Personal tools

Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Centre for the Study of Culture and Society

You are here: Home / Courses / PhD Courses / Course 903: Natural and Human Sciences: Arguing about the Two Cultures

Course 903: Natural and Human Sciences: Arguing about the Two Cultures

Anup Dhar
Natural and Human Sciences: Arguing about the Two Cultures

Higher Education has suffered from an inherited separation of the study of ‘natural worlds’ (material and biotic) and the ‘world of humans’. As a result, natural sciences (focused on the study of natural worlds) and humanities and social sciences (focused on the study of human worlds) have developed as two insulated spaces, each with their exclusive and narrow focus. This course wishes to re-visit and understand this separation (if at all there is a separation); as also situate the separation (of the Naturwissenchaften and the Sozial/Geistes-wissenchaften) in history and context. When and where was this separation instituted? How and why was it instituted? Who were its proponents? What were the arguments given in favour of the separation? What do we do with the separation today? Do we retain it? Or do we try and integrate the natural and social sciences? Why is it (if at all) necessary to integrate? What were the problems of the separation? What new (in terms of both solutions and problems) would integration offer? Is it at all possible to integrate? What would integration mean? Would it mean a displacing of social science methodologies by natural science methodologies? Would it mean a diluting of natural science methodologies by social science methodologies? Or would natural science be strengthened in the process? Would integration give birth to a ‘new science’ that is neither exclusively natural nor social? Or would the “line between the human and the natural sciences be firmly in place”? What are natural and social scientists saying about the separation? What are their thoughts on integration? This course will take up most of the above-mentioned questions (some in detail, others tangentially) in the form of readings that would be discussed in class and that would require participants to critically respond to and comment upon.  

Session I – August 3: Natural and Human Sciences: Understanding the Separation

 (This session will discuss how three scientists [Gerald Maurice Edelman, an American biologist who won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his work on the immune system; Stephen Jay Gould, an American paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science; and Raghavendra Gadgkar, Professor, Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science who works on Evolution of Social Life in Insects, Insect Biodiversity and Mathematical Modelling in Genetics and Developmental Biology] have looked at the separation)

 (a) Edelman, Gerald M. 2006. “Forms of Knowledge: The Divorce between Science and the Humanities” & “Repairing the Rift” in Second Nature: Brain Science and Human Knowledge – Yale University Press: New Haven and London – pp. 68-87.Link found here

(b) Gould, Stephen J. 2002. I Have Landed - "Disciplinary Connections: Scientific Slouching Across a Misconceived Divide” - “No Science Without Fancy, No Art Without Facts: The Lepidoptery of Vladimir Nabokov”Link found here

(c) Gadagkar, R. (2006). “The Evolution of a Biologist in an Interdisciplinary Environment” in: 25 Jahre Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin 1981-2006, (Eds.) Grimm,D. and Meyer-Kalkus,R., Berlin, Academie Verlag, pp.167-180 Link found here

Session II– August 10:

The Two Cultures (this session tries to make sense of the purported breakdown of communication between the ‘two cultures’ of modern society – the scientific and the humanistic. An engagement with the two cultures arguement is necessary because it has entered general lexicon as a shorthand for differences between two attitudes – the constructivist attitude informing the humanities, in which the scientific method is seen as embedded within language and culture; and the scientific attitude, in which the observer can still objectively make unbiased and non-culturally embedded observations about nature) 

(a) Snow, C. P. 1998. The two cultures 2nd ed. - Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Introduction Stefan Collini vii

The 'two cultures' in historical perspective ix

Development of the idea of the 'two cultures 'xxii

Reactions and controversies xxix

The changing map of the disciplines xliii

Specialisation lv

The 'two cultures' in a changing world lxi

The Two Cultures C.P. Snow 1

The Rede Lecture (1959) 1

The two cultures 1 The Scientific Revolution 29 link found here

Session III – August 12:   What is to be Done: Repair/Transcend the Separation?

(a) Cohen, Bernard I. 1994. “Note on 'Social Science' and on 'Natural Science' ” (pp. ix-xviii; 44-45; 189-200) in Interactions: some contacts between the natural sciences and the social sciences - Cambridge: MIT Press. Link found here
(b) Berlin, I. 1997. “The Divorce between the Sciences and the Humanities” (pp. 80) & “Vico's Concept of Knowledge” (pp. 111-119) in Against the Current: Essays in the History of Ideas Isaiah Berlin Edited by Henry Hardy With an introduction by Roger Hausheer – Princeton University Press.Link found here
(c) “The Natural and the Human Sciences” and “A Discussion with Thomas S. Kuhn” in The road since structure: philosophical essays, 1970-1993, with an autobiographical interview. Eds. Kuhn, Thomas S; Conant, James; Haugeland, John. Pp- 216-223, 253-324. Link found here
(d) Plato - The Allegory of the Cave. 

