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Externalism and Counter-Induction: the Part Played by Orality in Medical Narratives of the 17th and 18th Centuries

Dates:
  • Mon 24 Feb 2020 14.00 - 16.00
  Add to Calendar 2020-02-24 14:00 2020-02-24 16:00 Europe/Paris Externalism and Counter-Induction: the Part Played by Orality in Medical Narratives of the 17th and 18th Centuries

When context made some oral motifs relevant for science, such motifs were put in writing and deeply put in use – this being a striking historical case of what the epistemologist Feyerabend called counter-induction . For example: when it was admissible for a time to present as true the story of a Swedish man, who would have survived a seven-week immersion. This founding case was systematically taken up during the 18th century to show the possibility of late resuscitation – even in the Encyclopédie. I can prove that it derives from the 17th century oral culture of Piteå. The same process is at work within another 17th century story, about a little girl from Thuringia who spent three days in the woods, as if dead, her face covered with moss. The motif of the underwater hibernation of swallows and storks, also used to support the possibility of resuscitation, reveals even closer links between oral and elite cultures.

These examples are in fact bounded by the same system of oral representations, and illustrate the ductility of the myth in its scientific appropriations, when death became a fully-fledge field of medical investigation. This brings us to reflect on the possible extent of externalist historical analysis.

Sala dei Levrieri - Villa Salviati- Castle DD/MM/YYYY
  Sala dei Levrieri - Villa Salviati- Castle

When context made some oral motifs relevant for science, such motifs were put in writing and deeply put in use – this being a striking historical case of what the epistemologist Feyerabend called counter-induction . For example: when it was admissible for a time to present as true the story of a Swedish man, who would have survived a seven-week immersion. This founding case was systematically taken up during the 18th century to show the possibility of late resuscitation – even in the Encyclopédie. I can prove that it derives from the 17th century oral culture of Piteå. The same process is at work within another 17th century story, about a little girl from Thuringia who spent three days in the woods, as if dead, her face covered with moss. The motif of the underwater hibernation of swallows and storks, also used to support the possibility of resuscitation, reveals even closer links between oral and elite cultures.

These examples are in fact bounded by the same system of oral representations, and illustrate the ductility of the myth in its scientific appropriations, when death became a fully-fledge field of medical investigation. This brings us to reflect on the possible extent of externalist historical analysis.


Location:
Sala dei Levrieri - Villa Salviati- Castle

Affiliation:
Department of History and Civilization

Type:
Working group

Contact:
Zoe Lauri (EUI) - Send a mail

Speaker:
Anton Serdeczny

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