Working Group Fictionality and Science

The working group Fictionality and Science was established in the winter semester 2020/21 and meets several times throughout the semester.

Fictionality as forms and contents of representation that do not correspond to the facts of the (assumed) reality is an integral part of not only the arts, but also the sciences and their popularization. In the case of the “exact” natural sciences, in particular, fictions are integral to the production of knowledge. They form an essential part of scientific explanations: in many cases, knowledge is only generated through fictions, and sometimes knowledge is fiction in that it only ever exists in these (mathematical) fictions, for example in the form of theoretical concepts, contrafactual idealizations, and models.

Well-known examples are the “ideal gas,” the “ground point” the concept of the organism, or that of the infinitely large population. Even though (or rather because) these concepts have no direct equivalent in reality, they allow us to understand and explain singular cases by identifying causal regularities and process patterns. Analogously to this, contrafactual scenarios are used in the historical sciences to separate structural from contingent factors in the course of history and identify its essential determinants. In the arts, fictionality is not bound to such pragmatic functions. However, they do exist, for example in the field of literary (and cinematic) “science fiction” as a space of imagination that allows us to reflect unquestioned premises and conceive new paths and worlds.

The working group tackles the following questions: where exactly are the parallels and differences between such artistic and scientific fictionalities? How and where do they enter into an exchange with one another? What can one side gain by relating to the other and vice versa?        

seit 2020
Head researcher(s): Eva Axer, Matthias Schwartz, Georg Toepfer