851-0172-00L  Around 1936: The New Language of Science

SemesterSpring Semester 2022
LecturersJ. L. Gastaldi
Periodicitynon-recurring course
Language of instructionEnglish
CommentNumber of participants limited to 40.

As a research seminar, this course is mostly suitable for MA and PhD students.


851-0172-00 SAround 1936: The New Language of Science2 hrs
Mon18:15-20:00LEE C 114 »
J. L. Gastaldi

Catalogue data

AbstractThe years around 1936 witnessed an intense intellectual production in all fields of knowledge. All those contributions had a common denominator: the reorganization of their fields around a formal conception of language, which changed our linguistic practices both in science and in everyday life. This seminar proposes a comparative reading of those texts, to understand that transformation.
ObjectiveDuring the seminar, students will be able to:
⁃ Acquire a broad interdisciplinary perspective on the history of formal languages and sciences
⁃ Obtain philosophical and historical tools for critically assessing the status language and sign systems in scientific practices
- Become acquainted with concepts and methods in the history and philosophy of science
⁃ Develop a critical understanding of the notion of formal
⁃ Discuss the methodological capabilities of historical epistemology
ContentThe years around 1936 (say, between 1934 and 1938) were the occasion of an intense and fertile intellectual production, opening new and long-lasting perspectives in practically all fields of knowledge, from mathematics and physics to linguistics and aesthetics, and even inaugurating or prefiguring new disciplines such as computability, complexity or information theory. Indeed, within those few years, famous seminal papers and works appeared by authors such as Einstein, Turing, Church, Gödel, Kolmogorov, Bourbaki, Gentzen, Tarski, Carnap, Shannon, Fisher, Hjelmslev, Schoenberg or Le Corbusier.

Despite the diversity of fields of knowledge concerned by this intense production, all those contributions seem to have a common denominator. In essence, they all concern a reorganization of their respective fields around a new conception of language as being of a purely formal nature. In hindsight, it can be said this simultaneous intellectual effort ended up changing our conception and practice of language, of what it means to read and write, both in science and in everyday life. However, although simultaneous, those efforts were not necessarily convergent. Multiple tensions, incompatibilities and fragile alliances accompanied the emergence of orientations such as computability theory, complexity theory, structuralist mathematics, proof and model theory, logicism, information theory, structuralist linguistics or aesthetical formalism and constructivism.

This seminar proposes, then, to perform a comparative reading of those original texts, to understand the nature of that transformation, the convergences and divergences between the different projects at stake, and how the singular way in which they have historically communicated still determines our contemporary practices and conceptions of language.

Students will be required to choose one of the proposed texts corresponding to their area of competence, and present it to the other students in an accessible way. Presentations will be followed by a collective discussion, putting in perspective all the texts discussed so far.
Prerequisites / NoticeAs a research seminar, this course is mostly suitable for MA and PhD students
Method-specific CompetenciesAnalytical Competenciesassessed
Social CompetenciesCommunicationassessed
Cooperation and Teamworkassessed
Customer Orientationassessed
Sensitivity to Diversityassessed
Personal CompetenciesAdaptability and Flexibilityassessed
Creative Thinkingassessed
Critical Thinkingassessed
Integrity and Work Ethicsassessed
Self-awareness and Self-reflection assessed

Performance assessment

Performance assessment information (valid until the course unit is held again)
Performance assessment as a semester course
ECTS credits3 credits
ExaminersJ. L. Gastaldi
Typegraded semester performance
Language of examinationEnglish
RepetitionRepetition possible without re-enrolling for the course unit.
Additional information on mode of examinationThe seminar workload includes weekly reading (ca. 20 pages), short weekly preparation tasks and one classroom presentation. The grade will be based on a final essay (1500-2000 words). The final essay can be conceived as the written version of the classroom presentation.

Learning materials

No public learning materials available.
Only public learning materials are listed.


No information on groups available.


Places40 at the most
Waiting listuntil 06.03.2022

Offered in

Doctorate Humanities, Social and Political SciencesSubject SpecialisationWInformation
History and Philosophy of Knowledge MasterSeminarsWInformation
Science in PerspectiveHistoryWInformation
Science in PerspectiveD-BIOLWInformation
Science in PerspectiveD-CHABWInformation
Science in PerspectiveD-INFKWInformation
Science in PerspectiveD-ITETWInformation
Science in PerspectiveD-MATHWInformation
Science in PerspectiveD-PHYSWInformation