Goal of research
This project is aimed at a new reading of the histories of relations between social/human and natural sciences. Its goal is to examine various historical forms of metadisciplinary syntheses (sacred physics, romantic anthropology, early modern knowledge of oil and electricity, general history, second-order cybernetics, interactive museum technologies) in order to evaluate the novelty, perspectives and limitations of the interactions between natural sciences, social disciplines and humanities nowadays.
The interdisciplinary nature of the research team and the objects under study implies the variety of approaches to the study of the history of knowledge, formed within the framework of intellectual history, social and cultural history of social sciences and humanities (SHS), history and philosophy of science, and sociology of science.
Along with the classical historical and conceptual analysis, our study uses rhetorical and discursive analysis (in line with the Michel Foucault’s archeology of knowledge), as well as the historical epistemology of Jan Hacking, to consider forms of argumentation and legitimization, construction of objects and boundaries of a particular field of science within the broader configuration of the field of knowledge at a given epoch, and also borrows on the cultural history of science by Timothy Lenoir and the “history of natural science concepts” by Hans-Jörg Rheinberger.
Rhetorical and discursive analysis is also complemented by an analysis of the institutional and a broader socio-historical context that influences the formation of new metadisciplinary research projects and the transformation of already established academic disciplines through borrowing and assimilating the categories and approaches of the natural sciences (G. Steinmetz, P. Mirowski, P. Galison et L. Daston, etc.).
These various approaches are unified in a comparative and historical framework analyzing the dynamics of the intellectual and social organization of science at the points of conjugation or “meeting” of various forms of knowledge relating to different areas of the natural sciences and SHS (as well as such “non-scientific” forms of knowledge and practice as religion and art).
Empirical base of research
When analyzing individual theoretic-historical cases, the original sources (theological and philosophical texts, scientific articles and books, literary works, autobiographies and travel notes, etc.) as well as secondary, analytical and review literature, in Russian and in foreign languages (Greek, French, English, German, Spanish) were used.
Results of research
The project allowed defining the specifics of holistic and metadisciplinary projects at the junction of humanities and natural sciences, starting from the early New Age and up to the modern global community. The forms of articulation, synthesis, and dialogue of approaches, concepts, arguments, and epistemic styles characteristic of various fields of science were studied in detail.
At the same time, a broader intellectual and sociopolitical context was reconstructed, creating a “social demand” or various kinds of restrictions on the creation, dissemination (or decline) of some form of metadisciplinary reflection and practice.
The comparative historical approach involved in the study allowed us to trace some similar problematization and continuity lines between holistic and metascientific projects of different eras (for example, metamorphoses of the “holistic-ideological” component from sacred physics and romantic anthropology to second order cybernetics).
In particular, the evolution of the role of the “naturalistic” argument in various “hybrid” forms of knowledge at the interface of the natural sciences and SHS is analyzed; a gradual transition from teleological and essentialist attitudes to the problems of materiality and sensory experience, ecology, new evolutionism is shown. “Naturalism” of a special kind seems to be in demand in the most pressing theoretical discussions in the field of historiography and philosophy of science (“new ontology”, etc.).
Finally, a comparison of the internal structure of holistic projects of various epochs made it possible to assess the prospects of the latest cross-disciplinary syntheses, the need for which is caused by the continuous increase in complexity in technology and public organization.
Level of implementation, recommendations on implementation or outcomes of the implementation of the results
The results obtained during the work on the project were presented and discussed in research seminars and other scientific events in Russia and abroad, and were published in a series of articles in international and Russian journals.
The results of this work are also used in the teaching activities of the project participants and can be involved in creating innovative curricula for social science and humanities (history, history of philosophy, sociology, and cultural studies).
Finally, the results of this project can be used to identify priorities and to evaluate the scientific relevance of research in the domain of history and sociology of the SHS.