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Thursday, 8 July 2010

The Experimental Society

I am sitting on my bed in a student room on Lancaster University's disorienting campus, where I am attending the last event of Experimentality at the Institute for Advanced Studies, trying to assimilate just a little of what I have been hearing for the last two days. I should be sitting in the plenary session on Science, Art & Religion but I wasn't sure that I would be able to take it in. It's an interesting conference, but is making me feel as though there must be a lot of books out there that I haven't read or maybe have read but haven't remembered.

Day One started with a brain-frying opening address from Scott Lash, called "To infinity and beyond: experiment/experience". His talk included references to Kant, Derrida, Stiegler, Aristotle, Francis Bacon (not the artist), Philip K. Dick, Michel Callon and Thomas Heatherwick, with Latour and Foucault popping up in the questions. I am sure there was a Mathematician in there too but can't find it in my notes.
Scott was bouncing around and explaining so many things that it's going to take me a while to work it out, but here's a rough version from my frantically scribbled notes. I'll take you through step by step but can't guarantee it will make any sense, as I only got about 10% of it. I'm sure it's just a question of concentrating, and perhaps doing a degree in modern philosophies.

Kant's Critique of Reason (apparently the second edition is the one to read) was first up. I recently read an essay of his, thanks to Patrick explaining something to me about Enlightenment as "man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity" so thought, phew, am recognising some names here. Derrida and Stiegler were mentioned, as was technological phenomenology, so I made a note that I really need to read some of that, as I have in the past and found it interesting.
OK:
  • Francis Bacon: the first empiricist; he wrote about experiments; defined his experimentation against the church dogma of the time.
  • He wrote about moving from the situation of experience to the situation of experiment; from subjectivity and experience to subjectivity and experiment
  • Bacon wanted to put experiment in the place of logic; logic is a tool that disagrees with metaphysics
  • (I ♥ wikipedia)
  • Bacon said there are two types of experience - accident & experience
  • a posteriori knowledge is what we get from experiment/experience
  • we need to keep a posteriori knowledge in our notions of experiment
I think that means that we experiment with open minds and only take from the experiment that which we learn from it.
  • Kant puts experience at the centre of knowledge; there is no knowledge without experience
  • we perceive the world, intuit the world, through transcendental aesthetic - space & time
  • Nowadays we do have knowledge with direct experience
(I did want to ask if they had books in Kant's day because surely that is not direct experience but thought I was probably missing the point somewhere)
  • Badiou (aha! here's the mathematician) says that knowledge has nothing to do with experience
Now I am confused - will have to check that out, but it is something to do with that in modern geometry the figure disappears, contemporary mathematics we have knowledge without direct experience, proving we have secular infinities, some infinities are bigger than others.
At this point I was wondering if Scott had disproved the existence of God, which would be handy.
  • Back to the theme.
  • What is an experiment?
I'm going to go read the rest of the notes now and come back to this when my brain is slightly less fried

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