Bios and Techne—Transformations of Ancient Forms of Knowledge: Encyclopaedia, Image, Concept
Project director: Prof. Dr. Hartmut Böhme (Department of Cultural History and Theory)
Research associates: Dr. Marco Formisano, Dr. Georg Toepfer, PD Dr. Tobias Cheung (core staff), Dr. Paolo Sanvito (associated)
Subproject 1: Transformations of Technological Knowledge in Encyclopaedic Presentations: Late Antiquity—Early Modernity—Enlightenment (Dr. Marco Formisano)
Subproject 2: Observing, Collecting, Describing, Drawing, Printing. Epistemic Practices and Illustrations in the Early Modern Transformation of Ancient Botanical and Anatomical Knowledge (Prof. Dr. Hartmut Böhme)
Subproject 3: Transformations of Life-Concepts. Continuities and Innovations in the Domain of Fundamental Biological Concepts Based on the Ancient Model of the Living Being (Dr. Georg Toepfer)
This project focuses on how the means of the presentation and preservation of knowledge influence the constitution of the sciences. The guiding assumption is that the processes of terminologization and the media and forms of the presentation of knowledge are fundamental to the process of scientization. We seek to document their function in the establishment of specific disciplines and their role as effective as well as limiting factors in the spectrum of possible transformations of ancient knowledge, in three domains of knowledge: encyclopaedias of technological knowledge in late antiquity, ancient botanical and anatomical knowledge, and fundamental concepts of life in ancient biology.
The knowledge of living beings and technological knowledge are two domains of knowledge that lend themselves to examination because they are already well developed in antiquity, contain a rich terminology, and demarcate clearly delineated fields of research. Both domains, moreover, are characteristically presented in multiple media: depictions, diagrams, charts, and encyclopaedic lists serve not only to illustrate such knowledge but form an integral part of its presentation and argumentation. We will examine both the translation of the conceptual order of knowledge into images and, conversely, the role visual aesthetics plays in the generation and transmission of knowledge.
We examine how specific knowledge comes into being and acquires its particular contours through the forms of its (re-)presentation in encyclopaedias, imagery, and theoretical concepts. We demonstrate the extent to which these forms are part of scientific methodology, providing effective means to present, canonize, and transmit knowledge, and thus become building blocks of the particular sciences. Our analyses proceed in detailed studies on the microscopic level and in explorations of the configurations of the two domains of knowledge in their internal structures, their delimitations, and their long-term shifts on a macroscopic level. The different approaches taken by the subprojects seek to render the complexity of the processes of transformation of orders of knowledge visible. The aim is to illuminate the simultaneity and interdependence of processes of literarization, visualization, and terminologization in the process of scientization.