Dehlia Hannah is a philosopher and curator, and currently Mads Øvlisen Postdoctoral Fellow in Art and Natural Sciences in the Department of Chemistry and Biosciences at Aalborg University-Copenhagen. She received her PhD in philosophy and certificate in feminist inquiry from Columbia University in 2013, with specializations in philosophy of science and aesthetics. Her recent book A Year Without a Winter (2018) reframes contemporary imaginaries of climate change by revisiting the environmental conditions under which Frankenstein was written and the global aftermath of the 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora. As a curator, her exhibitions and artistic collaborations explore how emerging science and technology inform the aesthetic contestation of ideas of nature.

Past exhibitions include ‘Placing the Golden Spike: Landscapes of the Anthropocene’, ‘Control: Experiment, and Dressing in a World of Endless Rainfall’. She is editor of Julius von Bismarck — Talking to Thunder (2019) and Julian Charrière—Toward No Earthly Pole (2020), and co-editor of the forthcoming Routledge Handbook of Art and Science and Technology Studies (2021). Her current research and curatorial project An Imaginary Museum of Philosophical Monsters, issuing in a monograph and a web-based exhibition, foregrounds the role of images in philosophical reasoning.

An Imaginary Museum of Philosophical Monsters: Argument in Image
Affiliated Project 2020-21

Philosophers have long sought to instill precision in their arguments by appealing to fictitious scenarios in which problems are shorn of ambiguities, allowing pure abstractions to shine forth against the confounding details of reality. In the service of clarity, philosophers offer up an array of imaginary places, creatures, and devices—the cave (Plato), an island shrouded in fog (Kant), Twin Earth (Putnam), Northwest Passages between the humanities and the sciences (Serres); numerous birds and an aviary; angels and demons; bats, cats, hedgehogs, and a brain-in-vat; an invisible hand, a grue emerald, and a ring that renders its wearer invisible. Pervading ancient and modern, continental and analytic philosophy, these examples take on lives of their own in the ‘philosophical imaginary’ (cf. Michelle Le Doeff, Margueite La Caze), straying beyond their own conceptual labyrinths, breeding chimeras and mixed metaphors.

These ‘philosophical monsters’ lurk at the edges of reason, as suggested by Francisco Goya’s 1799 etching, The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters (Los Capricios, 43). An image-world as strange as any cabinet of curiosities collects the history of philosophy’s imperfectly repressed unconscious and its oneiric flights. Yet reason also produces monsters when waking. An Imaginary Museum of Philosophical Monsters considers the dialectic between reduction and expansion attending the metonymic power of images in philosophical demonstration—and the spectre of reductio ad absurdum that haunts such enterprise.