Skip to main content


Alumna Fellow Lorraine Daston (‘79-‘80) Gives Closing Talk at Descriptions Across Disciplines

Fellows, SOF Fellows

May 4, 2015
Headshot of Lorraine Daston

Lorraine Daston, Alumna Fellow ('79-'80) and Director of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, gave the closing talk at the "Descriptions Across the Disciplines" Conference April 23-24 at the Heyman Center for the Humanities. Her talk, titled "The Evolution of Clouds," discussed how cultures and peoples throughout history failed to categorize, record, or depict the occurance of clouds acurately. Daston was joined at the conference by fellow speakers Michael Fried and Award-winning cartoonist and author Alison Bechdel.

Daston also published work in the Spetember 2014 issue of the journal Isis on the “naturalistic fallacy” as a kind of covert smuggling operation in which cultural values are transferred to nature and nature’s authority is then called upon to buttress those very same values. According to Daston, anxiety over the fallacy only arose recently because of the ubiquity of its use in the Nineteenth Century among disparate thinkers like John Stuart Mill, Thomas Henry Huxley, and Émile Zola. However, Prof. Daston's research shows that the natural and the moral were intertwined in both ancient and medieval thought. Prof. Daston shows that the concept of a naturalistic fallacy has evolved since its first broad use by G.E. Moore in 1903, but that the idea has remained relevant because it captures the problemetic is/ought and fact/value distinction. Click here to read Lorraine Daston's article.

(Photo Credit: Transmediale)