New Issue: History of the Human Sciences

The July 2013 issue of History of the Human Sciences is now online. Included in this issue are articles on the development of the concept of autism in Britain, an interview with Holberg prize winning philosopher Ian Hacking (right), and Adam Smith’s views on animals, among others. Full title, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“How autism became autism: The radical transformation of a central concept of child development in Britain,” by Bonnie Evans. The abstract reads,

This article argues that the meaning of the word ‘autism’ experienced a radical shift in the early 1960s in Britain which was contemporaneous with a growth in epidemiological and statistical studies in child psychiatry. The first part of the article explores how ‘autism’ was used as a category to describe hallucinations and unconscious fantasy life in infants through the work of significant child psychologists and psychoanalysts such as Jean Piaget, Lauretta Bender, Leo Kanner and Elwyn James Anthony. Theories of autism were then associated both with schizophrenia in adults and with psychoanalytic styles of reasoning. The closure of institutions for ‘mental defectives’ and the growth in speech therapy services in the 1960s and 1970s encouraged new models for understanding autism in infants and children. The second half of the article explores how researchers such as Victor Lotter and Michael Rutter used the category of autism to reconceptualize psychological development in infants and children via epidemiological studies. These historical changes have influenced the form and function of later research into autism and related conditions.

“‘I am a philosopher of the particular case’: An interview with the 2009 Holberg prizewinner Ian Hacking,” by Ole Jacob Madsen, Johannes Servan, and Simen Andersen Øyen. The abstract reads,

When Ian Hacking won the Holberg International Memorial Prize 2009 his candidature was said to strengthen the legitimacy of the prize after years of controversy. Ole Jacob Madsen, Johannes Servan and Simen Andersen Øyen have talked to Ian Hacking about current questions in the philosophy and history of science.

“Adam Smith’s economic and ethical consideration of animals,” by Nathaniel Wolloch. The abstract reads,

This article examines Adam Smith’s views on animals, centering on the singularity of his economic perspective in the context of the general early ethical debate about animals. Particular emphasis is placed on his discussions of animals as property. The article highlights the tension between Smith’s moral sensitivity to animal suffering on the one hand, and his emphasis on the constitutive role that the utilization of animals played in the progress of civilization on the other. This tension is depicted as a precursor of problematic aspects of the modern environmental crisis.

“The question-and-answer logic of historical context,” by Christopher Fear. The abstract reads,

Quentin Skinner has enduringly insisted that a past text cannot be ‘understood’ without the reader knowing something about its historical and linguistic context. But since the 1970s he has been attacked on this central point of all his work by authors maintaining that the text itself is the fundamental guide to the author’s intention, and that a separate study of the context cannot tell the historian anything that the text itself could not. Mark Bevir has spent much of the last 20 years repeating a similar counter-argument. Although ‘study the linguistic context’ might be a useful heuristic maxim, Bevir says, it does not express a necessary or sufficient condition for understanding. But Skinner is right, and one of the figures he has consistently identified as a formative inspiration, R. G. Collingwood, has already (in his work of the 1930s) shown why. What Collingwood calls his ‘logic of question and answer’ explains why the historian cannot answer his characteristic ‘intention’ question about past texts without knowing the context of problems to which authors think they are offering solutions. The study of context is neither ‘prior’ (as Bevir incorrectly supposes) nor ‘separate’ (as Skinner inaccurately says), but it is, as Skinner maintains, nevertheless impossible to grasp an author’s intention without it. This ‘logic of question and answer’ also explains why, in history, dismissing the study of context is in fact a pre-judgement of evidence yet unseen.

“Moralizing biology: The appeal and limits of the new compassionate view of nature,” by Maurizio Meloni. The abstract reads,

In recent years, a proliferation of books about empathy, cooperation and pro-social behaviours (Brooks, 2011a) has significantly influenced the discourse of the life-sciences and reversed consolidated views of nature as a place only for competition and aggression. In this article I describe the recent contribution of three disciplines – moral psychology (Jonathan Haidt), primatology (Frans de Waal) and the neuroscience of morality – to the present transformation of biology and evolution into direct sources of moral phenomena, a process here named the ‘moralization of biology’. I conclude by addressing the ambivalent status of this constellation of authors, for whom today ‘morality comes naturally’: I explore both the attractiveness of their message, and the problematic epistemological assumptions of their research programmes in the light of new discoveries in developmental and molecular biology.

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About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a doctoral student in the History and Theory of Psychology program at York University. Her dissertation explores the early history of questionnaires in American psychology.

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