Interdisciplinary Conference: Einstein meets Magritte

Invited Speakers And Performers

W. Brian ARTHUR holds degrees in mathematics, economics and operations research, and is keenly interested in non-linear stochastic systems, and in the economics of high technology products. He became well-known for his work on increasing returns and is a Citibank professor at the Santa Fe Institute and Morrison Professor of Economics at Staford University.

Lecture: Human Reasoning and the End of Certainty in Economics

Standard economics reduces the problems that concern us in the economy to well-defined mathematical ones that can be "solved" by deductive logic. But often in actual fact our economic actions depend on our beliefs about others' future actions and beliefs, and these depend in turn on their beliefs about our actions and beliefs, so that deductive logic -the theorist's standby - becomes self-referential and breaks down.

In reality humans use little deductive logic in the economy. Instead they form subjective beliefs about future economic conditions and "test" these later against conditions created in large part by other's subjective beliefs and expectations; and these compete, co-evolve, form patterns, appear, and decay over time. Our economy is therefore a "Magritte Economy": one that is inherently complex, subjective, ever-changing, and to an unavoidable degree ill-defined.

Zygmunt BAUMAN, (deg.1925, Poznan) has held the chairs of sociology in Warsaw, Tel Aviv and Leeds. His many publications in social theory and sociology include Modernity and the Holocaust (1989, awarded the Amalfi European Prize for Sociology and the Social Sciences) Modernity and Ambivalence (1991), Intimations of Postmodernity (1992), Mortality, Immortality and Other Life Strategies (1992) and Postmodern Ethics (1994). He is an emeritus professor from Leeds University, U.K..

Lecture: Postmodern adventures of Immortality.

Consciousness of mortality, and the dream of the transcendence of death, comprise the constantly moving force of cultural creation. The postmodern era, however, has modified the cultural perception of time in a significant way. Strategies of collective and individual immortality have shifted from modern deconstruction of death to a postmodern deconstruction of immortality. Bio-technology engenders individualization of collective immortality, whereas electronic technology brings about collectivization of individual immortality. The possible consequences of this process need to be taken into consideration.

William H. CALVIN is a theoretical neurophysiologist from the University of Washington in Seattle. His analysis of higher intellectual functions as a Darwin Machine, "The emergence of intelligence", appeared in the last special issue of Scientific American. He has written eight popular books on brains and evolution, including "The River That Flows Uphill", and has a particular interest in the evolution of the ape brain into a hominid brain during the abrupt climate changes accompanying the ice ages.

Lecture: What Creativity in Science and Art Tell Us about How the Brain Must Work

The Romans had a slogan: Ex nihilo nihil fit ("You can't make something out of nothing"). Creativity on the forefronts of both science and art consist of trying new combinations of old things in the hope of discovering a good fit -- though doing a great deal of the groping offline, thinking before acting. Such is at the heart of intelligence (to paraphrase Piaget, intelligence is what you use when you don't know what to do, when there is no tried-and-true routine to fall back on). But mechanistically, random combinations of old things have always seemed improbable, as most random combinations are nonsense (and sometimes dangerous). We know, however, that the darwinian process shapes up quality from random recombinations: new species in millennia and new antibodies during the days and weeks of an immune response. I will discuss the prospects for a mental darwinism that operates on the milliseconds to minutes time scale, shaping up novel ideas and sentences never before spoken.

Anne Teresa DE KEERSMAEKER, (1960, Mechelen - Belgium) is among the most prominent modern European choregraphers, and is also actively exploring the media of film and video art. Her creative work is an innovative expression of philosophical, sociological and psychological debates. Highlights in her career as a choreographer are Phase, Four Movements to the Music of Steve Reich (1982), Rosas danst Rosas (1983, awarded with the 1986 Bessy Dance Award), Elena's Aria (1984), Bartok/Aantekeningen (1986), Mikrokosmos (1987), Ottone Ottone (1991), ERTS (1992), Mozart/Concert Aria's (1992), Toccata (1993), Kinok (1994), Amor Constante, mas alla de la muerte (1994). Her films Rosa (1992, with Peter Greenaway) and Achterland (1993)have been internationally nominated as well. De Keersmaeker directs the Rosas dance company, which she founded in 1983.

Rosas will perform an Anna Teresa De Keersmaeker choreography on Friday 2 June 1995. The film Achterland and video productions will be screened throughout the conference.

