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True Science: Leo Tolstoy and Popular Science in Late Imperial Russia

Thursday Lecture Series

dateNovember 9, 2023 timeThursday, 12:15pm–2:00pm EST location The Heyman Center, Second Floor Common Room, Columbia University locationVirtual Event
  • The Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities
email address [email protected]
  • Free and open to the public
  • Registration required. See details.
Engraving of a man doing an illusion for a woman and two children

The Society of Fellows hosts the Thursday Lecture Series (TLS), which runs regularly throughout the academic year. The Fall Semester TLS, our Fellows present their own work, chaired by Columbia faculty.

True Science: Leo Tolstoy and Popular Science in Late Imperial Russia

Lecture by Valeriia Mutc
Chaired by Gareth Williams

This talk examines Leo Tolstoy’s philosophy of science in his non-fiction essays and literary works. Tolstoy methodically rejected an exclusively positivist worldview, arguing that it was detrimental to Russia’s social development. Instead, the writer formulated an idea of socially functional science—a “true” science—whose goal was to promote ethical and moral values for popular audiences. This instrumentalized vision of science was adopted by prominent popular science journals, such as the empire’s most successful outlet, Around the World, which used Tolstoy’s ideas in order to marry public perceptions of scientific progress with Russian imperialism and exceptionalism. In this way, Tolstoy’s vision of science as capable of pursuing humanistic and socially conservative ends fueled the emergence of radicalized popular science and the development of scientific exceptionalism in Russia.

This event also will be recorded. By being electronically present, you consent to the SOF/Heyman using such video for promotional purposes.

Please email [email protected] to request disability accommodations. Advance notice is necessary to arrange for some accessibility needs.