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KLI Brown Bag
Morphogenetic Fields, their Epistemology and Cultural Impact
Peter BERZ (Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung Berlin)
2009-02-10 13:15 - 2009-02-10 13:15
KLI for Evolution and Cognition Research, Altenberg, Austria
Organized by KLI

Topic description:
The talk consists of three parts. First, following Jean Petitot-Cocorda, a student of the French mathematician René Thom, I will discuss two traditions of biological thinking, one starting from a formal logic of terms and their relationships, the other from a dynamic topology of places and their connections. Then I will outline some basic traits and archeological readings of the concept of "morphogenetic fields“ as it emerged in the work of the Russian histologist Aleksandr Gavrilovic Gurvic, who elaborated the concept from the beginning of the last century to the 1930s ("Histologische Grundlagen der Biologie,“ 1930). Finally, I will discuss a rather astonishing impact of the concept, viz., the enthusiastic reception of morphogenetic fields by the Russian writer Ossip Emiljevic Mandelstam, who made it the foundation of a theory of poetry, deliberately close to biological knowledge.


Biographical note:
PD Dr. Peter Berz from Berlin studied philosophy and cultural studies. His domain is the theory and media history of knowledge in technology ("08/15. Ein Standard des 20. Jahrhunderts," 2001) and biology. He works on biological thinking around the time-thresholds of 1930 and 1970 (Waddington, Monod, Margulis, Woese) and has a special interest in non-Darwinian biology and natural philosophies in these periods. In 2006 he was a fellow of the International Research Center for Cultural Studies in Vienna, with a project ("Die Augen der Olme") on the Austrian biologist Paul Kammerer and his institution, the Vienna Vivarium. He recently was a guest professor at the Institute for Philosophy, University of Vienna (Philosophy of biological media). His home institution is the Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung Berlin. Selected publications (2008) Monods Tagtraum. Begriff und Gestalt. In: Begriffsgeschichte der Naturwissenschaften. Zur historischen und kulturellen Dimension naturwissenschaftlicher Konzepte (Müller E, Schmieder F, Hg). Walter de Gruyter. (2008) Biologische Ästhetik. (A)Symmetrie und (Un)Sichtbarkeit im Erscheinen des Bauplans. Trajekte Nr. 17. (2008). Die Kommunikation der Täuschung. Eine Medientheorie der Mimikry. In: Mimikry. Gefährlicher Luxus zwischen Natur und Kultur (Becker A et al., Hg). Argus. (2007) Wilhelm Reichs andere Biologie (with Benjamin Steininger). In: Wilhelm Reich Revisited (Johler B, ed). Turia & Kant.