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Accueil du site > Archives > Séminaires des années précédentes > Séminaires 2015-2016 : archives > Réflexion critique sur les usages des concepts de « pratique » et de « culture » en histoire et philosophie des sciences 2015–2016

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Réflexion critique sur les usages des concepts de « pratique » et de « culture » en histoire et philosophie des sciences 2015–2016

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Séminaire animé par Cristina Cerami, Karine Chemla, Pascal Crozet and Koen Vermeir, (SPHERE).


Depuis 2013, ce séminaire est l’une des actions menées dans le cadre du projet européen SAW "Mathematical sciences in the Ancient World"

Un nombre croissant d’historiens, de philologues, de philosophes, de sociologues, d’anthropologues des sciences s’accordent aujourd’hui à reconnaître de ne pas s’intéresser seulement aux savoirs constitués, mais aussi aux "pratiques" et aux "cultures" scientifiques. Cependant, les approches varient. Certains chercheurs utilisent le mot "pratique" au singulier, d’autres préfèrent "pratiques", au pluriel. Les deux groupes impliquent-ils la même chose ? De même, la diversité des significations attachées au terme de "culture" dans les publications HPS appelle à une mise en lumière.
Un des objectifs du projet ERC SAW est l’examen critique de ces concepts en histoire et philosophie des sciences aujourd’hui. Nous nous proposons aussi de confronter cette discussion théorique avec des analyses d’étude de cas, présentées sous forme de dialogue. Ces études de cas couvriront des analyses de pratiques mathématiques et de cultures des mondes anciens, et des analyses de pratiques et cultures scientifiques de l’époque classique et moderne.



Archives : 2012-2013, 2011-2012


PROGRAMME 2015-2016
Salle Mondrian, 646A, 9:30–17:30, Université Paris Diderot, bâtiment Condorcet,
4, rue Elsa Morante, 75013 Paris – plan d’accès.


Vers 3 février, 2 mars, 4 mai, 20 juin


3 décembre !! salle Klimt, 366A !!

  • Justin Smith (Université Paris Diderot & SPHERE)
    How Can the Anthropology of Culture Help Us to Overcome the Bias of ‘Civilisation’ in Intellectual History ? Text readings of Marshall Sahlins, Adam Kuper and Jack Goody.
  • Koen Vermeir (CNRS, SPHERE)
    Historicizing Culture. A Revaluation of Early Modern Science and Culture.
  • Jonardon Ganeri (NYU)
    Pluralism about Epistemic Cultures : Reflecting on the Sanskrit Knowledge Systems.
  • Karine Chemla (CNRS, SPHERE & projet ERC SAW))
    Mathematical cultures in ancient China. Previous views and new insights.




3 février !! salle Klimt, 366A !!

