The Immanent Frame publishes interdisciplinary perspectives on religion, secularism, and the public sphere. The religious left left. Making budgets moral again. Kujenga Amani facilitates the exchange of ideas about diverse aspects of peacebuilding in Africa. Deborah R. Coen Deborah R. Her research and teaching bring together the history of science and the intellectual and cultural history of modern Europe.
Her recent research considers how climate came to be studied in terms of the interaction of phenomena at multiple scales, from the planetary to the scales of agriculture and human health. Latest posts. Read more. Verisimilitude : The demand for a probable story goes back at least as far as Enlightenment poetics. Loss of certainty : In the second half of the nineteenth century, after the heyday of German idealism, empiricists and liberals — among them Franz Exner — were not alone in abandoning the quest for ultimate, metaphysically unassailable truths; Kantians like Hermann von Helmholtz also felt the Wahrheitsgewissheitsverlust loss of certainty — as Gregor Schiemann aptly put it in.
Causality and complexity : As Coen rightly observes, the problem of causality became all the more pressing for the second generation Exners because new discoveries and technological progress allowed science to address meaningfully complex real-world problems. This required scientists to scrutinize measurement errors and attempt to lower the effects of manifold disturbances.
Deborah Coen – The Conversation
Probabilistic physics : The specific idea of a probabilistic physics, unlike the renewed empiricism iii and statistical error analysis iv , dates back only to the works of Ludwig Boltzmann and James C. Maxwell in the s. Indeterminism : Only against the backdrop of a successful probabilistic science v was it at all possible to contemplate the idea that chance formed the basis of all natural laws and that statistical laws were not merely transitory. All of his students advocated the feasibility of an indeterminist description of nature long before the advent of quantum mechanics.
The question of certainty and uncertainty, at least at its deepest level, was no longer tied to subjective knowledge and beliefs. For an academic liberal, this was a comfortable stand on the hilltop. Franz Serafin and the members of his circle were engaged with the problem of finding a suitable metric and methods of measurement, while Sigmund worked on the physiology of perception.
Together, they analyzed the beauty of colors. At Brunnwinkl, Sigmund and future Nobel Laureate Karl von Frisch studied the co-evolution of the perception of color in insects and the colors of plants. Coen rightly situates these investigations in the tradition of empirical art research prevalent in Habsburg lands. This body of scientific knowledge about color contributed to the formation of a distinctively Austrian style in the arts and crafts. Both Sigmund in and his son Felix Exner in had made important contributions to the latter field in the early years of their careers when they excelled in achieving experimental precision.
Notwithstanding their prodigious scientific achievements and towering influence on Austrian science, the history of the Exners is also marked by fractures and shorn identities to a greater extent than Coen would like to admit. This is not, in our opinion, the only relevant tension in the world of the late Habsburg academic liberals, who reacted in differing ways to developments following their own theoretical conceptions once these intruded into their own private sphere. Other liberals, such as the industrialists, the economists of the Austrian School, and the bureaucracy in the provinces of the extended Habsburg Empire, faced the problem of how to understand and influence an increasingly complex social reality.
There is no doubt, however, that the Exners were affected by the drastic changes in the aftermath of the fall of the monarchy. On the occasion of their retirement immediately following the war, Franz Serafin and Sigmund could look back on a long list of successful disciples and new institutions they had fathered, but the dominance of academic liberalism had disappeared.
In the increasingly violent conflicts between the Catholic right, the Social Democrats and the German nationals, the Exners lost any viable political base. No longer credible as a model, Brunnwinkl became only a retreat. And while the high quality of Austrian science remained undiminished — with some noteworthy exceptions — it was no longer the science of Brunnwinkl.
With the deaths of Marie, Sigmund, and Franz Serafin in and , the second generation of Exners came to an end. Even before this, four of the 13 Exners of the third generation had already passed away. In , the Viennese police fired into a large crowd of demonstrators that had set fire to the Justizpalast , killing 89 people; this event marked the beginning of the end of the short-lived first Austrian republic.
Similarly, while the early study of radioactive materials took the form of typical tabletop experiments where the main instrument, the electroscope, could be carried into the Sommerfrische to measure atmospheric electricity, by the mid s the field had turned into big laboratory science, making it difficult for the Viennese to keep up with richer institutions around the world.
Among the few remaining Exners of the third generation, three entertained sympathies for the Nazi regime. If the Exners can no longer be considered the leading dynasty of academic liberalism, becoming instead singular individuals cultivating family memories and reacting in different fashions to political and social turmoil, they are reduced to mere actors, atomized within a broader history that still remains to be told, namely, why some liberals entertained Nazi sympathies while others sided with the Socialists.
- Deborah R. Coen —.
- Corporate Decision-Making with Macroeconomic Uncertainty: Performance and Risk Management.
- What is the Legacy of Austrian Academic Liberalism? | SpringerLink.
With regard to this history, Coen limits herself to the level of scientific ideas and educational programs. Both groups were forced into emigration. Did the Exners simply become typical? Firmly embedded in Academy and University, the Exners were less affected by political turmoil than artists and public intellectuals were. Liberal scientific culture fared better. Things changed when the rise of Austrofascism in and the Anschluss in forced many scientists out of the University and into emigration.
Journal of Interdisciplinary History
The chasm between modern science and modern art remains open. None suggested, as Popper would, that knowledge, or scientific laws, remained forever conjectural. Such radicalism could undermine liberal authority. The universe had to be lawful so that […] the liberals could expertly manage risk.
Moreover, some philosophical ideas for which Popper has become famous stand in contrast to the broader Austrian tradition, including the Exners. First, Popper abandoned the relative frequency interpretation of probability — which after had held sway with a growing number of scientists — in favor of a propensity interpretation according to which a system has an inherent tendency to yield a certain outcome.
But unlike mathematical theorems, grand narratives cannot be refuted by counterexample. They can only be amended or replaced. Their historiographical perspectives could not be more different. Coen begins with nineteenth century academic liberalism and shows that its demise occurred later relative to most aspects of Habsburg culture and goes on to identify probability as its bequest to modernity — at least in some parts of its semantic field.
Both perspectives complement each other, but they have their inherent limitations. The authors are greatly indebted to Hollis Beach and the editors of NTM for manifold suggestions on how to improve clarity and style of the present paper. Skip to main content Skip to sections. Advertisement Hide.
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The list below that we present roughly in chronological order does not pretend to be exhaustive.