28-10-2021  Thursday

23 August to 30 December, 2021

Philosophy of Education

Every Monday (11:00-13:00), Thursday (11:00-13:00)

Venue: Online Meeting/Video Conferencing

Coordinator: Dean's Office

Core Course


Ayush Gupta and Tathagata Sengupta

Course Day and Time:

Monday and Thursday (11 AM to 1 PM)

Starting from August 23, 2021


Thursday Seminar on "Stories of Forces of Nature — How Narrative Does Scientific Work"

Date: 28 October, 2021
Time: 15:30 - 16:30

Venue: Online Meeting/Video Conferencing

Coordinator: Dr. Mashood K. K.


Hans Fuchs, Center for Narrative in Science, Winterthur, Switzerland, and Free University of Bolzano, Italy

Zoom link:


Meeting ID:

940 5808 5713




Narrative and storytelling have become buzzwords in modern life: everything, in politics, economics,art, and the reporting of mundane events, seems to be about telling a good story. It might therefore not come as a surprise that narrative has developed into a theme in science and science education as well. We find a good number of uses of narrative and storytelling in science in general and in physical science in particular: (1) Science itself may be understood as the grand narrative of human culture and meaning of knowledge; (2) we can tell narratives about science for creating context for motivating learners; (3) there is narrative supporting science learning; (4) and finally, there is “narrative as science,” where narrative creates explanations, allows for the creation and use of models, and suggests concepts.

After briefly reviewing some of these uses, and outlining theoretical background material in physics, figurative language, and narratology, I wish to work on (4) and sketch how narrative can be instrumental in doing scientific work and what that might mean for philosophy of science and learning physics. The argument sets up two parallel lines—one in (macroscopic) physical science, the other in cognitive science and narratology whose interaction leads me to the following conclusions relevant for the present purpose: (1) macroscopic physics is a science of forces of nature, which are understood imaginatively as agents whose “adventures” can be told in stories; and (2) a (formal, mathematical) model of a dynamical system is like a story-world (mental model) arising in the mind of the hearer of a story, and a simulation of such a model is like telling a story against the backdrop of its story-world. This tells us that hearing stories or narrative descriptions of forces of nature in (spatially, temporally, and systemically large-scale and, therefore, interesting) natural and technical scenes will be suggestive of model structures. In other words, this will facilitate creation of models and understanding of the ideas, concepts, and relations contained in them. In turn, simulations can be understood and rendered narratively.

For the philosophy of science, the foregoing will be self-explanatory: the picture of the epistemic and ontological nature of physics and its concepts, relations, and “laws” arising from a narrative approach to continuum physics and uniform dynamical systems is different from what we usually hear in logical positivism and the deductive-nomological model of explanation. As far as learning physics is concerned, I would conclude that physics should not be taught simply as a well-structured formal body of fixed and immutable knowledge. Rather, learning-environments should be constructed where students work on real-life investigations which include experimenting, data-acquisition and data-handling, narrative descriptions of phenomena, model-construction, and simulations including model-validation. What we usually call “theory” will then be the end-result—the collected “wisdom”—of such activity and learning.

Bio Sketch:

Hans Fuchs studied physics at ETH Zurich (MS in theoretical physics and geophysics) and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY (MS in computational astrophysics), before working in industry. Starting in 1983, he joined Zurich University of Applied Sciences at Winterthur (ZHAW) as a lecturer of physics and then as professor of physics and systems design (since 1986). After retirement in 2017, he joined the faculty at the Free University of Bozen as a lecturer in Primary Physics Education.

His recent work encompasses physics education research, cognitive linguistics, and theory of narrative in science—much of it applied to the education of young learners. His former work, apart from teaching engineering students, concerned the foundations of thermodynamics as a theory of dynamical systems and thermal design with applications in solar energy engineering, modeling of natural and technical dynamical systems, and science education and development of learning environments. He is the author of The Dynamics of Heat, A Unified Approach to Thermodynamics and Heat Transfer (Graduate Texts in Physics, 2nd ed., Springer, New York), Modeling of Uniform Dynamical Systems (Orell Füssli, Zürich, 2002) and coauthor of Physik – ein systemdynamischer Zugang (3. Auflage, h.e.p. verlag, Bern, 2010).