  • Guillaume Lachenal (univ. Paris Diderot, SPHERE)
    lecture de textes :
    • Fa-ti Fan, “The Global Turn in the History of Science”, East Asian Science, Technology and Society (2012) 6(2) : 249-258
    • Romain Bertrand, "Politiques du moment colonial. Historicités indigènes et rapports vernaculaires au politique en « situation coloniale »”, Questions de Recherche / Research in Question N° 26 – Octobre 2008
    • Introduction de Kapil Raj, Relocating Modern Science
  • Claude-Olivier Doron (Univ. Paris Diderot, SPHERE)
    lecture de textes :
    • Hans-Joerg Rheinberger, Chapter “Historiality, Narration, and Reflection”, in Towards a History of Epistemic Things, Stanford University Pres, 1997, pp.176-186
    • “Cultures of experimentation”, in Karine Chemla and Evelyn Fox Keller, Cultures without culturalism in scientific practice, Duke University Press, 2016
  • Matthieu Husson (CNRS –SYRTE, Observatoire de Paris, SAW project)
    Mathematical Practices/ Mathematical cultures : perspectives from late medieval Europe.
    During the last 2 years in the context of the SAW project I have explored through different cases studies the notions of mathematical practices and mathematical culture as methodological tools. These case studies include :
    – a work on practice with coins in different contexts, in collaboration with Marc Bompaire (EPHE) ;
    – a work on practice with numbers in astronomical and related mathematical treatises ;
    – a work on practice with diagrams and instruments, in collaboration with Sho Hirose (Univ. Paris Diderot, SPHERE & SAW project), Agathe Keller (CNRS, SPHERE & SAW project) and Clemency Montelle (University of Canterbury, New Zealand) ;
    – work on practice with numerical tables –in collaboration with Richard Kremer (Dartmouth College, USA).
    On the basis of these research works I will focus on two specific questions : How is a set of practices framed and described as a mathematical culture ? How to describe different relations and links between mathematical cultures ? In this discussion I will pay attention to the type of corpus on which these case studies were built as well as to the homogeneity/heterogeneity of the elements and the diversity of practices found in these corpus.
  • François Lê, (Laboratoire de mathématiques de Lens – Université d’Artois)
    Geometrical equations : a “cultural system”.
    Geometrical equations are mathematical objects which played a crucial role in the mechanisms of encounters between group theory and geometry in the second half of the 19th century. A striking fact about these equations is that they were no well-defined objects, although they were shared by a group of famous mathematicians (including Alfred Clebsch, Camille Jordan, Felix Klein, and Max Noether) who deployed very precise ways of doing to study them. The aim of my talk is to describe the special organization of knowledge associated to geometrical equations at the light of the definition of ‘‘culture” due to the sociologist Guy Rocher. More specifically, I will show how this definition actually led me to characterize that organization of knowledge as a ‘’cultural system.’’ To bring things into perspective, I will also suggest that this cultural system may be interpreted as the product of an acculturation process between parts of an algebraic culture and a geometric culture of the 19th century.

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2 mars

  • Ivahn Smadja (univ. Paris Diderot, SPHERE)
    Lecture de :
    • "Franz Boas and the Humboldtian Tradition : From Volksgeist and Nationalcharakter to an Anthropological Concept of Culture", in Volksgeist as Method and Ethic. Essays on Boasian Ethnography and the German Anthropological Tradition, George W. Stocking Jr (ed), The University of Wisconsin Press, 1996.
    • Andrew Zimmerman, Anthropology and Antihumanism in Imperial Germany, The University of Chicago Press, 2001, chap. 2. "Kultur and Kulturkampf : the Studia Humanitas and the People without History", pp. 38-61.
  • Nadine de Courtenay (univ. Paris Diderot, SPHERE)
    Lecture de :
    • "Pluralism in science : a call to action", Is Water H2o ?Evidence, Realism and Pluralism (Hasok Chang, Springer, 2012, pp. 38-61
  • Christine Proust (CNRS, SPHERE & projet ERC SAW)
    Cultures of quantification : multiple ways of evaluating surfaces in Mesopotamia.
    Le calcul de l’aire d’une surface rectangulaire semble à première vue une opération simple, qui ne mérite pas une grande attention. Pourtant, les sources anciennes de Mésopotamie témoignent de pratiques très diverses, et montrent par exemple que l’évaluation d’une surface n’est pas toujours un calcul, ou que les grandes surfaces des domaines royaux n’étaient pas évaluées de la même façon que les petites surfaces, comme celles des maisons ou des faces des briques. Quels sont les éléments qui varient d’un texte à l’autre, d’un milieu à l’autre, d’une période à l’autre dans le processus d’évaluation d’une surface rectangulaire ? Cette question m’amènera à identifier les outils mathématiques et métrologiques mobilisés dans l’évaluation des surfaces dans différents contextes, et à percevoir la variabilité de la notion même de surface. Je montrerai que la notion de surface pour un gouverneur de province des époques pré-sargoniques (2900-2300) n’était pas la même que pour un maître chargé de l’enseignement des mathématiques dans une école paléo-babylonienne (2000-1600), ou pour un prêtre de l’époque hellénistique (323-63) se livrant à la promotion immobilière. Les motivations, les savoirs ou les capacités d’innovation de ces différents types d’acteurs étaient très différents. L’exposé a pour but de discuter en quoi l’analyse de la perception des surfaces par différents types d’acteurs permet de détecter des « cultures » de quantification spécifiques à des communautés données.
  • Hans-Joerg Rheinberger (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin)
    Glimpses into the Space Between Laboratory and Discipline.
    For a long time, scientific disciplines were the structures that were of particular interest to historians of science and sociologists of science alike. With the practice turn, laboratories moved into the focus of science studies, history of science, and anthropology of science. This paper focuses on the space between these macro- and micro-levels, respectively. I will treat a number of historical attempts to conceptualize this meso-space, and try to concretize its characteristics through examples taken from the history of molecular biology.

