Public Lecture Descartes Centre by Mary S. Morgan: Curiosity, Imagination and Surprise

31 aug 2017
Van 3:30 - 6:30uur
Sweelinckzaal, Universiteit Utrecht

In three episodes from the history of social sciences, professor Mary S. Morgan (London School of Economics) explores three important features of good science: curiosity, imagination and surprise.

Good science has paradoxical features.  It depends on a mixture of very careful practices soberly carried out, but equally on a combination of curiosity, imagination, and the potential for surprise. In her lecture, Morgan explores these qualities  in three ‘discovery’ episodes from the history of social sciences: Fogel’s measurement of the impact of the railroads in America; Booth’s investigation to account for poverty in London; and Geertz’s explanation of gaming culture in Bali.

These social scientists exhibited all the carefulness one could hope for in using a variety of different methods, but it was both the curiosity that helped frame their questions and the imagination they used to carry through their projects that mattered in providing surprising new insights.

Mary S. Morgan is the Albert O. Hirschman Professor of History and Philosophy of Economics, London School of Economics, and Visiting Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania. She is a Vice President and Fellow in the British Academy, and an Overseas Fellow of the Royal Dutch Academy of Arts and Sciences.  Her latest book The World in the Model (Cambridge University Press, 2012) relates the history of how economics became a modelling science and analyses how such modelling works as an experimental practice for economics.  She is currently working on projects on the history and current processes of poverty measurement; on the performativity of economics in the twentieth century; and on the ways that narrative forms of explanation are (and have been) used across the sciences.

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