Performative Science

Call for Papers for Issue No. 1/2012 – Performative Science: Reconciliation of Science and Humanities or the End of Philosophy? Deadline: January 15, 2012.

Studia UBB. Philosophia proposes an international debate on performative aspects in scientific practices and methodology. Whilst there exists a discourse on performativity within social sciences and the humanities for quite some time it is rather new to discuss performative aspects within the „hard“ sciences like physics, too, with Andy Pickering’s Mangle of Practice being a seminal work in this context. In the latter work it has been argued that the concept of performativity can fruitfully be applied to action theoretical considerations in the experimental process. Using the notions of “context of discovery” and “context of justification” introduced by Hans Reichenbach, Pickering’s result might be accepted as an aspect within the context of discovery but incompatible with the context of justification.

We wish to stimulate a critical discourse on whether the meaning of performativity in science goes beyond sociological considerations or, more precisely, whether it can also become part of the context of justification. Of course, a strict separation of the context of justification from the subjective context of discovery has been doubted ever since. There is a broad consent that heuristics, intuition and tacit knowledge play important roles in gaining insight. Nevertheless, the “final product” of a research process is a text-based publication, which, in the ideal case, should have one and only one interpretation, i.e. should not the least be subject to hermeneutics. This “final product” passed through accepted procedures of falsification and proofs. It is thus regarded as objective knowledge.

To the contrast, in the arts, particularly in the performing arts, an a-logical or at least non-propositional logical mode of understanding as an essential component of performativity is of equal or even higher rank as text-based semioticity (e.g., the libretto or score). A not exactly repeatable and ephemeral character is at the core of a substantial performance. The range of applications of the concept of performativity has in the recent decades gradually been extended from theatre, concerts, enactments, and performing arts, to fields like speech act theory, sociology, interactive media and so forth.

In the succession ofAustin’s speech act theory and the thereby triggered performative turn the mode of „doing“ gained center stage. No need to stress that art is subject of performativity, particularly, performing and dramatic art, as mentioned. Recently, however, typical conceptions from the arts like enactment, embodiment, to name but a view, find applications in different scientific areas – even in the „hard sciences“.

Simultaneously, the label „art&science“ has recently penetrated cultural production and theories much above the historically long-term waxing and waning of the art-science relationship or divide, respectively. This movement found an enormous amplification within the IT-based interactive media arts with its extensive usage of complex feedback loops based on all sorts of sensors and scientific methodology. Systems theory and cybernetics, above all, fostered the art&science convergence substantially. Famous cyberneticists like Gordon Pask have also been amongst the pioneers of cybernetic art and media art.

Yet, it remains questionable whether the art&science movement is more than a dilution of both art and science. Using the label as a marketing slogan seems to be the least evil. The majority of works that emerge under the label of „art&science“ originate from an artistic milieu and just attempt to dress-up their work as a scientific one. And from the scientific point of view some four decades after Feyerabend’s slogan „anything goes“ from his notorious work „against method“ we may be inclined to react with thumbs down: „Not this again“!

However, the situation changed although it has one aspect in common with the situation Feyerabend has been confronted – the struggle against positivism. The sheer complexity and the lack of analytical solutions of systems under investigation require new epistemic methods. Non-repeatable or contingent phenomena need performative practices to be understood. A historical investigation shows that this has been the core idea of systems theory which originated from philosophy of life. A research into complex systems is unthinkable without computer simulations, visualisations beyond simple statistical diagrams and interactive media. With increasing frequency, sincereness provided, researchers have to admit that the essence of such performative approaches can no longer be reduced to formulas or texts but are nonetheless indispensable within the epistemic procedure. Comparable to the arts, the result of a research process is, so to say, an “installation” that has to be experienced in a performative way.

The proposed discourse is motivated through a bewilderment due to conflicting opinions. It has been the basic intention behind systems theory to include lifeworld into science with reference to Heidegger’s fundamental ontology and the concept of being-in-the-world. However, it was Heidegger, above all, who warned from the supra-theoretical hubris of systems theory and cybernetics. In “The end of philosophy” in 1969 he anticipated: “No prophecy is necessary to recognize that the sciences now establishing themselves will soon be determined and steered by the new fundamental science which is called cybernetics. […] The arts become regulated-regulating instruments of information.“ To reverse once more, Heidegger’s philosophy has reasonably been certified (e.g. by Rüdiger Rimpler) to contain itself processuality and performativity. Others regard it as mysticism. Is mysticism the fate of performative science, too? Last but not least, the more recent phenomenological streams strongly influenced by French thinkers like Maurice Merleau-Ponty or Michel Henry should be mentioned for they particularly add corporeality as an important aspect of performativity and understanding, i.e. the bodily involvement in doing, which is also considered to play the major role of performative science.

