International Society for History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology

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TUESDAY, JULY 7  /  15:30 - 17:00  /  DS-R515
Organized session / diverse format
Scaffolding Werner Callebaut’s Naturalistic Turn

Linnda Caporael (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, United States)


Joseph D. Martin (Michigan State University, United States)
William C. Wimsatt (University of Minnesota, United States)
James Griesemer (University of California, Davis, United States)
Linnda Caporael (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, United States)
Massimo Maiocchi** (University of Chicago, United States)

Originally, we wanted to propose a round table or symposium on our edited book, Developing Scaffolds in Evolution, Culture, and Cognition (2014). However, the untimely loss of our good friend—and scaffolder par excellence — Werner Callebaut — led us to a somewhat different project. We have often been in Werner’s orbit beginning with his book, Taking the Naturalistic Turn, Or How Real Philosophy of Science is Done (University of Chicago Press, 1993). Bill Wimsatt was an interviewee, Jim Griesemer was a reader for the press, and Linnda Caporael was Werner’s sidekick between Manhattan and Lehigh. Twenty years later, Werner scaffolded, from beginning to end, the workshops, KLI visits, and finally, the book that we co-edited. It was the last book that Werner saw published as part of the Vienna Series in Theoretical Biology by the MIT Press, and without a doubt, it made that naturalistic turn.

Our goal in this session is to repay his eagerness to build a new interdisciplinary area, his globalizing sensibility, his irrepressible enthusiasm, and most of all, his deep and abiding friendship, with work we feel sure he would have enjoyed and in the spirit of the ISH “tradition of an informal, collegial approach,” which he cherished.

Joe Martin is our “discussant with a twist.” His grasp of our co-edited book is superb, and we have asked him to begin the session as discussant for that work. Bill Wimsatt’s evo-devo approach to the analytic-synthetic distinction shows some of the implications of modularity and its consequences for probabilistic changes in evolutionary and cognitive development, all topics of considerable interest to Werner. Jim Griesemer reprises a piece of work that always tickled Werner, a counter argument based on scaffolding to Herbert Simon’s parable of Hora and Tempus, the two watchmakers purportedly supporting that hierarchy and near decomposability explain the “architecture of complexity.” Presupposed in both Simon’s and Griesemer’s argument is a material body-in-action, which becomes central to the speculative paper by Linnda Caporael (a psychologist) and Massimo Maiocchi (an Assyrianologist), a collaboration in the expansive, interdisciplinary spirit of the KLI under Werner’s directorship, and the emphasis on development, evolution, and the importance of grappling with biological and cultural complexity.