Department of History of Science and Ideas

Knowledge Traditions and Scientific Change

Project Description

The tension between knowing and doing effected modes of natural inquiries since the ancient Greeks. Moreover our current understanding of science is shaped by this and other oppositional and hierarchically ordered pairs like theory/practice, pure/applied, scholar/artisan, science/technology, global/local. In this project we try to escape from these familiar dichotomies and to redraw the historical map of modern science by means of studying material and knowledge production of the long 18th century in their own right. Of particular interest are the distinct categories of knowing and doing or mental and manual work and Western societies efforts to turn this distinction and the implied hierarchy of head over hand into a self-evident fact of life. We are particularly interested in understanding the mechanisms of why and how demarcation lines between science as a more authoritative form of knowledge production than ‘ordinary knowledge’ were drawn. And how this divide is linked to the social distinction between those who work with their heads and those who work with their hands. How it even contributed to a cultural distinction between West European lands (and former colonies) that have modern science and those that do not. This large scale program of remapping diverse knowledge traditions and their interactions provides the necessary conditions for comprehending the historical and epistemological preconditions of the emergence of scientific knowledge in a globalizing world. This long term project is of a highly interdisciplinary character.