Session IV: The Limits of Social Science

(This session looks at one pole of the inherited divide – the ‘social sciences’. Session VI will look at the other pole – the ‘natural sciences’. This is necessary because the specificity of both the social and the natural sciences need to be marked out before integration comes up for consideration. Hence, this session tries to see what social sciences were attempting to describe or explain in terms of disciplinary mandates. In terms of methodologies, were they miming the natural sciences? Or were they trying to carve out a separate space for themselves? The social sciences are also ‘sciences’. However, how are they sciences? Are they different from the way natural sciences are sciences? Session IV and VI would also see whether the attitude to nature and to humans had gone hand in hand: was there an uncanny similarity in the way natural and the social sciences understood nature and humans respectively; such that the very assumption of separation could be re-examined. There was separation at the disciplinary surface, but at a deeper conceptual level, there were continuities such that in attempting integration one will still have to ask: integration of what?)

(a) Wallerstein, Immanuel. 1996. “The Historical Construction of the Social Sciences, from the Eighteenth Century to 1945” (New Delhi: Vistaar Publications, 1996) in Open the social sciences: report of the Gulbenkian commission on the restructuring of the social sciences – pp. 1-32. Link found here
(b) Martin Hollis. 2000. “Discovering Truth: The Rationalist Way”, “Positive Science; The Empiricist Way”     and “Ants, Spiders and Bees: A Third Way?” in The philosophy of social science: an introduction – New Delhi: Cambridge University Press. pp. 23-39, 40-65, 66-93. Link found here
(c) Flyvbjerg, Bent 2001. Making social science matter: why social inquiry fails and how it can succeed again – Cambridge University Press. Pages 1-87. Link found here

Session V: The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity (this session looks at how this separation of the natural and the cultural is a product of ‘modernism’ and yet how ‘modernity’ cannot sustain the separation in a sustained manner; how modernity is an intimate imbrication of the ‘pure’ and the ‘hybrid’; where the ‘pure’ involves the construction of a nature (and science) separated from culture, while the ‘hybrid’ involves mixtures of nature and culture. Latour sometimes describes the separation as one between material things and biotic subjects, or between human and non-human worlds. The result is that the realms of the real and the discursive are believed to be separated from each other, each a pure form. That's what moderns pretend to do, though in practice they produce nature-culture hybrids. For moderns, the purification process is overt, while hybrids are denied even though modernity is the condition of their proliferation. Modern both purifies and hybridizes, but never brings the two together, never admits to doing both, never allows that there is anything going on between the interstices of nature and culture, which are supposed to encompass all reality. Most of the things, Latour says, happens in the ‘kingdom of in-betweens’, between nature and culture, the middle kingdom that modernity cannot acknowledge without ceasing to be modern and collapsing back into ‘non-modern’ in-differentiation)  

(a) Habermas, Jurgen. “A Historical Reconstruction” in On the logic of the social sciences “The Dualism of the Natural and Cultural Sciences” – ed. Nicholsen, Shierry Weber; Stark, Jerry A. pp 3-42. Link found here
(b) Bruno Latour. 1991. “The Proliferation of Hybrids” & “What Does It Mean To Be A Modern?” & “Revolutaon” (What Is a Quasi-Object?) in We have never been modern – Translators - Porter, Catherine: (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1991). Pp- 49-90 Link found here

 Session VI: What is ‘Science’? What Makes ‘Science’ Possible? (This session looks at the other pole of the divide – ‘natural science’. It asks: what is ‘natural science’? How does one distinguish between science and scientism?)   

(a) “Scientism and Scientific Empiricism” & “The roots of Scientism” in Scientism: philosophy and the infatuation with science (ISBN - 0415107717 \ Call# 149 SOR) Sorell, Tom: (London: Routledge, 1991) Edited by Ted Honderich pp 1-40  Link found here
(b) Herbert Simon. 1997. “Investigating Scientific Thinking: Why and How” & “Scientific Discovery as Problem Solving” in Exploring science: the cognition and development of discovery processes – MIT Press – pp. 1-40. (g) Richard Levins. 1996. “Ten Propositions on Science and Antiscience” (180-191) in Science Wars – Editors, Ross, Andrew: (Durham: Duke University Press, 1996). Link found here

 Session VII: Scientific Revolutions (This session delves deep into the self-definition of [natural] science; how philosophers have engaged with the question: “what is science?” and “what science ought to be?”)   

(h) “Karl Popper and Thomas Kuhn/ Two Theories of Science” in Mystery of mysteries: is evolution a social construction? Michael Ruse. pp-13-36.Link found here
Paul Feyerabend . How To Defend Society Against Science;Science, Philosophy/ Ian Hacking; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981. (156-167 p.) Link found here
Putnam, H. 1981. “The 'Corroboration' of Theories” & Popper, K. 1981. “The Rationality of Scientific Revolutions” & Lakatos, I. 1981. “History of Science and its Rational” in Scientific revolutions. Ian Hacking. 60-127 – OUP.Link found here

Session VIII: Science and Self-Reflection
(j) Ian Hacking. 1983. “Introduction: Rationality”, “What is scientific realism”, “Positivism” in Representing and intervening: introductory topics in the philosophy of natural science.. Pp- 1-20, 186-210, 21-31, 41-57.   Link found her
Heidegger, Martin. 1977. “The Question Concerning Technology” (3-35), “The Age of the World Picture” (117-128) & “Science and Reflection” (155-182) in The question concerning technology and other essays - Translators- Lovitt, William: (London: Harper & Row Publishers, 1977 Link found here

Session IX: Objectivity (Number of other divides and distinctions – the subject/object divide, the divide of the subjective and the objective, the fact/value distinction have contributed to the separation of the natural and social sciences. This session and the next would be a discussion on these divides and distinctions. These would be discussed in relation to what social science is or ought to be as also what natural science is and ought to be. Taking off from these divides, as also from the divide of episteme-techne-phronesis it would like to ask: what would be the contours of an Integrated Science?)