Prospective authors are encouraged to take into account the following open questions:

  • Is a methodological link or an alliance between performative practices as met in the arts and scientific methods feasible or desirable? (performativity in science including “Geisteswissenschaften”)
  • Is such a link necessary to oppose an over-scientification of society?
  • Is Heidegger’s statement “Science does not think” (i.e. is perhaps ontic but never ontological) an irrevocable dictum?
  • Is performative science just a wishful thinking doomed to fail to give science a normative component and make it more human and closer to lifeworld?
  • Is performative science necessary to account for an increasing complexity and for a lack of proper methods in traditional science to treat processes, ephemeral and contingent phenomena?
  • Is it better to keep art and science complementary but strictly disjunct because otherwise science would tend to mysticism and art would become meaningless?
  • Is performative science ill-conditioned because in order to remain scientific it has to operationalise hermeneutics or to make implicit knowledge explicit, both of which are impossible?
  • Is a productive hermeneutics or hermeneutics of facticity within a scientific approach an oxymoron?

By trying to answer these or related questions, we intend to identify the relevance of performative science, i.e. the relevance of performative, processual, hermeneutic and artistic methods within the scope of scientific methodology and practices. Our goal in this special issue is to bring together papers that explore the different ways in which philosophy, artistic research, performativity, cognitive science, computer sciences and interactive media can be combined to offer a novel perspective on scientific research and methodology. Also, a critical debate is encouraged.

Prospective authors are encouraged to take into account the following areas connected to performative science:

  • hermeneutics in science
  • ontological and phenomenological considerations of art and science, particularly the relevance of philosophers like M. Heidegger, H. Bergson, M. Merleau-Ponty, M. Henry
  • role of corporeality in scientific research (e.g. M. Merleau-Ponty)
  • art-science divide
  • art-science relationship
  • scientification of the arts
  • sensuality (sonification, visualisation, haptics, …) computer and interface technologies (simulation, programming, interactive media, biofeedback, augmented reality, …) as performative tools/practices in science
  • tacit knowledge in science
  • process philosophy and its relation to science
  • difference between explanation and understanding (Dilthey’s conception of (natural) sciences and “Geisteswissenschaften” (humanities))
  • non-propositional or a-logical aspects of understanding in science
  • mysticism in science / alchemy and its relevance for contemporary science
  • philosophy of life / vitalism and its relevance for contemporary science
  • science and contingency
  • history of performativity in science and philosophy
  • artistic research and its relevance for science

The papers and reviews will be selected from the submitted proposals on the basis of double blind peer reviews. Authors should address the papers before January 15, 2012 and will be notified on the results via email by March 01, 2012.


  • Deadline for submissions: January 15, 2012.
  • Notification of acceptance: March 01, 2012.
  • Publication: April 2012

Papers should be written in English, French or German should not exceed 75.000 characters and should be accompanied by a short abstract written in English (maximum 700 characters).

Submitted papers should be sent by e-mail to the Editorial Staff: copoeru(at) in “.doc” or “.rtf” format as attachments only.


For the submission of the papers, please follows the guidelines specified on the journal’s blog:


The series Philosophia of Studia Universitatis Babeş – Bolyai (ISSN 1221-8138) is a peer reviewed journal devoted to promote a high level of academic research in the field of philosophy and related fields; it strives to foster a strong collaboration among senior and junior researchers from Babes-Bolyai University Cluj-Napoca and from abroad.

Since 1955, academic journal Studia UBB. Philosophia, issued by the Department of Philosophy in the Faculty of History and Philosophy, has been representing an open arena for promoting research endeavours. Senior, as well as junior academics, have found in Studia UBB. Philosophia a way of expressing their preoccupations by publishing academic articles that have focused mainly on the European experience and perspectives in various fields of philosophical research.

For more information please contact:

Editor-in-chief: Associated Professor Ion COPOERU : copoeru(at)

Issue coordinator: Hans H. DIEBNER : diebner(at)

Nov 26, 16:09
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One Response

  1. Hans H. Diebner:

    The dossier on “Performative Science: Reconciliation of Science and Humanities or the End of Philosophy?” appeared in April 2012. A pdf-version is available at the publisher’s (Studia UBB. Philosophia) site:
    Contributions by David Turnbull, Hans H. Diebner, Nina Samuel, Vesna Milanovic.

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