Jane Addams’s Evolutionary Theorizing: Constructing “Democracy and Social Ethics”

AHP readers may be interested in Marilyn Fischer’s recently published Jane Addams’s Evolutionary Theorizing: Constructing “Democracy and Social Ethics.” The book is described as follows:

In Jane Addams’s Evolutionary Theorizing, Marilyn Fischer advances the bold and original claim that Addams’s reasoning in her first book, Democracy and Social Ethics, is thoroughly evolutionary. While Democracy and Social Ethics, a foundational text of classical American pragmatism, is praised for advancing a sensitive and sophisticated method of ethical deliberation, Fischer is the first to explore its intellectual roots.

Examining essays Addams wrote in the 1890s and showing how they were revised for Democracy and Social Ethics, Fischer draws from philosophy, history, literature, rhetoric, and more to uncover the array of social evolutionary thought Addams engaged with in her texts—from British socialist writings on the evolution of democracy to British and German anthropological accounts of the evolution of morality. By excavating Addams’s evolutionary reasoning and rhetorical strategies, Fischer reveals the depth, subtlety, and richness of Addams’s thought.


List of Illustrations
1 An Evolving Democracy
2 An Evolutionary Method of Ethical Deliberation
3 From Feudalism to Association
4 The City’s Moral Geology
5 Educating Immigrants
6 Science and the Social Settlement
7 Constructing Democracy and Social Ethics

New Osiris: Presenting Futures Past

AHP readers may be interested in the most recent volume of Osiris edited by Amanda Rees and Iwan Rhys Morus and dedicated to “Presenting Futures Past.” Two contributions to the collection may be particularly relevant to readers:

Thought Transfer and Mind Control between Science and Fiction: Fedor Il’in’s The Valley of New Life (1928),” by Nikolai Krementsov. Abstract:

This essay makes a detailed analysis of the contents and contexts of a science fiction novel published in Moscow in 1928, and written by gynecologist Fedor Il’in (1873–1959) under the title The Valley of New Life. The analysis illuminates the process of the transformation of the specialized, and often quite arcane, scientific knowledge generated by biomedical research into an influential cultural resource that embodied acute societal anxieties (both hopes and fears) about the powers unleashed by the rapid development of the biomedical sciences. It explores the future scientific advances—bio- and psychotechnologies—portrayed in Il’in’s novel in light of contemporary research, and especially focuses on studies of telepathy. The essay depicts the “translation” of available scientific descriptions and explanations of telepathy into a highly metaphorical language of science fiction, and the resulting formation of a particular cultural resource embedded in such popular notions as “mental energy,” “thought transfer,” “radio-brain,” “nervous waves,” “psychic rays,” and “mind control.” It examines how and for what purposes this cultural resource was utilized by scientists, their patrons, and literati (journalists and writers) in Bolshevik Russia, Britain, and the United States.

Sleeping Science-Fictionally: Nineteenth-Century Utopian Fictions and Contemporary Sleep Research” by Martin Willis. Abstract:

In this article, I examine historical representations of sleep found in both medical and fictional narratives of the second half of the nineteenth century. I draw primarily on medical cases constructed as narratives for specialist medical periodicals, on the one hand, and on utopian fictions (or utopian science fictions, as they might also be called), on the other. I place these narratives in dialogue with my own ethnographic writing of experiences within a contemporary sleep laboratory. The aim of this unusual conflation of past and present, and of employing different methodological approaches to the study of a specific subject, is to understand sleep better, in the first instance, but also ultimately to examine how an interrogation of science fiction might be repurposed as an interrogation of the methodology of science fiction. Science fiction is a genre that draws upon the past to imagine a future. My article considers how reimagining such temporal disjunctions as critical practice might allow for new insights, both for future methodologies bridging the sciences and the humanities, and for specific objects of study, such as pathologies of sleep, or any other that has social, cultural, and scientific purchase.

