Synthesis: Esotericism & the Sciences

Synthesis conference AmsterdamThere’s a conference in Amsterdam this coming Monday (April 29), on the relationship between esotericism and the sciences. And art, and music, and literature, and other things. “Synthesis: Esotericism & the Sciences” is described as a young scholars conference, which means that it has been organized entirely by a crew of enthusiastic and energetic MA students, and primarily caters to scholars at a very early stage in their careers (i.e. graduate and post-graduate students). Check out the exquisitely looking website for more information on the event, and an overview of the program. In addition to eight papers and several artistic and musical intermezzos, the show starts with a keynote lecture by yours truly. The title of my keynote is “A Nihilist’s View of Scientific Meaning-Making: Analytical Approaches to Synthesizing Minds“. I attach the abstract below:

“Contemporary esoteric literature is riddled with associations between “spirituality” and what is considered “cutting-edge science”. The processes that underlie the making of such syntheses are complex, with historical, sociological, and linguistic dimensions involved. How do we go about analyzing these processes?

In this lecture, it is argued that we start from a position of methodological nihilism: confronted with a vast array of claims about what kind of worldview is “suggested by science” (and, often enough, what science ought to suggest), our guiding assumption should be that nothing has any inherent meaning at all, but that meaningful associations are constructed by human actors. This kind of nihilism is typical of social constructionist approaches, but it leaves room for other analytical strategies as well. The present lecture draws on the history of esotericism, the sociology of science, and the cognitive science of religion (CSR) in order to explore the complexity of the issue and suggest fruitful directions for research.”

If this sparks your curiosity, make sure to drop by the Moses & Aaron church (“Mozes en Aäronkerk”) near Waterlooplein in Amsterdam on Monday morning. It should be an interesting event with a diversified program.



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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. “our guiding assumption should be that nothing has any inherent meaning at all, but that meaningful associations are constructed by human actors” – are you familiar with Vaihinger’s “The Philosophy of ‘As If'”? If not, I think you would find it very worthwhile.

    • Yes, I’m remotely familiar with it. To my mind he comes out as reminiscent of the pragmatists. Some similarities with James’ “will to believe”.

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