Permanent Seminar 11.01.2023
Science and Culture – Removing Borders
2:30 pm | National Library of Portugal with Moreno Paulon and Fabio Tononi


The "Ciência e Cultura - Quebrar Fronteiras" Permanent Seminar aims to deepen the complex web of relationships that are established in the production of multiple forms of knowledge and in the dynamics of their coherent organization.


Moreno Paulon presents his research, "Na fronteira incerta entre ciência e pseudociência," dedicated to the topic of hysteria. For this author, the tension between science and pseudoscience is full of examples that deserve our attention: in 1925, in the United States, high school teacher John Scopes was arrested and prosecuted in Dayton, Tennessee, for teaching Darwinism (defined as pseudoscience by Morris & Clark as early as 1976); in 1949, the Soviet Communist Party declared Mendelian genetics pseudoscience and ordered its defenders, including Nicolaj Vavilov, who would die in an extermination camp, to be arrested. Both theories are now at the basis of the scientific view of the world. Karl Popper (1962) called Marxism and psychoanalysis pseudosciences, as well as astrology, in opposition to Einstein's theory of relativity, recognized as scientific. The American Psychiatric Association asserted that homosexuality was a mental illness until May 17, 1990, defending the scientific objectivity of an argument that today we consider pseudoscientific, harmful, and discriminatory.


Hysteria, in turn, entered and exited the realm of medicine, in the form of a natural disease, after a very controversial path. Can it be said that hysteria was a pseudoscientific category? Or was it, on the contrary, the reasonable product of a scientific approach? Or even the unreasonable product of a scientific approach? How to distinguish science from pseudoscience? In this work, the author tries to identify some criteria capable of supporting one or another conclusion, or of casting doubt on the legitimacy of such a distinction.


Fabio Tononi's presentation explores Edgar Wind's interpretation of the central ideas of Aby Warburg on the biology of images, offering a new perspective on the two scholars in the light of recent research in neurophysiology and experimental aesthetics. In Warburg's historiography, Wind's perspective contrasts with that of Ernst Gombrich.


Focused on the universality of the expression of emotions and movements, the concept of Einfühlung (empathy), the phenomenon of collective memory, and the engram, the author supports Wind's interpretation, updating his and Warburg's views in response to recent scientific achievements.


This work substantiates Warburg and Wind's perceptions about the biological implications of images, both for the artist and the viewer. Thus, this research positions the works of Warburg and Wind as the basis for a theory of aesthetic response.


Moreno Paulon is an integrated researcher at CHAM - Center for the Humanities - and a PhD student in Philosophy at Universidade Nova de Lisboa. His interdisciplinary research interests include epistemology, literature, cultural anthropology, psychology, history of psychiatry, translation studies, and gender studies, among others. He coordinated the anthologies of anthropological studies Corpi Plurali (Milano: Milieu Edizioni 2020) and Il diavolo in corpo (Milano: Meltemi 2019) and is also the author of the book A morte trágica de Maiakovski e outras histórias desorientais (Mafra: Edições Sem Nome 2022).


His work is funded by the FCT - Foundation for Science and Technology.


Fabio Tononi holds a PhD in Aesthetics and Art History from the Warburg Institute (2021) and is a Postdoctoral Fellow (2022-2025) at CHAM-NOVA FCSH. He teaches metaphysics, aesthetics, and axiology at IHA-NOVA FCSH, is the editor-in-chief of the Edgar Wind Journal, and a member of the Centre for the Study of Cultural Memory at the Institute of Modern Languages Research (University of London's School of Advanced Study) board of directors.


His research interests include, among others, the relationship between art and cognitive neuroscience (specifically how they relate to memory, imagination, empathy, the unfinished, movement, and emotion) and the interconnection between art, ideology, and postmodernism.


He is the author of Understanding Edgar Wind: Memories and Legacies, ed. by Fabio Tononi, Bernardino Branca, and Jaynie Anderson, Oxford, Peter Lang; A transformação das imagens na era do modernismo, pós-modernismo e reprodutibilidade digital, em On Portraiture. Teoria, Prática e Ficção. De Francisco de Holanda a Susan Sontag, ed. por Annemarie Jordan Gschwend e Fernando António Baptista Pereira, Lisboa, ULisboa, 2022; Worringer, Dewey, Goodman, and the Concept of Aesthetic Experience: A Biological Perspective, ITINERA: Rivista di Philosophy e Teoria delle Arti, 23, 2022.



Adelino Cardoso (CHAM)

Nuno Miguel Proença (CHAM)