senior positions at the RAND Corporation, the National Academies, the Congressional Research Service, MIT and the Office of Technology Assessment. His extensive consulting includes work over the last decade with Japanese government agencies regarding reform of Japan’s national R&D, higher education, and human resource development systems.

Detta seminarium är ett av Fakultetens kvalitetsseminarier. Bakom dem står både Fakultetsnämnden, som har det övergripande akademiska ansvaret för KTHs utbildning och forskning, och Fakultetskollegiet, som är ett oberoende organ för KTH-gemensamma frågor med valda representanter för KTHs ca 900 lärare.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Intentional Attunement. The Mirror Neuron system and its role in interpersonal relations

by Vittorio Gallese


The dominant view in cognitive science puts most efforts in clarifying what are the formal rules structuring a solipsistic, representational mind. Much less investigated is what triggers the sense of social identity that we experience with the multiplicity of “other selves” populating our social world. Is the solipsistic type of analysis inspired by folk-psychology, the exclusive explanatory approach to social cognition? In particular, does it do full justice to the phenomenal aspects of our social intentional relations? My answer is no to both questions.


Friday, 22 May 2009

“Literature and Science: A Reciprocal Exchange?”

NeMLA convention (April 7-11 2010) in Montreal, Quebec

This panel seeks to take account of the humanities’ recent engagement with the sciences, an engagement that puts aside the hermeneutics of suspicion in favor of the appropriation and transformation of scientific knowledge. Beyond science studies and its demystification of objectivity, fields such as affect theory and ecocriticism, temporality studies and new media philosophy, biopolitics and animal studies bring the methodologies of literary studies to scientific objects and scientific methodologies to literary objects. This panel will consider the terms of these engagements. What are the points of convergence between literary and scientific theories? What does literary theory have to offer to the sciences in return? What conditions have brought us to the sciences? What does this engagement signal about our shared intellectual and political moment? How does the transfer across disciplinary boundaries transform these heuristics? What are the politics of this appropriation? In the shift from culture to nature, from the subject to the population, from memory to futurity, what has happened to the literary? Does literature matter and, if so, how? This panel welcomes papers on any topic of relevance to the question of science and literature.

Please submit a 250-word abstract to

Deadline:  September 30, 2009

Friday, 8 May 2009

Transdisciplinarity as an Interactive Method

by Predrag Cicovacki (Department of Philosophy, College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, MA, USA)

We are witnessing, I am convinced, the first stages of a new and extremely promising revolution. This movement promotes a new approach to human knowledge - ranging from and including natural sciences, social sciences and humanities - and, indeed, a new approach to humanity in general. The temporary name of this revolution is "transdisciplinarity," and one of its most important pioneers and champions is the quantum physicist Basarab Nicolescu. As the author of La transdisciplinarité, the initial manifesto of the transdisciplinary movement, he continues to develop this new vision of human knowledge and a new approach to the world in which we live together. The goal of my paper is to contribute to the development of this new paradigm by offering a sympathetic yet critical reflection on the fundamental philosophical and methodological aspects of transdisciplinarity. I will begin (section I) by discussing the word 'transdisciplinary' and will argue that transdisciplinarity should be understood as an interactive method. After that, I will consider (in sections II-IV) the so-called "three pillars of transdisciplinarity: the levels of Reality, the logic of the included middle, and complexity," which Nicolescu claims "determine the methodology of transdisciplinary research."(1) What is at least initially unclear are two questions: First, why are there exactly three pillars, rather than two, or four, or any other number? Second, why these particular pillars, rather than any others? After suggesting why Nicolescu's three pillars should be renamed as transdisciplinary ontology, transdisciplinary logic, and transdisciplinary epistemology, I will in the end (in section V) insist that there is a need for the fourth pillar as well. Nicolescu himself often emphasizes the value aspect of transdisciplinarity, namely that "it is a way of self-transformation, oriented towards the knowledge of the self, the unity of knowledge, and the creation of a new art of living."(2) For this reason transdisciplinarity requires the fourth pillar as well, a new transdisciplinary theory of values.


Monday, 4 May 2009

Transdisciplinary Studies

Transdisciplinary Studies are an area of research and education that addresses contemporary issues that cannot be solved by one or even a few points-of-view. It brings together academic experts, field practitioners, community members, research scientists, political leaders, and business owners among others to solve some of the pressing problems facing the world, from the local to the global.

