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[xmca] Fwd: CFP: Language as a Scientific Tool. Managing Language as a Variable of Practice and Presentation

For those who are in the neighborhood.......

*From: *"Nathan Ensmenger, H-SCI-MED-TECH" <smtedit@MAIL.H-NET.MSU.EDU>
*Date: *December 14, 2009 8:05:51 PM EST
*Subject: **CFP: Language as a Scientific Tool. Managing Language as a
Variable of Practice and Presentation*
*Reply-To: *smtedit@mail.h-net.msu.edu

From: Surman Jan <jan.surman@univie.ac.at>

Call for Papers: "Language as a Scientific Tool. Managing Language as a
Variable of Practice and Presentation"

An international and interdisciplinary conference to be held at the Austrian
Academy of Sciences, Vienna, 29th-30th November 2010

Institute for Culture Studies and History of Theatre, Austrian Academy of
Sciences  Working Group, History of Science, History Department, University
of Vienna
Department of Political Science and Sociology, European University at St.
English and German Departments, University of Granada

Deadline: 01.03.2010

Language has played an important and extended role in the history and
philosophy of sciences, with language itself also becoming the subject of
scholarship. Linguistic environments of scientists have unavoidably affected
scientific research at various levels by, for instance, imposing cultural
constraints and preconceptions, and by affecting the bounds of communication
that structure science as social engagement. Despite the relevance of this
phenomenon, insufficient historiographical and philosophical consideration
has been paid to scientists’ own thoughts on language as the essential
medium of their practice, and as a malleable element that can be shaped to
suit their goals.

The aim of this conference is, thus, to consider the history of language as
an object of scientific concern, whether for epistemological or semantic
reasons, stemming from scientists’ understanding of language as a tool for
conceptualising the world, from concerns on successfully communicating
within the scientific community among specialists or merely between
scientists and the general public. In either case the examination of the
historical circumstances that have motivated such reflection appear

Language can also be considered as a consciously modelled tool for achieving
definite scientific and political goals. Indeed, Bacon began his natural
philosophy explicitly criticising scholastic ideas on language, which for
him obscured nature instead of clarifying it. Therefore, it seemed to him
that language had to be reformed and properly redefined to serve in the
natural philosophic endeavour. Locke gave specific attention to language as
a prior question to setting an epistemological basis to natural philosophy,
in turn enforcing a separation between word and meaning that put natural
philosophers in direct control over their language. This revolution in
language was also one of the key points of the new science hailed by members
of Royal Society such as John Wilkins, who was appointed a treatise on a new
philosophical and universal language. Other voices argued that gaining
explicit control over language was the only way to free it from past
misconceptions. The claim that science needed to formulate a theory of
language able to underwrite scientists’ epistemic activity recurs right up
until logical positivism.

At the same time, the Renaissance witnessed the struggle between Latin and
the vernacular languages as means for the written codification of knowledge.
>From a dominant and hegemonic position, Latin gradually ceased being the
only appropriate means for learned discourse, the vernaculars taking its
place. Then, language critics displayed diverse arguments intertwining
language with politics. In Germany, for instance, the main argument in
linguistic change at the universities was the need of the introduction of a
"new science" requiring a language distinct from scholastic Latin (Christian
Wolff, Christian Thomasius), and thus not pervaded with scholastic ideas.
This conference focuses on the question of how the process of linguistic
change was effected, perceived, and conducted by scientists. From the field
of philosophical discussions, to the field of "language in use", it is
possible to pose crucial questions such as the following:

* How has science sought to manage language through philosophical
conceptions or rhetorical techniques to obtain particular goals, epistemic
or otherwise? To what extent have scientists engaged in linguistic
argumentation to criticize competing paradigms?

* Has language been considered to be perfectly manageable? How have
influences from e.g. other languages been coped with? Can it be said that
linguistic purism relates only to alien words, or also to changing reality
such as technology or geographical discoveries?

* How has the communication of science been discussed in relation to both
the "existing world" and the learned community? Has science been seen as
corresponding more accurately with the "reality" (following Herder) if
written in the national language of a community? How has the communication
of discoveries with other scientists been perceived if this was the case?
Which were the points of conflict between perfect translatability and innate
and unique features of natural languages in this respect?

* In what contexts have issues of language been raised and to what ends? Is
it a purely philosophically-driven debate for the purpose of articulating
science, or are political and social factors (co)responsible for the crises
of languages commonly used in the past?

* Who were the actors of linguistic change? Did scientists/natural
philosophers play only a minor role, or did the impulses and crises of used
languages come from other sources?

* Did scientists try to develop their own definitions of language as
competing with philosophical ones? How did the endeavors for perfection of
language differ among different groups?

Postgraduates are particularly encouraged to submit proposals for
twenty-minute papers. The language of the conference is English. The
organizers plan to publish a selection of papers from the conference.

Please e-mail 300-word abstracts or proposals with a brief CV to Rocío


by Monday, March 1st 2010.

Further contacts:

Johannes Feichtinger (Institute for Culture Studies and History of Theatre,
Austrian Academy of Sciences): johannes.feichtinger@oeaw.ac.at
Miles MacLeod (Konrad Lorenz Institut, Vienna): miles.macleod@kli.ac.at
Ekaterina Smirnova (Department of Political Science and Sociology, European
University at St. Petersburg): esmirnova@eu.spb.ru
Jan Surman (History Department, University of Vienna / Center for Austrian
Studies, University of Minnesota): jan.surman@univie.ac.at
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