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Historiography of Philosophy and of the Sciences

Subproject a: Conceptual History and the Sciences

The project analyses and defends the importance of conceptual-historical knowledge in the individual sciences. This knowledge is of both intrinsic and instrumental value, because it allows one to better understand and, if necessary, actively influence the inner dynamics of what one does as a scientist.

Scientific descriptions, measurements, calculations, and simulations are always presented and discussed on the basis of some conceptual background; hypotheses and theories are spelled out using specific vocabularies; etc. Being aware of the emergence and ongoing dynamics of such background and vocabulary can help advance one's discipline, especially by asking the relevant critical questions in appropriate places. This is important, for example, in the natural sciences to be prepared for setbacks and unexpected innovations in experimentation and theory formation. It is also important for the exchange not only with colleagues, but also in broader social contexts. This seems particularly true in times of so-called digitization, when information and misinformation become increasingly accessible and when scientists are increasingly urged to acquire third-party funding and to participate in scientific popularizations. Here solid historical background knowledge can form an important basis for a critical consciousness—a consciousness which aims at adequacy, capability, and reliability rather than form, dogma, and timeless validity.



Subproject b: The History of the Concept of Matter and a Relativised Apriori in Physics (closed)

This project investigates the historical and systematic relations between certain concepts in contemporary physics and in the natural philosophy of the early modern period and of classic German philosophy. The focus of the present project is on the concepts of matter and field.

With respect to the early modern period, current so-called "field metaphysical" interpretations of Spinoza's Ethics are critically assessed and connections are investigated with physical attempts towards a unified field theory at the beginning of the twentieth century. Besides, starting from Leibniz's physics (dynamics), and from several works by Weyl in which he follows Leibniz, the role and development of the modern concept of holography in quantum gravity is discussed.

As far as classical German philosophy is concerned, several comparative studies are undertaken regarding the concepts of time, matter, and causality in Kant, Fichte, and Schelling. These studies do not only treat the relations to present physics but also the reception by twentieth century philosophers and philosopher-scientists such as Peirce, Whitehead, Cassirer, Weyl, and von Weizsäcker.

An underlying aim of the project is to work towards some historical dialectics; dialectics which do not aim for an ultimate and timeless foundations of science and which, instead, are geared to Friedman's concept of a historically relativised apriori. Accordingly, what is investigated are concrete continuities and changes as they occur in the history of science. With respect to the concept of matter such a dialectics can be found in the back and forth between attempts to reduce matter to geometry or spacetime and attempts to understand matter as an agent which causes effects in spacetime.


  • N. Sieroka (2020): Unities of Knowledge and Being – Weyl’s Late “Existentialism” and Heideggerian Phenomenology. In: Phenomenological Approaches to Physics (Synthese Library Series), ed. by H.A. Wiltsche and P. Berghofer. Springer- Verlag, Dordrecht, S. 107-122.
  • N. Sieroka (2019): Neighbourhoods and Intersubjectivity: Analogies between Weyl's Analyses of the Continuum and Transcendental-Phenomenological Theories of Subjectivity. In: Weyl and the Problem of Space: From Science to Philosophy (Studies in History and Philosophy of Science), ed. by J. Bernard and C. Lobo. Springer-Verlag, Dordrecht 2019, S. 99-122.
  • N. Sieroka (2018): Theoretical Construction in Physics. Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics Physics 61, pp. 6-17.
  • N. Sieroka (2017): Schellingsches Natur- und Materieverständnis im und um das 20. Jahrhundert. In: Fichte und Schelling: Der Idealismus in der Diskussion, Bd.III (Acta des Brüsseler Kongresses 2009 der Internationalen J.G. Fichte-Gesellschaft), ed. by T. Grohmann, L. Held and J.-C. Lemaitre. EuroPhilosophie Éditions. Online available
  • N. Sieroka (2016): Retrospective Analogies: Means for Understanding Leibniz's Metaphysics. In: "Für unser Glück oder das Glück der Anderen" (Vorträge des X. Internationalen Leibniz-Kongresses), ed. by W. Li. Olms, Hildesheim 2016, Band IV, S. 285-299.
  • N. Sieroka (2015): Transzendentale Naturlehre im Zeitalter von Relativitätstheorie und Quantenmechanik: Neuinterpretationen von Raum, Zeit und Kausalität durch Cassirer, Medicus und Weyl. In: "Natur" in der Transzendentalphilosophie, ed. by H. Girndt. Duncker & Humblot, Berlin, pp. 431-446.
  • N. Sieroka (2015): Some Remarks on the Historical Origin and Current Prospects of Holography. In: Proceedings of the Thirteenth Marcel Grossmann Meeting on General Relativity, ed. by R.T. Jantzen, K. Rosquist und R. Ruffini. World Scientific, Singapur, pp. 2242-2244.
  • N. Sieroka, E.W. Mielke (2014): Holography as a Principle in Quantum Gravity? – Some Historical and Systematic Observations. Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 46, pp. 170-178.
  • N. Sieroka (2013): A Post-Kantian Approach to the Constitution of Matter. In: Objectivity after Kant: Its Meaning, Its Limitations, Its Fateful Omissions, ed. by G. Van de Vijer and B. Demarest. Olms, Hildesheim, pp. 41-55.
  • N. Sieroka (2010): Geometrization Versus Transcendent Matter: A Systematic Historiography of Theories of Matter. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 61 (4), pp. 769-802.
  • N. Sieroka (2010): Umgebungen – Symbolischer Konstruktivismus im Anschluss an Hermann Weyl und Fritz Medicus. Chronos-Verlag, Zürich 2010. Rezensionen in: Studies in History and Philosophy of Science (44(1), 2013, P. Pesic), HOPOS (3(1), 2013, T. Ryckman)
  • N. Sieroka (2010): Spinozistische Feldmetaphysik und physikalisches Materieverständnis. Allgemeine Zeitschrift für Philosophie 35 (2), pp. 105-122.
  • N. Sieroka (2009): Tobias Cheung, Res Vivens – Agentenmodelle organischer Ordnung 1600-1800 (Book Review). History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 31 (3-4), pp. 477-478.
: Prof. Dr. Dr. Norman Sieroka
Prof. Dr. Dr.

Norman Sieroka

Institution Philosophy (Phil BA)

Building/room: SFG 4190
Phone: +49 (0)421 218 67830
E-Mail: sierokaprotect me ?!uni-bremenprotect me ?!.de


Universität Bremen
Institut für Philosophie, FB 9
Postfach 330 440
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28359 Bremen