Contemporary history of medicine and technology

Research into the histories of medicine, science and technology at the IMGWF focuses on the life sciences in the 20th and 21st centuries as well as the social and cultural constellations that have determined the course of medicine and technology in West Germany and the German Democratic Republic in the period after 1945. This involves studying the interrelationships between science and society in both directions: the question of the social conditions of scientific-technological developments as well as the question of how ways of interpreting medicine, the life sciences and technology are related to the social and cultural situation in both parts of Germany. What experimental science cultures have developed, and what clinical-therapeutic cultures? What role did leading scientists and physicians play? And what are the implications of historical research for an adequate understanding of current medical practices and biotechnological procedures?

Ethics, Epistemology and Social Research

In a number of different projects, IMGWF conducts research on epistemological and ethical questions concerning modern medicine and the life sciences in their respective contexts. Using methodologies from philosophy, science and technology studies and qualitative sociology, as researchers we first identify the conditions, history and background of epistemological and ethical issues in order to describe and analyse them with the necessary clarity and depth. Our research agenda includes the constitution of medical knowledge; the fundamental anthropological conditions, political implications and meaning of practical knowledge in lived experience; moral perception, as well as the experiences of those affected, within social contexts.  This involves close examination of fundamental ethical concepts and methodologies in ethics in such problematic areas as at life’s beginning and end, in transplantation medicine, predictive genetic diagnostics, human enhancement and brain research. Of particular interest are the development of a hermeneutic-phenomenological method and the integration of cultural and social science approaches in normative ethics research.

Philosophy of culture and research into the history of science

The IMGWF conducts research into the history of science from a philosophy of culture perspective. At the core of this approach are cultures of knowledge and their genesis beyond disciplinary borders. In particular the processes of the disciplining of knowledge are examined in concrete cases. Research at the IMGWF necessarily takes here a radical turn: How has the study of the world and reality changed over history? How do medicine and technology constitute reality and which futures do they thereby open up? What are the relationships between knowledge acquisition and social interests? The investigation of these processes means that researchers into the history of science must also account for the fact that they themselves are part of the system of knowledge. The challenge is therefore to explain how we are to think of the ‘entanglement’ of subject and object.

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