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Course starts January 12, 2023

The ‘background story’ of science: skills, rituals, and exemplars in scientific and intellectual practice

Thursdays, 7:00 PM

6 sessions, 90 minutes

99 eur

Registration for courses lasts until December 30, 2022.

Scientific research is often equated with ‘information’ that can be acquired by and transmitted between abstract minds. However, in practice, research is a complex human activity into which students are ‘apprenticed’ through years of formation and which is realised in communities that use specific language and are guided by particular codes and rituals. This suggests that learning and knowing might first require, at least in some cases, ‘learning how to learn’ and ‘knowing how to know’, i.e., acquiring certain particular modes of thought and conduct; and that this happens in and is sustained by (but sometimes perhaps also corrupted by) particular communities.

We will begin the course by looking at recent (e.g., by Linda Zagzebski), and some not-so-recent, work in epistemology and philosophy of science that tries to explore these unappreciated dimensions of scientific and, more generally, intellectual practice, stressing the importance of skills, habits, rituals, and exemplars for scientific learning and knowing.

In the second part, we will look at anthropological theories (specifically those of Mary Douglas) that try to capture the dynamics of human communities. We will try using them to interpret some of the features of academic and scientific communities. We will then move on to examples from the history of science, especially molecular biology. We will listen to oral history recordings that give the ‘background story’ of some of the seminal developments in modern science, with a view to identifying diverse elements that made successful scientific practice possible. This part of the course will equip the participants to better understand the world of science, with its complexity and limitations.

Finally, when wrapping up the course, we will look for practical lessons for our own intellectual life, be it in science or other academic disciplines. Here, in addition to the material covered in other parts of the course, we will look at fragments of the classic manual of ‘the intellectual life’ written by the French Dominican, A.G. Sertillanges and of a booklet written by a Kolegium friend Martin Lukačišin on working on a PhD. This general outline will be followed in a flexible fashion, with short reading expected for each meeting.


for seminars

for the participation

Course starts January 12, 2023

Thursdays, 7:00 PM

Participants are required to read a short reading expected for each meeting.

Ability to read academic texts and to discuss in English.

Degree of knowledge required

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Participants do not need to have previous knowledge of the topic of the seminar or of the authors or the literature used.


Marcin J. Suskiewicz is a biochemist and a structural biologist currently co-leading a research group at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS). Apart from his professional interest in protein structure and function, he is also interested in the history and philosophy of science and the interface between science and theology. Born and schooled in Poland, he completed a Biochemistry degree at the University of Oxford and a PhD in Vienna, followed bv post-doctoral training at Oxford before settling down in France in 2021. He is a husband and father and a Lay Dominican.

Capacity of course is 14 participants.


Cancellation conditions

Withdrawal time:

  • Less than 48 hours before the start of the course

  • From the end of the registration process to 48 hours before the start of the course

  • Before the end of the registration process

Cancellation policy:

  • 100% of the total price of the course

  • 50% of the total price of the course

  • 0% of the total price of the course

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