Department II studies the history of scientific reason. Its topics are categories, concepts, and practices that are fundamental to modern science and culture—so fundamental that they seem to transcend history: evidence, proof, objectivity. Ongoing projects address the division between the “natural” and “human” realms (Between the Natural and Human Sciences), and “gender” (Gender Studies of Science). The Department’s current main project (Sciences of the Archive) examines the memory of the sciences: how data is collected, classified, stored, and accessed, as well as the changing meaning of “data” in sciences such as astronomy, climatology, history, geology, and philology. Since the hidden histories of these taken-for-granted topics only become visible when contexts vary, most projects have a comparative dimension, spanning many centuries, several cultures, and/or multiple disciplines (Science in Circulation). A new project on Science and Modernity asks about the relationship between modern science and other aspects of modernity, such as industrialization, democratization, or secularization, from a global perspective.
Department II closed in June 2019.
The Department II Doctoral Seminar occurs twice per month and serves as a space for early career researchers from across the Institute to discuss their work in a formal, friendly setting.
The Department II Colloquium occurs twice per month. The format is 30 minutes of commentary and response by the paper's author, followed by 90 minutes of general discussion.