(a) Megill, Allan. 1994. “Introduction: Four Senses of Objectivity” in Rethinking objectivity - Editors- Megill, Allan: (Durham: Duke University Press Link found here (b) Noam Chomsky. 1995. “Science/Rationality” in Z Papers - Special Issue.A Link found here
(c) Herbert Simon. 1997. “Does Scientific Discovery Have a Logic?” in Models of Discovery and other topics in the methods of science – Reidel Publishing Company: Dordrecht, Holland.Link found here

Session X: Fact/Value:

(a) Latour, Bruno. 2004. “A New Separation of Powers: Some Disadvantages of the Concepts of Fact and Value” (91-127) in Politics of nature: how to bring the sciences into democracy Translators- Porter, Catherine: (Cambridge: Harvard University Press) Link found here

(b) Karl Popper. 1985. “Knowledge: Subjective versus Objective” in Popper Selections – ed. David Miller – Princeton: Princeton University Press.Link found here

Session XI + XII + Workshops: The Birth of the Sciences: (these sessions would look at the birth of the sciences and the scientific method in the West – primarily in the context of the biotic sciences or the sciences of life. When we say birth of the sciences, we have in mind Foucault’s Birth of the Clinic. We also have in mind Bruno Latour’s “The Historicity of Things - Where Were Microbes before Pasteur?”. Such a ‘historicizing of what are now scientific things’ as also ‘an archaeology of scientific perception’ would help us see what were the questions that were being grappled with at the turn of the seventeenth century [if at all it was indeed happening then! Or was it taking shape well inside the Christian millennium? Which is what the section ‘Science and Christianity’ is looking at – given that the ‘relation’ between and the ‘separation’ of science and religion has been deemed as crucial] and how some in the West were trying to provide an answer to them)           

(a) John Losee. 2001. “Aristotle's Philosophy of Science”, “The Seventeenth-Century Attack on Aristotelian Philosophy” in John Losee, A historical introduction to the philosophy of science. pp.4-13, 46-85.Link found here
(b) Editor's Introduction by Fulton H. Anders in The New Organon, and related writings. Bacon, Francis. pp- vii-xxxvii.Link found here
(c) Meditations on First Philosophy in which are demonstrated the existence of God and the distinction between the human soul and body René Descartes Link found here
Supplementary Reading:
Rorty, R. 1980. “Invention of the Mind” & “Persons Without Minds” in Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature - Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press,1980.Link found here
John Losee. 2001. “Newton's Axiomatic Method” in, A historical introduction to the philosophy of science. 46-85.Link found here
(e) Hegel's philosophy of nature: being part two of the Encyclopedia of the philosophical sciences (1830) Rep. ed. Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich: Translators- Miller, A. V: (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 2007) Foreword J. N. Findlay (v) & Introduction to the Philosophy of Nature 1-27.Link found here
(f) Foucault, M. 1973. “Classifying” & “Cuvier” & “The Human Sciences” in The Order of Things: The Archaeology of the Human Sciences – Vintage Books: New York - pp. 125-165 & 263-279 & 344-367 (Link found here)
McKeon, Richard Peter. 1994. “Philosophic Problems in the Natural Sciences” (12-24) in On knowing - the natural sciences - Editors- Owen, David B; McKeon, Zahava Karl: Compilers - Owen, David B: (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994). Link
Dhareshwar, V. 1996. “Trial of the Pagans” in Cultural Dynamics Vol. 8, No. 2.Link found here
“The Body of Christ and the Origin of Modernity” and “The Other Science of Nature in Europe” in The European Modernity: Science, Truth and Method by J. P. S. Uberoi, New Delhi: OUP – 2002 – Pages 25-75. Link found here
Sandra Harding: Why "Physics" Is a Bad Model for Physics in  Whose science? Whose knowledge? : thinking from women's lives/ ; Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991. (77-103 p.) Link  found here
Sandra Harding:"Strong Objectivity"and Socially Situated Knowledge in Whose science?Whose knowledge? : thinking from women's lives/ Sandra Harding; Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991. (138-165 p.)Link

This Reading Course will be supplemented by 12 workshops on Integrated Themes – themes that either requires both natural and social science inputs or that transcends the given boundaries of the natural and the human [e.g. Cognition, Bioethics, Energy, Transportation, Cyber-Subjectivity, Evolution, Environment, Biodiversity and (Mental) Health]. Scholars on integrated themes will anchor these workshops.


Document Actions

Courses at CSCS

Courses offered by CSCS since 2001, both in-house and outside

Research Programmes