NBA History of Science Seminar: Henrik Zinkernagel

Henrik Zinkernagel (University of Granada), “Defending the role of aesthetics and aesthetic experiences in science”

Henrik Zinkernagel
Henrik Zinkernagel, University of Granada, and Associated Researcher at the Niels Bohr Archive.

A small but growing body of literature in the history and philosophy of science has established that aesthetic considerations, as judged by a wealth of testimonies from scientists, appear to be an important part of science. But there are still open questions. In particular: (1) what role (or roles) precisely do aesthetics play in the scientific process? And (2) can the aesthetic considerations of scientists be justified – that is, do they have a positive role to play – in view of the (epistemic) aims of science?

I will begin this talk by briefly addressing the first question. In this regard, the literature has so far focused mostly on the role of aesthetics in theory evaluation. However, evidence is mounting that aesthetics is important also elsewhere in the scientific process, not least regarding the motivation of scientists. The primary focus of this talk will revolve around the second question, specifically addressing some doubts raised in the literature regarding the potential positive influence of aesthetics in science. Drawing on examples primarily from the history of physics, I argue that aesthetics and aesthetic experiences in science are closely related to scientific understanding. Since understanding of the natural world is a central aim of science, such a relation can support the idea that aesthetics and aesthetics experiences indeed have a positive role to play in the scientific endeavor. I end with some considerations about how the role of aesthetics in science can also be relevant for science education and communication.

Henrik Zinkernagel is an Associate Professor at the Department of Philosophy I of the University of Granada and an Associated Researcher at the Niels Bohr Archive.

This talk is jointly organized by the Research Group on History and Philosophy of Science at the Department of Science Education and the Niels Bohr Archive.