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Putting the "two cultures" debate to rest
STANFORD -- Is the gap between the two cultures of science and humanities
dead or dying?
Diagnosing the current condition of this century-old rift, and determining
whether the time has come to end this institutional separation, is the
purpose of the conference "Beyond Dualism: Epistemological Convergences
Between the Sciences and the Humanities," to be held at Stanford University
March 11-12 in room 100, Cordura Hall.
Organized by the Stanford Humanities Center and the Department of
Comparative Literature, the conference will bring together prominent
scientists and humanities scholars to discuss the contributions that
humanists can make in the sciences and those that scientists can make in the
humanities. They also will address the question of whether the current
institutional divisions between the two areas of scholarship still make
Among those participating are the inventor of the birth control pill,
chemist and author Carl Djerassi; contemporary philosopher Jean- Francois
Lyotard, who launched the concept "postmodernity"; Nobel Prize- winning
chemist Roald Hoffmann; Henry Louis Gates, a leading authority on
Afro-American culture; and Christine von Weizsaecker, physicist, journalist
and a leader in German Green politics.
"The conference is actually an experiment. I hope that it demonstrates
that there are real advantages for both scientists and humanists in working
together," said its organizer, Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, professor of
comparative literature and French and Italian.
The event will consist of a series of lectures given by alternating
scientists and humanists. Lectures given by scientists will be accompanied by
a response from a humanities scholar, and vice versa. The general topics that
the lectures will address are "The History of an Intellectual and
Institutional Divide"; "Exchanges of Thought Patterns and Methods"; and
"Epistemological and Ethical Inseparability."
The meeting will conclude with a panel discussion of the question, "Does
the relation between the sciences and humanities need a rethinking and an
BEYOND DUALISM: EPISTEMOLOGICAL CONVERGENCES BETWEEN THE SCIENCES AND THE
- Gerhard Casper, President, Stanford University.
- Niklas Luhmann, Bielefeld University, Lecce Institute; often
regarded as the leading humanist in the German academic scene; creator of a
new version of systems theory to serve as philosophical basis of sociology
that ha s had a major impact on international law.
- Carl Djerassi, chemistry professor, Stanford University; inventor
of birth control pill and cortisone; in addition to scientific work has
authored popular nonfiction books, novels and poetry.
- Bernard Siegert, Humboldt University, Berlin; young Germanist who
specializes in the historical relationships between technology and
- Jeffrey Schnapp, comparative literature professor, Stanford
University; author of forthcoming book on culture and technology in Italian
- Roald Hoffmann, chemistry professor, Cornell University; Nobel
laureate; has written on the aesthetic value of molecular structures.
- Jean-Pierre Dupuy, Paris; a humanist whose work bridges traditions
of formal thinking (i.e., logic, mathematics) with softer philosophical
- Henry Louis Gates, professor of Afro-American studies, Harvard
University; leading specialist in Afro-American culture; only humanist
mentioned in recent Newsweek survey of the 100 most prominent Americans.
- Jean-Francois Lyotard, French and Italian professor, Emory
University; one of the most important and most widely debated contemporary
philosophers; inventor of the concept "postmodernity."
- Loren Graham, professor, science, technology and society,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology; leading authority on the history of
science in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
- Friedrich Kittler, media research professor, Humboldt University,
Berlin; in his book Discourse Networks created a new form of media and
- Terry Winograd, computer science professor, Stanford University; a
leading authority on artificial intelligence.
- Francisco Varela, Paris; expert in autoimmunology and candidate
for Nobel Prize; also well known for his philosophical analyses of
contemporary scientific research.
- Hayden White, history professor, University of California-Santa
Cruz; his book Metahistory has inspired a new form of history writing.
- Christine von Weizsaecker, Bonn; physicist, well-known journalist
on contemporary science and ecology; a leader in German Green politics.
- Timothy Lenoir, history professor, Stanford University; historian
of science who specializes in Germany from 1850 to 1940 and, more recently,
in Silicon Valley.
- John Etchemendy, philosophy professor, Stanford University; works
at the intersections between logic, linguistics and artificial intelligence.
- Morris Kaplan, fellow, Stanford Humanities Center; specialist on
the legal questions regarding gender, particularly gay rights.
- Wanda Corn, director, Stanford Humanities Center; specialist in
early 20th-century American art.
- Paul Watzlawick, Mental Research Institute; international
authority on systemic psychiatry.
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