The Flow of Cognitive Goods
Historiography of both the sciences and the humanities is almost invariably carried out within the confines of modern disciplinary categories. This produces a serious problem: crucial processes of knowledge transfer receive insufficient attention or are not studied at all, even though great innovations are often produced when disciplinary boundaries are crossed. Disciplinary historiography tends to obscure that academic disciplines are not static but dynamic and implicitly keeps the idea intact that the sciences and the humanities are distinct endeavours.
To solve these problems we propose to move beyond the disciplinary approach and to write a, what we will call, ‘post-disciplinary’ history of knowledge. Our project will focus on the period from 1800 to 2000, because in this period the process of formation and institutionalization of modern disciplinary categories has taken place. We intend to leave disciplinary biases behind yet at the same time wish to provide the means to come to a better understanding of the construction of disciplinary categories. To this end, we will focus on what we call ‘cognitive goods’: the epistemic notions and objects (i.e. ‘goods’) that are transferred when knowledge is increased by crossing or transcending disciplinary boundaries.
Examples of ‘cognitive goods’ are research methods, formalisms, virtues, theoretical concepts, metaphors, and argumentative and demonstrative techniques. Drawing on the results of subprojects, our aim is to produce a monograph and a conference on the post-disciplinary history of knowledge. Moreover, we plan to organize (together with Museum Boerhaave) an exhibition on the joint history of science and humanities.