Search result: Catalogue data in Spring Semester 2021

History and Philosophy of Knowledge Master Information
Basic Courses
851-0158-13LEcology and Environmentalism Restricted registration - show details
Number of participants limited to 40

Particularly suitable for students of D-ERDW, D-HEST, D-USYS, D-BIOL
W3 credits2SN. Guettler
AbstractThe notion of „ecology“ refers to both, scientific research on environments as well as their protection. But how have academic ecology and the environmental movements intersected throughout history?
ObjectiveIn the seminar, students will read and discuss key sources as well as secondary literature on the knowledge transfers between scientific ecology and the environmental movements of the 19th and 20th century. Topics range from 19th-century homeland movement and the rise of ecological awareness in colonial settings, to the rise of an environmental awareness during the Cold War, with a special focus on „green“ politics in Europe. Apart from scientists and „counter-scientists“ the seminar focuses on concepts and ideas that circulated between academic ecology and different nature movements.
The participants learn to engage historically with original texts as well as to handle independently the extensive historical literature on the history of environmentalism. At the same time, they develop a critical understanding of different political agendas that have shaped academic and popular ecology until the present day. Students also learn to communicate their findings by writing short (and fictive) blog posts on different aspects of this history.
851-0080-00LNew Forms and Contents in Nonfiction Writing Restricted registration - show details
Number of participants limited to 30.
W3 credits2SW. Eilenberger
AbstractThe course will give an introduction into the new forms of reflection, also of topics from the natural sciences, in nonfiction writing.
ObjectiveTo develop an understanding for the functions and forms of contemporary non-fiction. To acquire elementary competences in non-fiction writing.
ContentSachbücher (engl. non-fiction-books) erleben auf dem Buchmarkt derzeit eine Renaissance. Als primärer Zweck dieser Gattung gilt oder galt die Wissensvermittlung, insbesondere als Vermittlung wissenschaftlich generierter Inhalte an ein breites Lesepublikum.
Die Entwicklung der Gattung dient damit als aussagekräftiger Indikator für die Dynamik des Verhältnisses von Wissenschaft, Wissensvermittlung sowie den diesbezüglichen Erwartungshorizonten einer interessierten Öffentlichkeit.
Anhand ausgewählter Publikationen (und daran anschließenden Übungen) wird der Kurs diesen Dynamiken nachgehen und dabei insbesondere neuere formale wie inhaltliche Entwicklungslinien untersuchen, wie etwa der Trend zum narrativen Sachbuch, zu explizit wissenschaftskritischen Sachbüchern oder auch stark prominenzgetragenen Publikationen.
851-0165-00LQuestions Concerning the Philosophy of Mathematics, Theoretical Physics and Computer Science Restricted registration - show details W3 credits2SG. Sommaruga, S. Wolf
AbstractThis seminar tackles questions of the philosophy of mathematics, of theoretical physics ad computer science which are rather non-standard such as: Are proofs really constitutive of mathematics? Why are applications of mathematics (to nature but also to mathematics itself) so fascinating and so hard to understand? etc.
ObjectiveThe objective is not so much to get acquainted with basic concepts and theories in the philosophy of mathematics, of theoretical physics and computer science, but to reflect in a methodical way about what lies at the origin of these philosophies. Students should learn to articulate questions arising during their studies and to pursue them in a more systematic way.
ContentThis seminar tackles questions of the philosophy of mathematics, of theoretical physics ad computer science which are rather non-standard such as: Are proofs really constitutive of mathematics? Why are applications of mathematics (to nature but also to mathematics itself) so fascinating and so hard to understand? Why do certain physical theories, e.g. quantum mechanics, need an "interpretation" whereas others don't? Is computer science part of discrete mathematics or a natural science? etc.
851-0008-00LBan on Alcohol and Science: A Global History of Prohibition 1918-1939 Restricted registration - show details
Does not take place this semester.
W3 credits2S
AbstractThe seminar deals with an overview on anti-alcohol campaigns since late 19th century. The focus is on prohibition in the interwar period in different regions. The role of scientific experts in the emergence of prohibition will be discussed from a global historical perspective. Formation of international networks and process of knowledge production on the issue of alcohol are subjects of analysis.