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4 mai

  • Eric Vandendriessche (Université Paris Diderot, HPS, SPHERE)
    Lecture de textes :
    • E. Tyler, 1871, Primitive Culture : ‪Researches Into the Development of Mythology, Philosophy, Religion, Languages, Art and Customs‬, Fourth edition revised 1903, Volume 1, London, John Murray, Albemarle Street.
      – Chapter I “the science of culture”
      – Chapter VII “the art of counting”
      – Link to the entire book online https://archive.org/details/primiti...
  • Marc Vander Linden (Institute of archaeology, University College London)
    Archaeological culture, material culture or culture ? Material and anthropological dimensions of a debated concept
    Archaeologists stand alone in the field of humanities and social sciences in the sense that, at least in prehistory, material remains constitute their sole source of information regarding the human past. At the turn of the 19th and 20th century AD, pioneers of the discipline developed the concept of ‘archaeological culture’ to classify the growing amount of data available to them. Its definition remains Gordon Childe’s iconic formulation of “certain types of remains – pots, implements, ornaments, burial sites, house forms, constantly recurring together”. Following the wider intellectual spirit of the time, these typological constructs were interpreted as the material productions of past tribes of which birth, movement and fate could be traced back. From the 1960s onwards, archaeological cultures were criticised, especially in Anglo-American archaeology, because of the naivety of such culture-historical readings and because the defining categories of data rarely overlap as implied in the original definition. Subsequent theoretical schools shifted the focus towards paradigms influenced firstly by natural sciences, and later by philosophy and anthropology. This gradual move was accompanied by a denial of archaeological culture, and a growing emphasis upon material culture as a factor shaped by and shaping human agency. Yet, archaeological cultures still remain a frequent feature of the literature and are routinely accepted in numerous traditions of research across the globe. The success of this longevity partly rests in the existence of material patterns in the archeological record and the lack of convincing theoretical and methodological alternatives to explain this empirical reality.
    Through a review of the history of archaeological cultures and their underlying assumptions, this presentation will review their past, present and future role in archaeological reasoning. Their wider relevance will be discussed, especially the intimate, but far from straightforward, relationship between archaeological culture, material culture and culture (as viewed in other social sciences).
    Suggested reading
    • Roberts B. & Vander Linden M. 2011. Introduction. In Roberts B. & Vander Linden M. (eds.) Investigating archaeological cultures. Material culture variability and transmission. New-York, Springer : 1-21.
    • Vander Linden M. & Roberts B. 2011. A tale of two countries : contrasting culture-history in British and French archaeology. In Roberts B. & Vander Linden M. (eds.) Investigating archaeological cultures. Material culture variability and transmission. New-York, Springer : 23-40.
  • Diana Solares Pineda (Universidad Autónoma de Querétaro, México)
    Calculation and numerical writings : a space of conflict between agricultural workers
    Calculating will present an analysis of current agricultural activities in which numerical writing and calculation are mobilized by people involved in the agricultural work in Mexico. This analysis comes from a larger study that aims to determine the mathematical knowledge of migrant agricultural families.
    For identifying this knowledge, the agricultural activities are analyzed in terms of “praxeology” by considering :
    – What is the specific task to be done and what is its purpose ?
    – Who is involved and what are the goals of the participants ?
    – How are tasks solved and what tools are used ?
    – What is the discourse elaborated for supporting the performance of tasks ?
    Consideration of these aspects show that the techniques used by the workers in the fields to write and calculate with numerical information depend on the purpose of the task and the workers’ function and hierarchy. This consideration is implicit in the discourses of the different workers who talk about the techniques ; such discourses appear in moments of teaching and particularly when there are conflicts between workers. The capability of recognizing numbers and calculations written by someone else is fundamental, but this is not limited to the use of a writing code nor the correct performance of an algorithm ; it is equally necessary to know why the document was written, who wrote it and why he/she wrote it. In adition, I will briefly present a dialog between different theoretical perspectives that allow to construct the analysis tools used.
    The purpose is to contribute to the research that aims to identify links (or breaks) between the mathematical knowledge that these immigrant children use in their work activities and the one they are taught at their schools.
  • Agathe Keller (CNRS, SPHERE, & projet ERC SAW) et HIROSE Sho (Univ. Paris Diderot), SPHERE, & projet ERC SAW)
    On schools, traditions or cultures in Sanskrit mathematical and astral sciences : some considerations.
    The mathematics and astral science found in Sanskrit texts have more often than not been considered as a homogenous, ahistorical whole, both from within this scholarly tradition as by those who have studied it. Little has then been reflected on what notions of « culture » could be applied within it. We suggest here to critically re-open the notion of « school », and « tradition » categories that exist within the Sanskrit scholarly sources themselves, to see if they help us describe different sets of practices and associated values, by a group of people. In the background we will wonder : when does a system with a set of practices and values become a culture ? When are we describing variations within a same culture ? Should we apply to actors categories that do not belong to them ? To do so, we will take two case studies : one on the sharing and transformations of proofs between commentators [Bhāskara (fl. 629), Pṛthūdaka (fl. 850) and Amarāja (fl.12th century)], the other to critically re-open the idea of « Kerala school ».

