CfP: 8th workshop on historical epistemology: ecology and environmental sciences, June 8-9, 2023, Dijon, Burgundy, France

Submissions by March 20 on

Paper proposals (500 words) can be written in French or English. If you are unable to come to Dijon to participate in the conference, you may submit a proposal for a virtual session delivered online .

Version française de l'appel à communications sur

Organization: Caroline Angleraux (IHPST), Lucie Fabry (uB), Ivan Moya Diez (U. Alberto Hurtado), Matteo Vagelli (U. Ca'Foscari). Contact : [ ]

Presentation of the research network

This Workshop is the 8 th edition of the annual meeting of the International Research Network on the History and Methods of Historical Epistemology. This network, founded in 2015, currently brings together 80 members from different countries, whose work is related to historical epistemology in a broad sense. It thus welcomes specialists in French epistemology of the 20th century as well as people who have contributed to the renewal of historical epistemology under the impulse of members of the Max Planck Institute for the history of science. The objective of the activities of this network is not so much to separate historical epistemology radically from other studies of science, but rather to create a dialogue between different philosophical studies on the history of knowledge that pay particular attention to the conditions of emergence of scientific disciplines and their objects.

Each edition of the Workshop focuses on a specific theme. The previous edition was dedicated to the relationship between arts and sciences, "Arts and Sciences, Historicizing Boundaries" (2022) and took place at Ca' Foscari University in Venice. The former ones, which took place at the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, focused on the following themes: "Historical Epistemology and Epistemology of History" (2020), "The Philosophy of Life Sciences: biologie et médecine au prisme de l'épistémologie historique" (2019), "Historical epistemology and the disunity of science" (2018), "For an historical epistemology of technological transformations" (2017), "A history of the present" (2016); "Historical epistemology: beginnings and current issues” (2015) .

The theme of the 2023 edition: the historical epistemology of environmental sciences

This call for papers is open to all, including and especially to people who are not yet members of the research network. The theme of the year 2023 will be the historical epistemology of environmental sciences. We put forward three axes for the study of this theme, while welcoming proposals that do not fit into these axes, provided that they dwell on the history and philosophy of ecology and environmental sciences.

Axis 1: The place of environmental sciences and ecology in the founding texts of historical epistemology

The first axis studies how the environmental sciences and ecological questions have been apprehended by the authors of historical epistemology, or how the works of these authors could be used in the study of these questions and these disciplines. For example, one might study Canguilhem's lecture "What is Ecology?" (1974) and question the rupture or continuity that it represents in relation to his work in the history and philosophy of biology and medicine (Larrère 2011; Espinoza Lolas, Moya Diez, and Vilches Vilches 2018). One could also question the extent to which the Foucaultian conception of biopolitics can nourish ecological thinking (Gesu 2022; Angelini 2021; Taylan 2013), or the place that ecological questions have occupied in the work of François Dagognet (Dagognet 1973; 1997; 2000; Bensaude Vincent, Braunstein, and Gayon 2019).

The study of the work of these authors and their contemporaries could be structured by the following questions: do efforts to think about ecological issues lead epistemologists to change their methods or of the way they apprehend scientific knowledge? Can we identify dead ends in which epistemologists have found themselves when they wanted to turn to the study of ecological issues? And can we identify, conversely, resources specific to epistemology in the study of ecological issues?

Axis 2: An archaeology of environmental sciences

The second axis proposed for this workshop consists in asking, in Foucaultian terms, what were the conditions for the emergence of a discursive formation that takes the environment as an object - something that we could call an episteme of environmental sciences. Ecology is absent from The Order of Things (1966), which is perhaps an indication of the fact that it is only from the beginning of the 1970s that environmental issues fully became objects of political and scientific discourse. However, it seems possible to question, in a discussion and extension of The Order of Things , the conditions of the formation of an environmental episteme , by asking, for example, what are the conditions of the emergence of the concept of environment and in what way its study differs, for example, from the biological study or the geographical study of milieux (Feuerhahn 2009; 2022; Macherey 2016).

This axis would study the reconfigurations of knowledge implied by ecological questions, and discern the factors that have contributed to these epistemic evolutions, by questioning in particular the relations between the history of scientific disciplines, the history of capitalism and the history of political ecology. We may also ask whether this episteme of environmental sciences already exists, that is to say whether we actually have the tools that allow us to take the measure of anthropogenic environmental degradation and to find the means to remedy it, or whether our ways of acting and thinking, our economic and social organization, and our forms of government hinder the emergence of such an episteme .

In that respect, this axis particularly welcomes proposals which develop an approach of comparative epistemology, by questioning the relations between the various disciplines that take the environment as their object. One could ask whether the relations between the natural sciences and the humanities have been modified by the desire to understand phenomena such as anthropogenic climate change, and in what way (Jollivet 2013). One could also wonder to what extent the thesis that the division between nature and culture has been overcome or must be overcome has actually led to real changes in scientific practices, or whether the specialization of knowledge should be considered as an obstacle in the development of such reflections. The question could be raised as to whether an “archaeological approach” can contribute to the emergence of multidisciplinary studies of the environment.

Axis 3: Discussing the work and archives of Bruno Latour

Half a day of our meeting will be devoted to Bruno Latour, who passed away in October 2022. The theme of the workshop will lead us to put forward two questions in the study of his work. First, the relationship of Bruno Latour to historical epistemology. While Latour and Woolgar (1979) had used the Bachelardian notion of phenomenotechnique in Laboratory Life , Latour formulated from the 1980s onwards a severe critique of Bachelardian epistemology. By presenting himself as among those who introduced the methods of the Sociology of Scientific Knowledge in France, he presented this latter as a way of overcoming what appeared to him to be the aporias of French history and philosophy of science, marked by Bachelardian rationalism (Bowker and Latour 1987). The study of these theses of Bruno Latour and their reception will provide the opportunity to question the relationship between historical epistemology and the sociology of science.

