Seventh FIRST Lecture: "Natural / Social" by Sundar Sarukkai, Conference Hall-II, NIAS, 1530 hrs


Indian Institute of Science Campus, Bengaluru 560 012


Forum for Interdisciplinary Research and Studies (FIRST)

Invites you to the Seventh FIRST Lecture on


 Natural / Social



Sundar Sarukkai

Professor, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bengaluru, India

Friday, April 28, 2017, Conference Hall-II, NIAS, 3:30 PM (Tea/Coffee – 3.00 PM)


Abstract: The domains of the natural sciences and the social sciences are often seen to be very different. This difference has been transformed into hierarchies of the methodologies and epistemologies of these disciplines, in which the natural sciences are placed at the top. However, are these differences meaningful or even significant? A major difference between these disciplines lies in the object of study – ‘nature/natural’ for the natural sciences and ‘society/social’ for the social sciences. Here is the first problem: there seems to be no easy and obvious way of defining the natural or the social. Is there anything natural about natural? In this talk, I will illustrate how the disciplines of the natural sciences do not have a common idea of nature/natural.  Interestingly, a similar process occurs in defining the notion of the social. Although the social sciences are made up of disciplines like sociology, political science and economics, the meaning of the social in each of these disciplines is different. Importantly, it seems as if the notion of the social needs an idea of the natural, just as much as the idea of the natural seems to be intrinsically social. Will this deep relation between the concepts of the natural and the social have implications for bridging the divide between the natural and the social sciences?


Castree N and Braun B (Eds). 2001. Social Nature. Blackwell, Malden, MA, USA.

Daston L. 2002. The moral and natural orders. Tanner Lectures at Harvard University, 6.

Latour B. 2000. When things strike back: A possible contribution of ‘science studies’ to the social sciences. British Journal of Sociology 51: 107–123.

Sarukkai S. 2016. The sociality of science. Current Science 111: 1731–1732.

About the Speaker: Sundar Sarukkai is professor of philosophy at the National Institute of Advanced Studies in Bengaluru. He is the author of the following books: Translating the World: Science and Language, Philosophy of Symmetry, Indian Philosophy and Philosophy of Science, What is Science? and The Cracked Mirror: An Indian Debate on Experience and Theory (co-authored with Gopal Guru). He is currently completing a book with Gopal Guru on the idea of the social.

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This is to remind you that NIAS has decided to establish an inter-institution Forum for Interdisciplinary Research and Studies (FIRST), with two principal aims:

1. Invite eminent scholars from various institutes and universities in and around Bengaluru to discuss recent work (their own or of others) in various disciplines that have adopted interdisciplinary approaches. We propose that these meetings be held once a month, on the afternoon of the last Friday of each month, at NIAS

2. Build up a virtual library or an electronic archive of interdisciplinary research manuscripts and publications, where it would be possible to upload relevant papers as well as download them, of course, only for academic purposes. We envisage that this archive be housed on the NIAS website

Thank you very much for your attention and warm regards,

Sisir Roy and Anindya Sinha

Friday, April 28, 2017