Experience and Experiment in Early Modern Europe
In this lecture, Greg Moynahan, an associate professor in the history and science, technology, and society programs at Bard College, will consider the rise of scientific experimentation and its relation to experimentation in the arts. He will consider the early history of both through their common location in collections and museums, suggesting that the appearance of the problem of infinity in natural philosophy was important for the modern relationship between scientific and artistic experimentation. The talk will focus on thinkers such as Nicholas of Cusa and Gottfried Leibniz (the inventor of calculus and founder of modern computing), whose article An Odd Thought Concerning a New Sort of Exhibition described a “museum of everything that could be imagined,” which informed the first plan for the Prussian Academy of Science.
The Observer Effects series invites thinkers to present their highly integrative work in dialogue with the fields of art and science. This lecture series takes its title from a popularized principle in physics that holds that the act of observation transforms the observed. Outside the natural sciences, the idea that the observer and the observed are linked in a web of reciprocal modification has been deeply influential in philosophy, aesthetics, psychology, and politics.
Greg Moynahan has taught in the history and science, technology, and society (STS) programs at Bard College since 2001. He specializes in modern European intellectual and cultural history and the history of technology, and his research interests include the history of theoretical biology, systems theory, and “scientific” racism and political history of computing and cybernetics in the two Germanys. His book, Force and Form: Ernst Cassirer and the Critical Science of Germany, 1902-1919, is forthcoming from Anthem Press (London). He is presently working on a history of cybernetics and systems theory in Germany, tentatively entitled: The Politics of Complexity: Biology, Society, and Systems Theory in Germany: 1890 to the Present. Moynahan received his BA from Wesleyan University, and his MA, DPhil, and PhD from the University of California, Berkeley. He has received fellowships from Bundeskanzler, DAAD, and the Charlotte W. Newcombe Foundation, and has contributed articles to Science in Context, Simmel Studies, and Qui Parle.