Gaston Bachelard (1884–1962) occupies a unique position in the history of European thinking. As a philosopher of science, he developed a profound interest in genres of the imagination, notably poetry and novels. While emphatically acknowledging the strength, precision and reliability of scientific knowledge compared to every-day experience, he saw literary phantasies as important supplementary sources of insight. Although he significantly influenced authors such as Lacan, Althusser, Foucault and others, while some of his key concepts (“epistemological rupture,” “epistemological obstacle,” “technoscience”) are still widely used, his oeuvre tends to be overlooked. And yet, as I will argue, Bachelard’s extended series of books opens up an intriguing perspective on contemporary science. First, I will point to a remarkable duality that runs through Bachelard’s oeuvre. His philosophy of science consists of two sub-oeuvres: a psychoanalysis of technoscience, complemented by a poetics of elementary imagination. I will point out how these two branches deal with complementary themes: technoscientific artefacts and literary fictions, two realms of human experience separated by an epistemological rupture. Whereas Bachelard’s work initially entails a panegyric in praise of scientific practice, he becomes increasingly intrigued by the imaginary and its basic images (“archetypes”), such as the Mother Earth archetype.

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Human Studies
Erasmus School of Philosophy

Zwart, H. (2019). Iconoclasm and Imagination: Gaston Bachelard’s philosophy of technoscience. Human Studies. doi:10.1007/s10746-019-09529-z