Robert EDWARDS (1927) trained at Wales and Edinburgh universities in animal genetics. His research in biochemistry directed him towards pioneering work in the development of new techniques of assisted human reproduction, providing the ultimate breakthrough that led, amongst other things, to the conception of Louise Brown, the very first "test-tube" baby. He is presently working at Cambridge University, U.K..

Lecture: Human Conception in Today's Society

A rapidly advancing science has introduced several novel techniques to assist human reproduction. The promise of these methods must be balanced against their ethical and societal issues, a fascinating combination that has led to ferment and debate. This situation will be assessed together with a brief glance at possible future developments.

Jan FABRE, (1958, Antwerpen) is a creative explorer of different artistic media. His paintings and sculptures are widely exhibited (he participated twice at Dokumenta in Kassel), his innovative work in theatre, dance and opera are being internationally performed. Fabre prefers a bottom-up construction, rather than a top-down analysis, and yet his book The Grave of the Unknown Computer expresses his manifest interest in several branches of contemporary science (neural networks, chaos theory, cellular automata) in an effort to provide a missing link between the static and the complex: the insect. His play Sweet Temptations is inspired by Stephen Hawkings' book A short history of Time, and features a 'twin-Hawking'.

Night performances of the work of Jan Fabre will be scheduled throughout the conference.

Adolf GRUNBAUM has published in the philosophy of physics, the critical scrutiny of theistic interpretations of physical cosmology, the theory of scientific rationality, and the philosophy of psychiatry. He received the Fregene Prize for Science from the Italian parliament and Yale University Wilbur Lucius Cross Medal for outstanding achievement in the philosophy of science. He is an Andrew Mellon Professor of Philosophy, Research professor of Psychiatry, and Chairman of the Center for Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh, USA.

Lecture: The Hermeneutic versus the Scientific Conception of Psychoanalysis. An Unsuccessful Effort to Chart a Prototype for the Human Sciences.

The construction of bridges between the natural and social sciences is a laudable aim. But bridges that do not hold up should not be built. This paper argues that the socalled "hermeneutic" reconstruction of psychoanalytic theory & therapy proposed by Karl Jaspers, Paul Ricoeur and Jürgen Habermas fails multiply as a viaduct and alleged prototype for the study of human nature. One key to the failure is the misconstrual of so-called "meaning connections" between mental states in their bearing on causal connections between such states.

Rom HARRE studied mathematics and physics at Aukland University and philosophy at Oxford. He was a lecturer in University of the Punjab, Birmingham University, Leicester University and Oxford University, and is author of Great Scientific Experiments, Laws of Nature, Varieties in Realism, Social Being. He is now halftime at Georgetown University, Washington D.C. while staying at Oxford University.

Lecture: Einstein's narratives.

It is not always easy to see whether an important theory in physics is about the world or a way of expressing the rules for talking about the world. This difference is important in interpreting relativity theory, particularly with respect to the question of the real existence of Minkowski space. A look at the history of relativity, from Nicolas of Cusa to Galileo to Einstein shows that special relativity is best interpreted as a grammar for coordinating narratives told by different observers. this viewpoint has consequences for other problems in physics, such as the EPR experiment.

Barbara HERNNSTEIN-SMITH (1932, New York) is the author of a number of studies in aesthetics and literary and linguistic theory, including On the Margins of Discourse (1978), and Contingencies of Value (1988), and co-edits with Arkady Plotnisky a special issue of the South Atlantic Quarterly on "Mathematics, Science, and Postclassical Theory". Her lecture draws from work in progress, Belief and Resistance: Dynamics of Contemporary Theoretical Controversy. She is is Braxton Craven Professor of Comparative Literature and English at Duke University, and director of its Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Science and Cultural Theory. Duke University, USA.

Lecture: The Microdynamics of Incommensurability: The Example of Philip Kitcher's 'Advancement of Science'.

This lecture examines the bemusing but instructive logical, rhetorical and cognitive dynamics of contemporary theoretical controversy. It focusses on the recurrent non-engagements and mutually frustrating impass between, on the one hand, those who -like philosopher of science Philip Kitcher in his recent The Advancement of Science- defend or attempt to rehabilitate traditional ideas of knowledge, truth, proof, objectivity, reason and reality and, on the other hand, theorists in fields such as the history and sociology of science whose research and analyses have issued in more or less radical critiques of those ideas and also more or less radical reconceptions of the operations of science itself.

Julian JAYNES trained at Harvard, McGill and Yale Universities. He is the author of, interalia The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind , and has been teaching psychology at Princeton for the last 30 years.

Lecture: Consciousness and the Voices of the Mind.

