University of Michigan STS Distinguished Lecture: Lorraine Daston, "The Secret History of Rules: Algorithms, Laws, and Paradigms"

John Carson's picture
February 4, 2022
Michigan, United States
Subject Fields: 
History of Science, Medicine, and Technology, Intellectual History

We hope you will join the University of Michigan STS Program at 11:00 am (EST) on Friday February 4 to hear Prof. Lorraine Daston present this year's STS Distinguished Lecture: "The Secret History of Rules: Algorithms, Laws, and Paradigms."

Please note, this event will be in a webinar format.  You can register to attend at

Abstract: Three clusters of meanings have defined what rules could be since antiquity: algorithms, laws, and paradigms. Two of these clusters are still very much with us: laws and rules still keep close company, and algorithms have become the prototypical rules. But the third cluster, centered on paradigms, is not only no longer synonymous with rules; it has come to be opposed to them – most famously in Thomas S. Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962). Yet for over two thousand years, in both ancient and modern European languages, right through the Enlightenment, rules were paradigms – as well as laws and algorithms. This is the secret history of rules, reconstructed from examples of their pre-modern application.

Lorraine Daston is Director emerita at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, a regular Visiting Professor in the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago, and Permanent Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. Her work spans a broad range of topics in the early modern and modern history of science, including probability and statistics, wonders and the order of nature, scientific images, objectivity and other epistemic virtues, quantification, observation, algorithms, and the moral authority of nature. Her most recent books are Against Nature (MIT Press, 2019) and Rules: A Short History of What We Live By (Princeton University Press, 2021). Her scholarship has been recognized by the Sarton Medal of the History of Science Society, the Dan David Prize, and the Heineken Prize for History of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences.

This session will include Q&A moderated by John Carson -- please plan to submit your questions via Zoom's Q&A function. 

**Should you need accommodations to fully participate in this event, contact Terre Fisher <> as soon as possible.**

 Please note, this event will not be recorded.  

Contact Email: