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Henry Cowles, University of Michigan, on leave at the Stanford Humanities Center

Thu April 12th 2018, 4:30pm
Building 120 Room 101B (Communications Bldg, aka McClatchy Hall)

When Science was a Habit

abstract: Today, science means many things—methods and institutions, publications and practitioners. In the nineteenth century, it was also something else: a habit. This talk asks how science came to seem habitual and how that status affected its authority. New human sciences like psychology and anthropology helped turn the scientific method into an adaptive trait, one that appeared across lines of culture, age, sex, and even species. As a result, science was transformed from a system of knowledge into a habit of mind. Science, in this sense, was everywhere, capable of solving all manner of problems. Eventually, this meaning was lost; science's method was reduced to a set of steps and its habitual nature was forgotten. But the history of when science was a habit has something to teach us, about both the rise of the human sciences and the age of alternative facts.