Two Worlds Embraced by a Third: The Humanist and the Natural Sciences
Attempts in exploring the sciences from a humanist’s viewpoint is not new, and was probably what instigated to writing of C.P. Snow’s famed Two Cultures. It has not always been the case that the sciences are thoroughly separated from the humanities, as its earlier incarnation as natural philosophy obviously suggests. Now, science as we know it, are separated from its histories and philosophies which exist as academic disciplines in separate departments. If we were to venture further back in time to the Medieval and Renaissance period, we will encounter exploration of the sciences done through both simultaneously mechanical and artistic experimentations, as many fascinating critique and exploration into the work and life of Leonardo Da Vinci indicate. As modern scientific knowledge and authority were abrogated by institutions and disseminated after going through their stamps of approval, continuous experimentation and discoveries were carried on as before: beyond the hallowed walls of the academy.
At present, there has been a growing interest in scientific visualization and imaging by new media artists for the purpose of re-presentation and re-interpretation of scientific data and worldview within a broader cultural context, as well as through the lens of critical aesthetics. At the same time, the relationship between biological sciences (especially neurosciences) in connection to theories of embodiment and affectivity in literature, philosophy, art history, media studies and communication sciences, have been explored through various medium from art installation, to the moving image, to experimental literature (whether print or electronic). In more experimental forms of literary texts, questions of computational and genetic algorithms that structure the production of the texts have also been explored through actual creative work and through literary analysis, as well as through explorations into the concept of textual and autonomous experimentation.
However, what is lacking, at this juncture, is broader humanistic encounters with the physical sciences and mathematical sciences in literature beyond the works of A.N. Whitehead, David Bohm, Roland Omnès, Arkady Plotnisky, Karen Barad, and Brian Rotman; or through more popular accounts of the more ‘exotic’ elements of these fields, whether due to the limitations of one’s training or exposure. One can conceive this as much as a problem of language as translation between linguistics jargons and background knowledge. Nevertheless, I would like to draw loosely on Peter Galison’s account of the trading zone, whereby it is possible for those working within different epistemic cultures and politics to communicate across that the ontological divide, to call upon humanist scholars with interests in both the biological and physical sciences, to propose papers, creative works, performances, and other forms of presentations for a panel or a track of panels in SLSA 2012. It is hope that we could create panels that will also deal specifically with the theme of the ‘non-human.’
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