ObjectiveThe reconstruction of the development of prohibitionist regimes helps to understand the process of national institution formations, for example health services. Participants analyze interactions between science, international relations and change of social political context in the process of knowledge production and in the definition of daily life norms on drinking habits.
851-0182-00LFrom Economy to Mathematics and Back: A History of Interactions Restricted registration - show details W3 credits2SR. Wagner
AbstractThis course will review several historical episodes where economy shaped mathematics, and where mathematics re-shaped economy.
ObjectiveStudents will understand how different fields of knowledge can interact in various historical situations. They will also be able to describe various episodes in the history of mathematics and economy.
ContentThe first part of the course will study how practices related to money and commerce affected the development of mathematics in antiquity and the middle ages. The second part will study how mathematical entities shaped the study of various economic problems in the 19th and 20th century. We will review methodologies based on Marxist historiography, sociology of science and contemporary science studies.
851-0525-00LA History of Personal Computing Restricted registration - show details W3 credits2SR. Wichum, M. Mayer
AbstractThe seminar will examine how the personal computer shaped different digital spaces. How personal could a computer actually be? What spaces of user autonomy did operating systems and software create?
ObjectiveStudents become familiar with the interdependence of technical and social change through the history of computers, media and science. It is a text-based seminar. In addition, we practice the handling of source material.
ContentSince the 1980’s computers are placed on office desks or even in a corner of a private hobby room. Silicon chips and developments in microprocessor technology made the size of computers shrink. The personal computer was the result of this technological development. However, how personal could a computer actually be? What spaces of user autonomy did operating systems and software create? The seminar will examine how the personal computer shaped different digital spaces. We research the negotiations between technology and society.
851-0088-00LHistory and Philosophy of Artificial Intelligence Restricted registration - show details W3 credits2SO. Del Fabbro
AbstractIn this course we read important texts in the historical development of the field of artificial intelligence, for example: Alan Turing, Warren McCulloch & Walter Pitts, John Searle's Chinese Room Argument, Ray Kurzweil's Singularity etc. The main focus of the seminar is to trace the development of the field of AI and to better understand what the concept of intelligence means in this context.
ObjectiveStudents should learn to critically assess historical, scientific and philosophical texts. The focus will lie on the field of artificial intelligence and the concept of intelligence. Students should learn about the different types of argumentative texts and scientific theories. They should learn to understand the descriptive and critical value of texts.
851-0009-00LThe 'Dutch East Indies' and Science in German Speaking Europe, c. 1800-1950 Restricted registration - show details W3 credits2SB. Schär, M. Ligtenberg
AbstractBetween about 1800 and 1945 the Netherlands was a small country with a huge empire in what is now Indonesia and the Caribbean. In order to conquer and explore this empire, the Dutch depended also on the help of German-speaking scientists. How did German-speaking science and Dutch imperialism mutually benefit from each other? What consequences did it have for whom?
ObjectiveStudents learn about new approaches to the global history of knowledge. They gain insights into Dutch colonial history in present-day Indonesia, as well as into the history of various disciplines such as geography, biology or anthropology. They will learn to create their own analyses of the relationship between science and imperialism using sources.
ContentAs a small country with the second largest colonial empire after Great Britain, the Netherlands was permanently dependent on more imperial know-how, capital and expertise in the 19th and 20th centuries than it had available on its own territory. This opened up opportunities for development above all for those European regions that late or never formed their own colonial empires overseas. This is particularly true for German-speaking Europe. In the 19th century, German-speaking researchers and universities rose to become the world leaders of their kind. A substantial part of the German-speaking history of science unfolded in the "Dutch East Indies", today's Indonesia. However, the close and long-lasting historical relations between German-speaking science and Dutch imperialism in this region have hardly been examined by historians so far. In this seminar we will first of all use the secondary literature to gain an overview of the development of this relationship. Using case studies and historical source materials, we will then develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which the German-speaking sciences and their research institutions and the project of Dutch imperialism influenced each other. Particular attention will be paid to the question of what role Southeast Asian knowledge Producers played in the colonial construction of German-language scientific knowledge.
851-0167-00LWays of Worldmaking Restricted registration - show details W3 credits2SM. Hampe
AbstractWe study Nelson Goodman´s "Ways of Worldmaking" from 1978 and glance at other works relevant for his project like Wittgenstein´s "Tractatus" and Carnaps "Logischer Aufbau der Welt".
