Chris Meyns

Bio (92 words)

Chris Meyns is a researcher working in philosophy and history of science. They write, speak at places worldwide, and teach at both undergraduate and graduate level in various programmes. They regularly organize workshops and run projects to further open exchange. They previously worked at the University of Cambridge, and received their PhD in philosophy from University College, London. They have held visiting positions at the Center for Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh, at the University of Toronto, LMU Munich and Yale University. They are based in Amsterdam, NL.

Statement

In my research I focus on philosophy and history of science in Europe, roughly between the years 1600 to 1800. I have written on imagination, philosophy of action, and the history of probability. More particularly, I am interested in developing theories of perception and the history of data sharing in early scientific networks during this period.

Perception

What is it for someone to perceive something? During the seventeenth- and eighteenth centuries, theories of perception — part of the history of psychology and metaphysics — came to be under immense pressure. Perception constitutes the fundamental link between individual and the world, or how individuals can interact with what is around them. What explains how perception works? My recent work has especially engaged with the contributions of two figures in this field: Margaret Cavendish (1623–1673) and Anton Wilhelm Amo (ca. 1703–ca. 1750). While working at different points in time, and coming from radically divergent angles, both authors emphasize how in perception the perceiver is never a passive, but instead necessarily makes a crucial, active contribution. More strongly, they both think perceivers to a large extent themselves responsible for their own perceptual acts. Hence, Cavendish and Amo are crucial figures who think about the place of agency in perception, and I’d like to help us better understand their work.

Data sharing

The seventeenth- and eighteenth centuries saw an explosion in various forms of information exchange: from scientific correspondences to the rise of journal publications (both the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society and the Journal des Sçavans were founded in 1655). I am investigating both the patterns within these emerging forms of sharing information, and the ideas (sometimes ideals) behind them. What I find especially interesting here is how, at a time of rising concerns about and insistence on notions such as ‘copyright’ or ‘intellectual property’, authors in these scientific circles insist on sharing their findings, distributing data and keeping ideas flowing; in short, on keeping nascent science open. I am fascinated to see how these ideas at the roots of modern science can mean for concerns about open access publishing in today.

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