Lorraine Daston

Lorraine Daston is Director at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin and Visiting Professor in the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago. She is the coauthor (with Katharine Park) of Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150–1750 and (with Peter Galison) Objectivity and the editor of Things that Talk: Object Lessons from Art and Science, all three published by Zone Books.

  • Against Nature

    Against Nature

    Lorraine Daston

    A pithy work of philosophical anthropology that explores why humans find moral orders in natural orders.

    Why have human beings, in many different cultures and epochs, looked to nature as a source of norms for human behavior? From ancient India and ancient Greece, medieval France and Enlightenment America, up to the latest controversies over gay marriage and cloning, natural orders have been enlisted to illustrate and buttress moral orders. Revolutionaries and reactionaries alike have appealed to nature to shore up their causes. No amount of philosophical argument or political critique deters the persistent and pervasive temptation to conflate the “is” of natural orders with the “ought” of moral orders.

    In this short, pithy work of philosophical anthropology, Lorraine Daston asks why we continually seek moral orders in natural orders, despite so much good counsel to the contrary. She outlines three specific forms of natural order in the Western philosophical tradition—specific natures, local natures, and universal natural laws—and describes how each of these three natural orders has been used to define and oppose a distinctive form of the unnatural. She argues that each of these forms of the unnatural triggers equally distinctive emotions: horror, terror, and wonder.

    Daston proposes that human reason practiced in human bodies should command the attention of philosophers, who have traditionally yearned for a transcendent reason, valid for all species, all epochs, even all planets.

    • Paperback $13.95 £10.99
  • Objectivity

    Objectivity

    Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison

    The emergence of objectivity in the mid-nineteenth-century sciences, as revealed through images in scientific atlases—a story of how lofty epistemic ideals fuse with workaday practices.

    Objectivity has a history, and it is full of surprises. In Objectivity, Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison chart the emergence of objectivity in the mid-nineteenth-century sciences—and show how the concept differs from its alternatives, truth-to-nature and trained judgment. This is a story of lofty epistemic ideals fused with workaday practices in the making of scientific images.

    From the eighteenth through the early twenty-first centuries, the images that reveal the deepest commitments of the empirical sciences—from anatomy to crystallography—are those featured in scientific atlases, the compendia that teach practitioners what is worth looking at and how to look at it. Galison and Daston use atlas images to uncover a hidden history of scientific objectivity and its rivals. Whether an atlas maker idealizes an image to capture the essentials in the name of truth-to-nature or refuses to erase even the most incidental detail in the name of objectivity or highlights patterns in the name of trained judgment is a decision enforced by an ethos as well as by an epistemology.

    As Daston and Galison argue, atlases shape the subjects as well as the objects of science. To pursue objectivity—or truth-to-nature or trained judgment—is simultaneously to cultivate a distinctive scientific self wherein knowing and knower converge. Moreover, the very point at which they visibly converge is in the very act of seeing not as a separate individual but as a member of a particular scientific community. Embedded in the atlas image, therefore, are the traces of consequential choices about knowledge, persona, and collective sight. Objectivity is a book addressed to anyone interested in the elusive and crucial notion of objectivity—and in what it means to peer into the world scientifically.

    • Hardcover $38.95 £26.95
    • Paperback $29.95 £24.00
  • Things that Talk

    Things that Talk

    Object Lessons from Art and Science

    Lorraine Daston

    Essays examine nine intriguing objects made eloquent when matter and meaning converge.

    Imagine a world without things. There would be nothing to describe, nothing to explain, remark, interpret, or complain about. Without things, we would stop speaking; we would become as mute as things are alleged to be. In nine original essays, internationally renowned historians of art and of science seek to understand how objects become charged with significance without losing their gritty materiality. True to the particularity of things, each of the essays singles out one object for close attention: a Bosch drawing, the freestanding column, a Prussian island, soap bubbles, early photographs, glass flowers, Rorschach blots, newspaper clippings, paintings by Jackson Pollock. Each is revealed to be a node around which meanings accrete thickly. But not just any meanings: what these things are made of and how they are made shape what they can mean. Neither the pure texts of semiotics nor the brute objects of positivism, these things are saturated with cultural significance. Things become talkative when they fuse matter and meaning; they lapse into speechlessness when their matter and meanings no longer mesh. Each of the nine objects examined in this book had its historical moment, when the match of this thing to that thought seemed irresistible. At these junctures, certain things become objects of fascination, association, and endless consideration; they begin to talk. Things that talk fleetingly realize the dream of a perfect language, in which words and world merge.

    Essays Lorraine Daston, Peter Galison, Anke te Heesen, Caroline A. Jones, Joseph Leo Koerner, Antoine Picon, Simon Schaffer, Joel Snyder, and M. Norton and Elaine M. Wise.

    Lorraine Daston is Director at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, Germany. She is the coauthor of Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150-1750 (Zone Books).

    • Hardcover $22.95 £17.99
    • Paperback $22.95 £17.99
  • Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150–1750

    Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150–1750

    Lorraine Daston and Katharine Park

    A rich exploration of how European naturalists used wonder and wonders (oddities and marvels) to envision and explain the natural world.