ObjectiveUnderstanding modern rational perspectivism.
ContentWe study Nelson Goodman´s "Ways of Worldmaking" from 1978 and glance at other works relevant for his project like Wittgenstein´s "Tractatus" and Carnaps "Logischer Aufbau der Welt”. In the books by Goodman and Wittgenstein the relation between the natural sciences, philosophy and art is discussed. Goodman claims that both the sciences and the arts have the power to make worlds. We will try to find out, how plausible this suggestion is.
851-0010-00LGlobal Histories of the Anthropocene Restricted registration - show details W3 credits2ST. Bartoletti
AbstractThe seminar will critically examine the discursive history of the Anthropocene. It gives an overview of debates on the Anthropocene narrative and its transdisciplinary framework. A global history approach to these debates arises as a substantial contribution to better analyze global processes of exploitation of natural resources, territorial dispossession and imperialism.
ObjectiveThe aim is to examine how natural scientists and historians analyze climate change and the human imprint on the environment, processing data in a transdisciplinary way. Students will select a research project related to climate change, environmental research or similar issues conducted at ETH Zurich and write an essay on how the Anthropocene narrative operates in the scientific agenda.
ContentAccording to the standard Anthropocene narrative, the Industrial Revolution marks the onset of large-scale human modification of the earth. Nevertheless, several scholars, especially from the global south, have noted that the Anthropocene concept constructs a single and unilineal narrative about humans as a species. Only considering measurements of carbon dioxide levels, it naturalizes the specific cultural behaviors (colonialism, inequality, etc.) arguably responsible for climate change. Contrary to ‘pure’ natural science and ‘human species’ explanations, this Eurocentric pattern has been strongly questioned due to its lack of socio-historical differentiation and intra-species distinction. For example, as of 2008, the advanced countries of the ‘North’ accounted for 18.8 percent of the world population and were responsible for 72.7 percent of the carbon dioxide emitted since 1850, while the poorest 45 percent of the human population accounted for 7 percent of emissions. Is it methodologically appropriate to refer to all humans as agents of a new geological era? This seminar will explore the slipping between natural/cultural explanations and critically tackle how the Anthropocene narrative is marking scientific and political agendas.
851-0282-00LOn ClosureW3 credits2SC. Jany
AbstractAll beginnings are difficult, the saying goes. But it is perhaps still more difficult to find an ending under the endless conditions of modernity. Not long ago, the stories of literature defined the closure of actions, while philosophical systems provided the certain rules for sensible conclusions and ends, not to mention religious myths and revelations. What remains of such knowledge today?
ObjectiveReading theoretical and above all literary texts, we will first gather typical concepts, strategies, and representations of how things come to an end. We will then scrutinize this arsenal of "meaningful" ends and endings considering the conditions of modern life. To what extend does this older knowledge of endings live on as concerns both one's own biography and the aims and ends of science.
ContentDie Untersuchung von philosophischen und insbes. literarischen Schlüssen verspricht Einsichten in die allgemeinen Bauformen von Geschichten, Gedankengängen oder ganz allgemein Handlungen. Sie berührt also drei Grundvollzüge der menschlichen Kultur: das Erzählen, das Denken, das praktische Handeln. Auch die Naturwissenschaft und Technik sind auf diese kulturellen Grundvollzüge bezogen und bringen sie zur Anwendung. Insofern lädt das Seminar nicht zuletzt dazu ein, über den Wert und die Funktion von Zwecken, Schlüssen und Enden für das technisch-naturwissenschaftliche Wissen nachzudenken.
851-0526-00LProducing Emptiness and Working with Nothing. Vacuum Technology in the 20th Century Restricted registration - show details W3 credits2SD. Gugerli, R. Delucchi
AbstractThe seminar examines the powerful effects of emptiness. We want to understand the materiality, the production and the (industrial) effects of the liminal space called “vacuum", on which scientists and engineers worked in the 20th century. We observe pumps, coating systems, rockets and thin films in essays and catalogs, at exhibitions and in patents.
ObjectiveStudents learn to read very different types of text against the grain and understand technical change.
Lecture notesThe reading program is available on Moodle at the beginning of the semester. Participation in the sessions is required. A graded semester performance will take place. Students should complete research tasks resulting from the individual sessions.
Prerequisites / NoticeDie Zahl der Teilnehmenden ist auf 40 beschränkt.