How We Became Our Data: A Genealogy of the Informational Person

AHP readers interested in data and constructions of personhood will be interested philosopher Colin Koopman’s just-published book How We Became Our Data: A Genealogy of the Informational Person. The book is described as follows:

We are now acutely aware, as if all of the sudden, that data matters enormously to how we live. How did information come to be so integral to what we can do? How did we become people who effortlessly present our lives in social media profiles and who are meticulously recorded in state surveillance dossiers and online marketing databases? What is the story behind data coming to matter so much to who we are?
In How We Became Our Data, Colin Koopman excavates early moments of our rapidly accelerating data-tracking technologies and their consequences for how we think of and express our selfhood today. Koopman explores the emergence of mass-scale record keeping systems like birth certificates and social security numbers, as well as new data techniques for categorizing personality traits, measuring intelligence, and even racializing subjects. This all culminates in what Koopman calls the “informational person” and the “informational power” we are now subject to. The recent explosion of digital technologies that are turning us into a series of algorithmic data points is shown to have a deeper and more turbulent past than we commonly think. Blending philosophy, history, political theory, and media theory in conversation with thinkers like Michel Foucault, Jürgen Habermas, and Friedrich Kittler, Koopman presents an illuminating perspective on how we have come to think of our personhood—and how we can resist its erosion.



Introduction: Informational Persons and Our Information Politics

Part I: Histories of Information

  1. Inputs
    “Human Bookkeeping”: The Informatics of Documentary Identity, 1913–1937
  2. Processes
    Algorithmic Personality: The Informatics of Psychological Traits, 1917–1937
  3. Outputs
    Segregating Data: The Informatics of Racialized Credit, 1923–1937

Part II: Powers of Formatting

  1. Diagnostics
    Toward a Political Theory for Informational Persons
  2. Redesign
    Data’s Turbulent Pasts and Future Paths

Anticipatory measure: Alex Comfort, experimental gerontology and the measurement of senescence

AHP readers may be interested in a recent piece in Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences that explores the history of gerontology and senescence.

“Anticipatory measure: Alex Comfort, experimental gerontology and the measurement of senescence,” by Tiago Moreira. Abstract:

Ageing is routinely measured by counting the number of years lived since the birth of an individual but at least since at least the 1930s, the validity, precision and sensitivity of chronological age as a measure has been criticised across the biological and behavioural sciences of ageing. This quest that has been reinforced by the contemporary investment in the possibility of technologically manipulating the rate of ageing to delay the onset the age-associated diseases. This paper explores the epistemic, institutional and political conditions that led to the formulation, at the turhn of the 1970s, of Alex Comfort’s (1920–2000) seminal proposal to measure human biological ageing rate. Drawing on published and archival sources, I argue that Comfort’s suggested measure of ageing can be understood as a form of ‘anticipation work’, and should be understood as an effort to evidence, and to make present, the technological and social promises that Comfort linked to experimental gerontology.

Psychedelic crossings: American mental health and LSD in the 1970s

A new (open access!) piece in the journal Medical Humanities will interest AHP readers. In “Psychedelic crossings: American mental health and LSD in the 1970s” Lucas Richert and Erika Dyck describe the history of American research with LSD. Abstract:

This article places a spotlight on lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and American mental health in the 1970s, an era in which psychedelic science was far from settled and researchers continued to push the limits of regulation, resist change and attempt to revolutionise the mental health market-place. The following pages reveal some of the connections between mental health, LSD and the wider setting, avoiding both ascension and declension narratives. We offer a renewed approach to a substance, LSD, which bridged the gap between biomedical understandings of ‘health’ and ‘cure’ and the subjective needs of the individual. Garnering much attention, much like today, LSD created a cross-over point that brought together the humanities and arts, social sciences, health policy, medical education, patient experience and the public at large. It also divided opinion. This study draws on archival materials, medical literature and popular culture to understand the dynamics of psychedelic crossings as a means of engendering a fresh approach to cultural and countercultural-based healthcare during the 1970s.