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Event: Workshop: Science: Between Literal and Metaphorical Meanings?

Event date April 20, 2023 - April 21, 2023
Submission deadline February 15, 2023
Location Lisbon, Portugal
Host(s) Champalimaud Foundation and University of Lisbon
Event website/information

Champalimaud Foundation and University of Lisbon Joint Workshop

 Science: Between Literal and Metaphorical Meanings?

20-21 April 2023

 Modern scientific endeavors are often guided by the positivistic ideal of obtaining a neutral, detached point of observation from which truths about the world can be deduced and believed to hold independently of the socio-political context in which they were obtained. Philosophical and sociological perspectives have however long highlighted that science and the contents of its discoveries are not to be separated from the context in which they are practiced, nor are they to ignore the impact that objects, artifacts, or natural events have in structuring our social, political, or physical realities. In the same spirit, Graham Harman argues that the human dimension of reality is just one of many, equally real non-human realities. Within this shared ontological space all beings – termed objects in Harman’s system – have sensual qualities, i.e. the ones that define an object in relation, and real qualities, i.e. the ones that define the object withdrawn from all interactions and relations. Within this framework Harman distinguishes between two ways of knowing: a literal one that takes phenomena to be the sum of their features as they appear to us and a metaphorical one that hints at an infinite interiority of objects and brings about the awareness that there is always more to them than meets the eye. Harman argues that literalism is the mode by which science knows things, while the way that art and aesthetics approach objects is instead metaphorical. In contrast to literalism, “the metaphor seems to give us the thing in its autonomy from the other things to which it relates.” In Harman’s reading, the metaphor suspends the sensuality of the object and alludes to its real core. This workshop will explore whether Harman’s assessment of science’s method is apt and whether a dialogue between the two ways of knowing might benefit the endeavors of both aesthetic and scientific inquiry.

The workshop will consist of a keynote lecture by Graham Harman with participants and general public at Champalimaud Foundation on April 20, and of a full-day workshop with invited keynote and selected participants, on April 21, at the University of Lisbon

We invite contributions from researchers working on core concepts in Harman’s ontology or on the relationship between metaphorical and literal cognition. Possible topics may include, but are not limited to: Possible topics may include, but are not limited to:

●      Real and sensual objects/qualities
●      Interactions and relationality in object oriented ontology (OOO)
●      Cognition and the role of the subject in OOO
●      The concept of object in science
●     The concept of real in science
●      Emerging scientific methodologies
●      Alternate ways of knowing – art, architecture, literature, film, etc. – in OOO
●      Science and OOO
●      Political, ethical, social dimensions of flat ontologies.
For consideration, please submit a 500-800 word abstract to by February 15, 2023. Decision will be communicated by March 1.  Accepted papers will give a 30-minute presentation followed by a 15-minute Q&A. The workshop will take place in person. Unfortunately, the organizers will not be able to cover the cost of attending the event.  If you have any questions, contact Razvan Sandru:
For more information see:
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