851-0157-74LPhotography Between Science and Art Restricted registration - show details
Number of participants limited to 20
W3 credits2SM. Hagner
AbstractThis seminar is devoted to the role of photography in art and science since its beginnings in 1839. We will read selected texts on the theory of photography and analyse photographs for getting an overview over its fascinating history.
ObjectiveWhen photography started to conquer the world in 1839, it was unclear whether it belonged to the arts or to the sciences. Since those times and despite the digital revolution, this double function of photography has not changed significantly. The aim of this seminar is twofold: First, we want to reconstruct the transformations of photography in the trading zone of the sciences and the arts. Second, we want to analyse epistemological and aesthetical theories, which reflect the function of photography. The use of the photography archive of ETH Zurich will be part of the seminar.
851-0303-00LEconomy and LiteratureW3 credits2SA. Kilcher, C. Weidmann
AbstractEconomics and literature are closely related: Literature does not only deal with economic conditions, but follows economic principles on a poetological level. Conversely, the economic knowledge production draws on its poetology. In the seminar, we will look at how a «rhetoric of economics» connects the poetological with methods of natural and social sciences.
Objective- Economic theories from the point of view of cultural studies and sciences
- Poetology from an economic perspective
- Basic literary texts of the modern age
- Poetology of Knowledge
ContentAs different as they may appear at first glance, economy and literature are deeply intertwined. In general, the economic - from the drama of the 18th century (Nathan the Wise, Faust) to the modern novel (Emma Bovary, Oliver Twist, Alice in Wonderland, Buddenbrooks) to the science fiction of the 20th century where technological invention is always organized around economic structures of innovation - is a structural motif that addresses both social, technological and poetological conditions. But literature and economics are, more fundamentally, structurally analogous in many respects: Both are described by scientific disciplines that can hardly be separated from their object of investigation and tend to appropriate methods of other sciences, both deal with issues of resource allocation and contingency management. Money and signs work in the same way, in that (both) their values are neither just real (natural) nor merely simulated (fictitious), but are negotiated in complex social processes. In the seminar, this connection is to be tackled from several angles: on the one hand, with a view on economic motives in literature and their principles of allocation, on the other hand, on the economic prerequisites for writing, and conversely, with regard to the importance of literature for economic argumentation and knowledge production at large (rhetoric of economics). This relationship will prove to be exemplary of how scientific methods (e. g. Econometrics, simulation), the rhetorics at heart of natural and social sciences (e. g. rational agent model, statistics), and historical readings (e. g. economic history) make use of the poetological whenever there is a need to unveil a ‘concealed’ reality, e.g. nature that first has to be understood.
862-0109-00LKnowledge as Texture Restricted registration - show details
Only for students MA History and Philosophy of Knowledge.
W3 credits2SA. Kilcher
AbstractKnowledge is objectified as an object in practice. At the same time one can know, but also understand it as a function of relation: as relationship and occupation, or with a metaphorical and at the same time model-like concept: as "texture". We will analyze approaches from the premodern to post-structuralist, character and (context) text theory designs.
Objective- Analysis of epistemological approaches between philosophy, semiotics and text theory
- Analysis of forms and functions of correlation, linking, networking
- Selection and discussion of texts in clusters
ContentKnowledge is usually substantialized and objectified as an object. At the same time, knowledge can also be understood as a function of forms of relation: as a relationship and connection, or spoken with a metaphorical and at the same time model-like field of terms from the “textile” area: as “texture”.
The aim of the seminar is to analyze approaches that develop the formulation of scientific contexts and discourses in such a way as "texture" that understand knowledge as the result of the networking of elements. To what extent is, then, one might ask, the formation of forms of knowledge linked to internal and external reference contexts? How does knowledge appear to us as a system and context, if not captured in a more or less latent or manifest reference structure? This links among other things also to Foucault's concept of the dispositive, which is structured like a network, a fabric and in which the objects of knowledge appear and come to rest in the first place. Accordingly, formal concepts of knowledge are analyzed from a comparative perspective, whereby premodern approaches as well as post-structuralist, semiotic and text-theoretical drafts are included (including Michel Serres, Umberto Eco).

In the seminar - also on the basis of suggestions from the participants - texts in the form of clusters are to be discussed, which in turn build a kind of network to test the performance of this approach.
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