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Presented By: Science, Technology & Society

STS Distinguished Lecture. The Secret History of Rules: Algorithms, Laws, and Paradigms

Lorraine Daston, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science / University of Chicago

The Cardplayers (detail), Pierre-Louis Dusimel The Cardplayers (detail), Pierre-Louis Dusimel
The Cardplayers (detail), Pierre-Louis Dusimel
Three clusters of meanings have defined what rules could be since antiquity: algorithms, laws, and paradigms. Two of these clusters are still very much with us: laws and rules still keep close company, and algorithms have become the prototypical rules. But the third cluster, centered on paradigms, is not only no longer synonymous with rules; it has come to be opposed to them – most famously in Thomas S. Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962). Yet for over two thousand years, in both ancient and modern European languages, right through the Enlightenment, rules were paradigms – as well as laws and algorithms. This is the secret history of rules, reconstructed from examples of their pre-modern application.

Bio: Lorraine Daston is Director emerita at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, a regular Visiting Professor in the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago, and Permanent Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. Her work spans a broad range of topics in the early modern and modern history of science, including probability and statistics, wonders and the order of nature, scientific images, objectivity and other epistemic virtues, quantification, observation, algorithms, and the moral authority of nature. Her most recent books are Against Nature (MIT Press, 2019) and Rules: A Short History of What We Live By (Princeton University Press, 2021). Her scholarship has been recognized by the Sarton Medal of the History of Science Society, the Dan David Prize, and the Heineken Prize for History of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences.
The Cardplayers (detail), Pierre-Louis Dusimel The Cardplayers (detail), Pierre-Louis Dusimel
The Cardplayers (detail), Pierre-Louis Dusimel

Livestream Information

 Zoom
February 4, 2022 (Friday) 11:00am
Meeting ID: 99660359439
Meeting Password: 150569

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