Françoise Balibar is a historian of science and professor emerita of physics at the Université Denis Diderot, Paris VII. She has published numerous works on Albert Einstein, the theory of relativity, and on the history and epistemology of physics. She is a co-author (with Jean-Marc Lévy-Leblond) of a textbook on Quantum Physics, translated into English under the title Quantics (1990), and has translated several of Einstein’s works into French (6 volumes including scientific, philosophical and political writings).
Keynote “Die Natur ist nur einmal da” (Nature is there only once, Ernst Mach), 5 September, 09:00h
I want to argue, against a common and naïve view, implicit in Mach’s aphorism « Die Natur ist nur einmal da », that posing univocity (nur, einmal, da) as a requisite for natural laws completely misses the point of objectivity. Equivocity (or ambiguity), and its sister notion, equivalence are central in characterizing our knowledge of the world : not of things in themselves but of their relations ; some of those relations that are invariant under change of “situation” (in Haraway’s parlance) qualify as ”objective”. In that respect, science implies, as Haraway requires “ a preferred positioning, as hostile to relativism as to totalizing versions of scientific authority” . The (pressing) question, on which I shall try to elaborate, now is : how to deal with subjectivity ?