Colloquium: Theory in Exile: On Kurt Goldstein’s "The Organism"

  • Date: Jan 10, 2017
  • Time: 05:00 PM (Local Time Germany)
  • Speaker: Cornelius Borck
  • Location: Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Lentzeallee 94, 14195 Berlin
  • Room: Small Conference Room
  • Host: Center for the History of Emotions
  • Contact:

The Center for the History of Emotions at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, led by Prof. Ute Frevert, cordially invites all interested to attend its winter semester 2016/17 colloquium.

Cornelius Borck, Institute for History of Medicine and Science Studies, University of Lübeck

Theory in Exile: On Kurt Goldstein’s The Organism

The neurologist and psychologist Kurt Goldstein is best known for his holistic theory of the organism, which he published in 1934 in Amsterdam, his first stop in exile. Goldstein’s work had a major impact on philosophical and psychological thought in the twentieth century, it inspired Ernst Cassirer, Georges Canguilhem, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Ludwig Binswanger, among others. Goldstein’s book on the organism, and with it his explicitly holistic approach to biology, however, was in many ways the result of his emigration, as Cornelius Borck will demonstrate in his presentation. Goldstein felt forced to summarize his thinking, for example, only in exile, at the moment he found himself disconnected from clinical work (and with sufficient time for writing). In addition to such personal circumstances and practical contingencies, Goldstein’s writing embraced holism only in the process of translation. Five years after his arrival in America, the English translation characterized his theory now as “a holistic approach to biology”—a wording Goldstein had carefully circumvented in the German original. These differences invite to reflect more generally upon the dynamic interactions between migration and theorizing.

Cornelius Borck is a historian of science and medicine, and, since 2007, director of the Institute for History of Medicine and Science Studies of the University of Lübeck. Before coming to Lübeck, he was Karl-Schädler-Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, directed the research group “Writing Life: Media Technologies and the History of the Life Sciences 1800-1900” in the Faculty of Media at the Bauhaus University in Weimar, and held a Canada Research Chair in Philosophy and Language of Medicine at McGill University in Montreal. His research topics include mind, brain and self in the age of visualization; the epistemology of experimentation in art, science, and media; sensory prostheses and human-machine relations between artistic avant-garde and technoscience.

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