The second question that we will put at the center of this study of Bruno Latour's work will be that of his contribution to the study of ecological questions: one could study, for instance, the way in which the actor-network theory provides new tools for apprehending the relations between humans and non-humans (Akrich et al. 2006) or the way in which his anthropology of the Moderns questions the conditions of emergence of the distinction between nature and culture (Latour 1991). But one can also turn to texts that are more directly devoted to questions of political ecology (Latour 1999), where Bruno Latour enjoined humans to become fully terrestrial (Latour 2015; 2017; 2021; Aït-Touati et al. 2021).

This year’s gathering will also be the occasion for a presentation of the fonds deposited by Bruno Latour at the Beaune municipal archives, composed of more than 12,000 documents that cover his entire career and include pieces that are essential to the understanding of his work, such as the notebooks of his ethnographic investigations. The archivist in charge of the collection, Émilie Rouilly, will present the funds, and the workshop will provide an opportunity to develop research projects on this archival material, in dialogue with the members of the LIR3S laboratory and the MSH of Dijon.


Aït-Touati, Frédérique, Emanuele Coccia, Sébastien Dutreuil, John Tresch, Baptiste Morizot, Nastassja Martin, Vinciane Despret, Stéphane Van Damme, Déborah Bucchi, et Patrice Maniglier. 2021. Le cri de Gaïa : penser la terre avec Bruno Latour . Paris, France: les Empêcheurs de penser en rond - Éditions la Découverte.

Akrich, Madeleine, Michel Callon, Bruno Latour, et Centre de sociologie de l’innovation. 2006. Sociologie de la traduction : textes fondateurs . Paris, France: Mines Paris, les Presses.

Angelini, Andrea. 2021. Biopolitica ed ecologia : l’epistemologia politica del discorso biologico tra Michel Foucault e Georges Canguilhem . Firenze University Press.

Bensaude Vincent, Bernadette, Jean-François Braunstein, et Jean Gayon. 2019. François Dagognet : philosophe, épistémologue . Sciences & philosophie. Paris: Éditions Matériologiques.

Bowker, Geof, et Bruno Latour. 1987. « A Booming Discipline Short of Discipline: (Social) Studies of Science in France ». Social Studies of Science 17 (4): 715‑48.

Canguilhem, Georges. 1974. « La question de l’écologie. La technique ou la vie ». Dialogue , mars, 37‑44.

Dagognet, François. 1973. Des révolutions vertes : histoire et principes de l’agronomie . Paris, France: Hermann.

———. 1997. Des détritus, des déchets, de l’abject : une philosophie écologique . Les empêcheurs de penser en rond. Le Plessis-Robinson: Institut Synthélabo.

———. 2000. Considérations sur l’idée de nature . 2e éd. rev. et augm. Pour demain. Paris: J. Vrin.

Espinoza Lolas, Ricardo, Iván Moya Diez, et Daniel Vilches Vilches. 2018. « On Technology And Life: Fundamental Concepts Of Georges Caguilhem And Xavier Zubiri’s Thought ». Ideas y Valores 67 (167): 127‑47.

Feuerhahn, Wolf. 2009. « From environment to Umwelt: The stakes of a change in terminology ». Revue philosophique de la France et de l’étranger 134 (4): 419‑38.

———. 2022. « Les catégories de l’entendement écologique : milieu, Umwelt, environment, nature… ». In Humanités environnementales : Enquêtes et contre-enquêtes , édité par Guillaume Blanc et Élise Demeulenaere, 19‑41. Homme et société. Paris: Éditions de la Sorbonne.

Gesu, Andrea Di. 2022. « Foucault entre Wuhan et l’Anthropocène ». Terrestres (blog). 12 juillet 2022.

Jollivet, Marcel. 2013. Sciences de la nature, sciences de la société : les passeurs de frontières . Hors collection. Paris: CNRS Éditions.

Larrère, Catherine. 2011. « La question de l’écologie. Ou la querelle des naturalismes ». Cahiers philosophiques 127 (4): 63‑79.

Latour, Bruno. 1991. Nous n’avons jamais été modernes : essai d’anthropologie symétrique . Paris, France: La Découverte, 1991.

———. 1999. Politiques de la nature : comment faire entrer les sciences en démocratie . Paris: Éditions la Découverte.

———. 2015. Face à Gaïa : huit conférences sur le nouveau régime climatique . Paris, France: La Découverte.

———. 2017. Où atterrir ? Comment s’orienter en politique . Paris, France: la Découverte.

———. 2021. Où suis-je ? Leçons du confinement à l’usage des terrestres . Paris, France: Editions la Découverte.

Latour, Bruno, et Steve Woolgar. 1979. Laboratory Life: the Construction of Scientific Facts . Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press.

Macherey, Pierre. 2016. « Canguilhem et l’idée de milieu ». Billet. La philosophie au sens large (blog). 2016.

Taylan, Ferhat. 2013. « L’interventionnisme environnemental, une stratégie néolibérale ». Raisons politiques 52 (4): 77‑87.

With the support of :

IHPST (UMR 8590)
LIR3S (UMR 7366)
Universidad Alberto Hurtado
Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia
European Commission
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 101030646, “EPISTYLE”