Looking twice at the history of science

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Critical thoughts on Howard Hotson's Scientiae keynote

What is intellectual history and how can we justify this sub-field to our peers and pay-masters? Those were the questions that Howard Hoston tackled in a rousing keynote address at the Scientiae conference held at the University of Vienna in the last week of April. Hotson's questions were bracing because the Scientiae conferences--this year's event was the third in an ongoing series--are founded on the idea that intellectual history is a coherent and important field of study. Hotson's answers included a provocative argument against managerial meddling in the humanities, namely that past actors (and especially early moderns) achieved great things in the absence of such meddling. I'll summarise Hoston's talk before explaining why I think this argument fails. Expand post.


  1. The first part has points of similarity to Kuhn's 1971 essay, "The Relations between History and the History of Science" (reprinted in The Essential Tension).

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