The March 2014 issue of Isis, the official journal of the History of Science Society, is now online. Included in this issue are a number of items of interest to AHP readers, including a special Focus section on Neurohistory. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“The Organizational Revolution and the Human Sciences,” by Hunter Heyck. The abstract reads,
This essay argues that a new way of understanding science and nature emerged and flourished in the human sciences in America between roughly 1920 and 1970. This new outlook was characterized by the prefiguration of all subjects of study as systems defined by their structures, not their components. Further, the essay argues that the rise of this new outlook was closely linked to the Organizational Revolution in American society, which provided new sets of problems, new patrons, and new control technologies as “tools to think with” for researchers in this period. As examples of this new way of thinking and of the multidirectional traffic connecting control technologies, the Organizational Revolution, and the social sciences, the essay looks at Chester Barnard and his book The Functions of the Executive, at Warren Weaver and his essays on communication theory and on science and “organized complexity,” and at the works of J. C. R. Licklider and Robert Taylor on human/computer symbiosis through computer-based communications.
Focus: Neurohistory and History of Science
“Neuroscience, Neurohistory, and the History of Science: A Tale of Two Brain Images,” by Steve Fuller. The abstract reads,
This essay introduces a Focus section on “Neurohistory and History of Science” by distinguishing images of the brain as governor and as transducer: the former treat the brain as the executive control center of the body, the latter as an interface between the organism and reality at large. Most of the consternation expressed in the symposium about the advent of neurohistory derives from the brain-as-governor conception, which is rooted in a “biologistic” understanding of humanity that in recent years has become bound up in various nefarious “neoliberal” political and economic agendas. However, given the sophisticated attitude that neurohistory’s leading champion, Daniel Smail, displays toward evolutionary theory’s potential impact on historical practice, he is perhaps better understood as part of the brain-as-transducer tradition. This tradition, largely suppressed in current representations of neuroscience, has a strong theological provenance, ultimately concerned with our becoming attuned to the divine frequency, not least by extending the powers of the human nervous system through technology. This essay sympathetically explores the implications of this perspective for historical practice.
“Neurohistory in Action: Hoarding and the Human Past,” by Daniel Lord Smail. The abstract reads, Continue reading New Isis: Organizational Revolution and the Human Sciences, Neurohistory, & More