The problem of consciousness and its corollary the mind body problem have been with us at least since Descartes. An approach to a solution to both may be begun by carefully analyzing consciousness into its component features and modes. It will then be seen that consciousness is based on language, in particular its ability to form metaphors and analogies. The result is that consciousness is not a biological genetic giver, but a linguistic skill learned in human history. Previous to that transitional period, human volition consisted of hearing voices called gods, a relationship I am calling the bicameral mind.

Constantin PIRON (1931, Paris) trained as a physicist at the Ecole Polythechnique de Lausanne. He lies at the basis of an axiomatic approach to quantum mechanics, commonly called the 'Geneva approach'. He has published Foundations of Quantum Physics (1976) and Mecanique quantique, bases et applications (1990), and is professor of theoretical physics at the University of Geneva, Switzerland.

Lecture: Quanta and Relativity: Two Failed Revolutions.

Bohr suggested the usual rules of mechanics be abandoned to explain the hydrogen atom spectrum, Louis de Broglie associated a wave to each particle, and Erwin Schrödinger provided a non-local equation for the de Broglie particle wave. The use of the name 'aether' was forbidden by Einstein after the discovery that the velocity of light was the same in every direction and independent of the chosen reference frame. Nevertheless recent literature is indicative of how the vast majority of physicists still cling to the idea of a non-existing void full of little particles in the spirit of Leibnitz or Descartes. This implies that quanta and relativity revolutions have yet to come.

Robert PIRSIG (1928, Minneapolis) trained in philosophy and journalism at the universities of Minnesota and Benares. He was a technical writer and teacher, and is the author of the international bestselling novels Zen, or the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Lila, an Inquiry into Morals. He was trained at the universities of Minnesota and Benares. He lives inPortsmouth N.H, the USA.

Lecture: Subjects, Objects, Data and Values.

A rational integration of science and value is proposed here that does not do violence to either. In the past, rejection of "values" by scientific method has helped prevent corruption into religious dogma, social propaganda and other forms of wishful thinking, but it has also prevented scientific explanation of huge areas of human experience: art, morals and human purpose. This inexplicability undermines the universality and validity of scientific thought. It is argued here that values can exist as a part of scientific data, but outside of any subject or object. this argument opens te door to a "Metaphysics of Value" that provides a fundamentally different but not unscientific way of understanding the world.

Ilya PRIGOGINE (1917, Moscow) directs both the Brussels Instituts internationaux de physique et chimie Solvay and the Center for Statistical Mechanics of the University of Texas. He was awarded the 1977 Nobel Prize for chemistry for his contributions to the thermodynamics of non-equilibrium states. These findings were also applied to other fields of scientific inquiry. He is estimated as one of the most important architects of the so-called new systems theory of life, and is known for his innovating views on on-going changes in the natural and life sciences' paradigm.

Lecture: The End of Certitudes

One of the basic characteristics of Western science since Galileo and Newton is the formulation of the laws of nature which are both deterministic and time reversible. Today classical mechanics has been superseded by quantum theory and relativity. Sill, the basic characteristics of Newton's laws, namely determinism and time reversibility have survived. In contrast, on all levels of expenses be it in cosmology, geology, biology or human societies, we observe evolutionary patterns. How then are there patterns roted in the Laws of physics? It will be shown that once we oncorporate instabilities and chaos into their formulation, we can overcome this contradiction. The fundamental laws of nature take then a new meaning. Instead of expressing certitudes they express possibilities and this is appropriate in an evolutionary universe.

Linda SCHELE (1942, Nashville) is an artist and scholar of non-Western cultures. Her Maya Glyphs: The Verbs was awarded with the 1982 American Association of Publishers award.The Blood of Kings: Dynasty and Ritual in Maya Art (1986) and A Forest of Kings (1990) draw from her innovative interpretations of Maya-glyphs to project new data on Maya history. Her research has focussed on comparing Maya culture with Western worldviews. She is a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, USA.

Lecture: Cosmos in Ancient Maya Symbolism.

The lecture will address the process of constructing world view as a human endeavor shared by all human groups. While it may differ in detail and in the instruments used by different human groups, its purpose is the same in all--to organize knowledge of the world and the place of human beings in it so that this understanding can be shared, replicated, and adapted to changing circumstance. The lecture will demonstrate how the Maya used metaphor to encode their knowledge of the world and how this encoding lay at the heart of their art, architecture, religion, and politics. Their representations of the Cosmos can be considered both as metaphor and as a process of symbolism and investigation analogous in kind, but not detail to modern cosmology.

