Philosophy, science and society

The shared methodological commitment of this research line is to consider the sciences, as well as other institutionalized fields of special knowledge, as historically situated. Inherent to this approach is a dynamic view of the interaction among different sciences, of the ongoing negotiation about their borders, and of the making and evolution in time of their relationship with the specific social, cultural and political context in which they are embedded. The intentional extension of the consideration to disciplinary fields beyond the strict definition of science and technology is meant to convey also a privileged focus on the history of the interaction between human and natural sciences, on the dynamics of their intersections as well as on the shifting meaning of their divide and of the function of their epistemic autonomy.

The major goal of this approach is to promote and spread a realistic representation of the sciences as integral part of the culture of their age, which may contribute to the current legitimation crisis of the sciences in the public sphere. In fact, as the history and philosophy of science have long unveiled the constitutive relationship of the sciences with their social, cultural and political context, they also highlighted how their authority, grounded on rigorous methods and practices inherently open to self-correction, is not invalidated but enriched by the multiple interactions with other fields of knowledge, not least the humanistic ones, which share the same commitment to understand and respond to the challenges of their time. A critical regard to the history of scientific knowledge has, in our view, nowadays more than ever not a merely “deconstructive” function but rather the capacity to recover the essential function of the whole circulatory system of knowledge as the founding epistemic institution of democratic societies.

A critical regard to the history of scientific knowledge

The main topics of research regard the interactions between science and philosophy in the early modern period; the political, social, cultural and religious history of animal magnetism, hypnotism and mesmerism in Europe from the late XVIII to mid-XIX Century; the analysis of the relationship between philosophy, psychiatry and anthropology from XVIII to XX Century; the history and epistemology of the life sciences, as well as the relationship between science and contemporary society, with particular focus on the impact of emergent technologies and biotechnologies.

Research line

History and philosophy of sciences, knowledge and techniques
Person in charge

Silvia Caianiello


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