Transdisciplinary studies are related to a set of ideas such as interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary, and integrative studies. What sets transdisciplinary studies apart from the others is a particular emphasis on engagement, investigation, and participation in addressing present-day issues and problems in a manner that explicitly destabilizes disciplinary boundaries while respecting disciplinary expertise. They are built around three key concepts: transformative praxis, constructive problem-solving and real-world engagement. The advocates of transdisciplinary studies argue that they come from the nature of the 21st century world, with its loss of a unifying narrative of knowledge, the continuing destabilization of disciplinary boundaries, and the transgressive character of the times. Our world, they claim, requires a contextualizing of knowledge in order to address complex worldwide issues (such as global warming and ethnic cleansing) and a collaboration across academic disciplines that includes non-academics in solving problems and addressing global issues.[1]

Transdisciplinary studies as a field of academic activity is rooted in the Charter of Transdisciplinarity,[2] adopted at the First World Congress of Transdisciplinarity at the Convento da Arrábida, Portugal in 1994.[3] It is clear from the beginning of the document that transdisciplinarity is not another method or another field of research. At its core, the charter lays out an ethos, a call to a way of life, a “personal moral commitment.” It begins with what can only be called a pessimistic overview of the world in the late 20th century, a complex world riddled with conflict and verging on self-destruction, a world where the secular and the spiritual, the scientific and the humanistic, are divorced and unable to speak to each other.

In the preamble, phrases such as “the triumph of techno-science,” “productivity for productivity’s sake” and “a new brand of obscurantism” raise ominous visions of a world on the edge. The fifteen articles of the charter that follow reject a variety of forces that threaten humanity: the reduction of human beings to “formal structures” and of reality to a “single level governed by a single form of logic.” It rejects those that “strive for mastery,” the “claim to total objectivity,” and the refusal of “dialogue and discussion,” as well as claims to primacy by particular cultures, market economics, and specific disciplines.
Hope lies in “the transdisciplinary vision,” an “open-minded rationality” that encompasses not only science, both natural and social, and the humanities, but also “spiritual experience,” a “transhistorical horizon,” “transcultural” meaning, and “transnational” citizenship. It is a rigorous rationality that must also be open to “the unknown, the unexpected and the unforeseeable,” including “myth and religions,” while rejecting dogmatism, ideology, and intolerance.
The values embedded in the transdisciplinary vision are basic: sharing, respect, and resolve. As with any ethos, it calls for a commitment not to a method or practice, but to a way of being; not to a new religion or metaphysics, but to a new way of life. The binary distinctions between the public and the private, the mental and the physical, the object and the subject, are transcended in this new vision. It is a distinctly postmodern point-of-view, calling on women and men, on “transdisciplinary-minded persons of all countries” to join in bringing this vision into reality, into “everyday life.” It is a bold vision; some might even say an impossible one, filled with a zeal for justice, equality, inclusion, and true democratic decision-making.

God Talk

by Staney Fish

Published in New York Times 3rd May 2009

In the opening sentence of the last chapter of his new book, “Reason, Faith and Revolution,” the British critic Terry Eagleton asks, “Why are the most unlikely people, including myself, suddenly talking about God?” His answer, elaborated in prose that is alternately witty, scabrous and angry, is that the other candidates for guidance — science, reason, liberalism, capitalism — just don’t deliver what is ultimately needed. “What other symbolic form,” he queries, “has managed to forge such direct links between the most universal and absolute of truths and the everyday practices of countless millions of men and women?”

Eagleton acknowledges that the links forged are not always benign — many terrible things have been done in religion’s name — but at least religion is trying for something more than local satisfactions, for its “subject is nothing less than the nature and destiny of humanity itself, in relation to what it takes to be its transcendent source of life.” And it is only that great subject, and the aspirations it generates, that can lead, Eagleton insists, to “a radical transformation of what we say and do.”

The other projects, he concedes, provide various comforts and pleasures, but they are finally superficial and tend to the perpetuation of the status quo rather than to meaningful change: “A society of packaged fulfillment, administered desire, managerialized politics and consumerist economics is unlikely to cut to the depth where theological questions can ever be properly raised.”