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20 juin

  • Florence Bretelle-Establet (CNRS, SPHERE)
    Lecture de :
    • Sean Hsiang-Lin LEI, Neither Monkey nor Horse, Medicine in the Struggle over China’s modernity, chap. 8, “The Germ Theory and the Prehistory of “Pattern Differentiation and Treatment Determination"”, The Univ. of Chicago Press, 2014
  • Ludovic Coupaye, (University College London, United Kingdom)
    Lecture de :
    • Clifford Geertz : "The Impact of the Concept of Culture on the Concept of Man", The Interpretation of Culture, Chapter 2, pp. 35-54
    • Philippe Descola : "The Great Divide", Beyond Nature and Culture, Chapter 3, pp. 57-85
    • Michael Carrithers (ed.) : "Ontology is just another word for Culture" in Critique of Anthropology online : http://coa.sagepub.com/content/30/2/152 (not all texts, but people should choose one text and at least read the introduction and the debate at the end).
    • Haudricourt, Andr.-Georges 1987[1962] : “Domestication des animaux, culture des plantes et traitement d’autrui” (pp. 277-285), La Technologie, science humaine. Recherches d’histoire et d’ethnologie des techniques. Paris, Editions de la Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, 1993.
  • Reviel Netz, (Stanford University, USA)
    The Mathematical Cultures of Greek Culture.
    The practices of Greek mathematics were, in some ways, stable throughout antiquity. In other ways, we can note specific practices typical to the various eras such as the Hellenistic world, or Late Antiquity. In this talk I account for such features – both stability as well as transformation – as responses to wider features of ancient Greek culture.
  • LEE Eunsoo, (Stanford University, USA)
    Makers, Readers, and Translators of Mathematical Diagrams.
    In general, classical philology is a discipline that studies transcribed texts. Philologists compare various readings of transcribed texts in order to reconstruct the archetypal text. Besides the text, diagrams are drawn in geometrical treatises. Shared diagrammatic errors found across manuscripts reveal that diagrams were also transcribed. Considering the plethora of studies on the scribal practices of copyists, it is surprising that diagrams are rarely studied in a similar manner as transcribed objects. The makers, readers, and translators who partake in the transmission of diagrams are shrouded in obscurity.

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