    Winner of the History of Science Society's Pfizer Prize"This book is about setting the limits of the natural and the limits of the known, wonders and wonder, from the High Middle Ages through the Enlightenment. A history of wonders as objects of natural inquiry is simultaneously an intellectual history of the orders of nature. A history of wonder as a passion of natural inquiry is simultaneously a history of the evolving collective sensibility of naturalists. Pursued in tandem, these interwoven histories show how the two sides of knowledge, objective order and subjective sensibility, were obverse and reverse of the same coin rather than opposed to one another."—From the Introduction

    Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150–1750 is about the ways in which European naturalists from the High Middle Ages through the Enlightenment used wonder and wonders, the passion and its objects, to envision themselves and the natural world. Monsters, gems that shone in the dark, petrifying springs, celestial apparitions—these were the marvels that adorned romances, puzzled philosophers, lured collectors, and frightened the devout. Drawing on the histories of art, science, philosophy, and literature, Lorraine Daston and Katharine Park explore and explain how wonder and wonders fortified princely power, rewove the texture of scientific experience, and shaped the sensibility of intellectuals. This is a history of the passions of inquiry, of how wonder sometimes inflamed, sometimes dampened curiosity about nature's best-kept secrets. Refracted through the prism of wonders, the order of nature splinters into a spectrum of orders, a tour of possible worlds.

    • Hardcover $42.95 £29.95
    • Paperback $29.95 £24.00
  • The Probabilistic Revolution, Volume 1

    The Probabilistic Revolution, Volume 1

    Ideas in History

    Lorenz Krüger, Lorraine Daston, and Michael Heidelberger

    Probability ideas are the success story common to the growth of the modern natural and social sciences. Chance, indeterminism, and statistical inference have radically and globally transformed the sciences in a "probabilistic revolution." This monumental work traces the rise, the transformation, and the diffusion of probabilistic and statistical thinking in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It is less concerned with specific technical discoveries than with locating the probability revolution historically within a larger framework of ideas. There is no comparable study that treats the rise of probability and statistics in such scope and depth.

    The contributors - scientists, historians and philosophers from eight countries - make it possible for readers trained in many disciplines to see why the probabilistic revolution has been so complete and so successful, and how the rejection of uniform causality by quantum physics, the stochastic nature of evolutionary biology, the indeterminisms of human psychology, and the random processes of many economic activities are all manifestations of an underlying unifying concept.

    Volume 1 opens with provocative essays on scientific revolutions in general and the probabilistic revolution in particular by Thomas S. Kuhn, I. Bernard Cohen, and Ian Hacking. Other authors discuss the evolution of philosophical ideas about probability and their articulation and elaboration in the mathematics of the nineteenth century and describe the first applications of techniques of statistical inference during that century: Topics include the uses and abuses of official statistics by the bureaucrats of France, England, and Prussia; the use - or neglect - of statistics by nascent sociologists, demographers, and insurance actuaries; and the emergence of statistical methodologies in fields ranging from social reform to agricultural production. The emphasis in volume 2 is on the more recent scientific advances of the probabilistic approach in various natural and social sciences, from "random walks" in the stock market to random drift in natural selection, and from indeterminate events at the atomic level to unpredictable actions at the human level.

    • Hardcover
    • Paperback $50.00 £40.00
  • The Probabilistic Revolution, Volumes 1 and 2

    Lorenz Krüger, Lorraine Daston, and Michael Heidelberger

    This monumental work traces the rise, the transformation, and the diffusion of probabilistic and statistical thinking in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The contributors - scientists, historians, and philosophers of science from eight countries make it possible for readers trained in many disciplines to see why the probabilistic revolution has been so complete and so successful.

    • Hardcover $80.00
    • Paperback $34.50

Contributor

  • Representation in Scientific Practice Revisited

    Representation in Scientific Practice Revisited

    Catelijne Coopmans, Janet Vertesi, Michael E. Lynch, and Steve Woolgar

    A fresh approach to visualization practices in the sciences that considers novel forms of imaging technology and draws on recent theoretical perspectives on representation.

    Representation in Scientific Practice, published by the MIT Press in 1990, helped coalesce a long-standing interest in scientific visualization among historians, philosophers, and sociologists of science and remains a touchstone for current investigations in science and technology studies. This volume revisits the topic, taking into account both the changing conceptual landscape of STS and the emergence of new imaging technologies in scientific practice. It offers cutting-edge research on a broad array of fields that study information as well as short reflections on the evolution of the field by leading scholars, including some of the contributors to the 1990 volume.

    The essays consider the ways in which viewing experiences are crafted in the digital era; the embodied nature of work with digital technologies; the constitutive role of materials and technologies—from chalkboards to brain scans—in the production of new scientific knowledge; the metaphors and images mobilized by communities of practice; and the status and significance of scientific imagery in professional and popular culture.

    Contributors Morana Alač, Michael Barany, Anne Beaulieu, Annamaria Carusi, Catelijne Coopmans, Lorraine Daston, Sarah de Rijcke, Joseph Dumit, Emma Frow, Yann Giraud, Aud Sissel Hoel, Martin Kemp, Bruno Latour, John Law, Michael Lynch, Donald MacKenzie, Cyrus Mody, Natasha Myers, Rachel Prentice, Arie Rip, Martin Ruivenkamp, Lucy Suchman, Janet Vertesi, Steve Woolgar

    • Paperback $40.00 £30.00