Bas VAN FRAASSEN (1941, Goes - the Netherlands) has taught at Yale University and the University of Toronto, and is Professor of Philosophy at Princeton University. He was the president of the Philosophy of Science Association from 1990 to 1992. His main publications are The Scientific Image (1980), Laws and Symmetry (1989), Quantum Mechanics: An Empiricist View (1991). He has Canadian citizenship.

Lecture: The Scientific Image and the Manifest Image.

There are striking differences between the scientific theoretical description of the world and the way it appears to us. The consequent task of relating science to 'the world we live in' has been a problem throughout the history of science. But have we made this problem impossible to resolve by how we formulate the problem? Some say that besides the successive world-pictures of science there is the world-picture that preceded all these and continues to exist by their side, elucidated by more humanistic philosophers. Wilfrid Sellars codified this conviction in his dichotomy of 'scientific image' and 'manifest image'. Others say that all our world-pictures are transient, evolve, conflict with and replace each other, undergo violent revolutions as well as periods of normal development, and may be incommensurable, allowing of no meaningful dialogue. All such formulations may themselves be tendentious metaphysics, full of false contrasts. Insistence on a radical separation between science and what we have apart from science, on the impossibility of accommodating science without surrender, may be a way of either idolizing or demonizing science rather than understanding it.

Francisco J. VARELA (1946, Chile) took his PhD in biological sciences at Harvard University. He has taught and conducted research extensively in South America, the United States and Europe on neurobiological mechanisms of cognitive phenomena, especially perception, and related epistemological issues. With Humberto Maturana, he is the founder of the theory of autopoiesis. He has contributed to the understanding of the immune system and the computer simulation of life. As a CNRS directeur de recherche, Varela is currently a member of CREA, Ecole Polytechnique, and Head of the Neurodynamics Unit at the Laboratory of Cognitive Psychophysiology (CNRS URA 654) at the Salpetriere Hospital, Paris.

Lecture: Brain and Consciousness: The hard problems.

The relation between brain processes and lived human experience can be seen as the really hard problem of consciousness. The lecture will out some of the most important alternatives today in dealing with this problem. Its main proposal is that science needs to be complemented with a sustained, disciplined analysis of experience itself to move this major question beyond the sterile oppositions of dualism or reductionism.

Heinz VON FOERSTER (1911, Vienna) joined the Department of Electrical Engineering at the University of Illinois, as a PhD in Physics. He there established the Department of Biophysics and the Biological Computer Laboratory. His work has been crucial to the development of cybernetics and general systems theory. He may be considered as one of the founders of the theory of self-organization and of second-order cybernetics, the cybernetics of observing systems. He lives in California.

Lecture: Ceci n'est pas Albert Einstein.

When Einstein meets again Magritte now here in Brussels, when did they meet before? The lecture argues that they met at an interdisciplinary conference organized by Alfred Korzybski on General Semantics. Most likely, it was Magritte's famous painting of a pipe containing its own self-negating caption that persuaded Korzybski to say "The Map is not the Territory". And it was most likely Einstein's statement that certain phenomena would occur "... if radiation were to consist of independently moving pointlike quanta..." that would move fundamental epistemological questions in physics into the semantic domain. Gregory Bateson's "Explanation" as the art of creating semantic links between different descriptions can be invoked to respond to this conference's theme that asks us to construct a bridge between the apparently paradoxical dichotomy of Relativism and Unitism.

John ZIMAN, was brought up in New Zealand, studied at Oxford, and lectured at Cambridge, before becoming Professor of Theoretical Physics at Bristol. His researches on the theory of the electrical and magnetic properties of solid and liquid metals earned his election on the Royal Society in 1967. He was the founding Director of the Science Policy Support Group and Chairman of the Council and Society, and has written extensively on various aspects of the social relations of science and technology. He is Emeritus Professor of Physics of the University of Bristol.

Lecture: Basically, it's purely academic.

Einstein did "basic research" and to very good effect. Everybody nowadays says that basic science should be fostered. But what do they mean? The conventional responses to this important question are confused and contradictory. Historical accounts are out of date. Philosophical criteria are too reductionist. Sociologists deconstruct basic research entirely. Psychological interpretations are too self-indulgent. Populists deplore its elitism. Economic theory discounts it heavily. Industry merely wants to exploit it. Academia celebrates its pure irrelevance -and yet policy-makers imagine it can be planned. Magritte tells us that the nature of basic scientific research is a suitable theme for basic metascientific research. Let us explore it in that spirit.