Lost and found: Jean Piaget’s unpublished books on causality, c. 1971

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk

Jeremy Burman - Speaker

Dr Jeremy Burman (University of Groningen) will give a lecture titled "Lost and found: Jean Piaget’s unpublished books on causality, c. 1971."

Over one hundred unpublished manuscripts, by Jean Piaget (1896-1980), have been found. They were in the recently-donated collection of papers that had been kept by the Piaget family at their home in Geneva. Selections of these were then reassembled into two complete, new, and unknown books using a kind of archaeological method. This was enabled by the Archive team’s decision to preserve—as much as possible—the horizontal and vertical organization of Piaget’s workspace. And it’s this that will ultimately be the focus of the talk: using the reconstruction process to present a tight and coherent narrative about an historical project that is otherwise still ongoing.

Of course, this is not the first time that someone has attempted to reconstruct these books. The project to which they belong wasn’t unknown. Indeed, it was mentioned in print several times. (Thomas Kuhn, the well-known American historian and philosopher of science, was an early contributor.) We also found boxes of half-reconstructed manuscripts and drafts in the uncatalogued archival collection from Piaget’s International Centre for Genetic Epistemology (along with partial symposium notes, discussion transcripts, and many of the original datasheets describing experiments with over a thousand children). But it’s now clear that large chunks of the project were missing: only 61 chapters were found before the boxes themselves were put into storage and forgotten. As a result, unlike all of the other books by Piaget that were completed and published posthumously, these new books remained incomplete and abandoned. Until now.

Jeremy Trevelyan Burman, PhD, is Assistant Professor of Theory and History of Psychology at the University of Groningen. Prior to joining the tenure-track in 2016, he worked for two years at the “Archives Jean Piaget” in the University of Geneva. His doctorate is from the History and Theory of Psychology graduate programme at York University in Toronto, Canada. He also has a separate terminal MA in Interdisciplinary Studies (from YorkU), and a honours BSc from the University of Toronto.

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