William Stewart is a PhD candidate in the Department of German and Princeton's Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program in the Humanities.
With an undergraduate background in Western great books, he came to Princeton in 2015 after working for a number of years in the Berlin studio of Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson.
His dissertation tracks the development of a productive synergy between mathematics and humanism in German-speaking contexts after the Second World War. Investigating a variety of forms that this synergy takes, it argues that the canonical critique of rationalism advanced by representatives of the Frankfurt School and encapsulated famously in Dialektik der Aufklärung was not the only position occupied by intellectuals on the anti-fascist Left. In many instances, a “mathematical consciousness”, much in the lineage of Leibniz’s characteristica universalis, informs this worldview by sharpening and complicating the very notions of rationality, irrationality, quantifiability, and the infinite. The result—revealed in chapters that analyze Max Bense, Oswald Wiener, the Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm, and Hanne Darboven—is an often unexpected mathematical undergirding to projects devoted to questions of the human.
For the 2018-2019 academic year, he was a Fulbright scholar in Germany, affiliated with the IKKM (Internationales Kolleg für Kulturtechnikforschung und Medienphilosophie) at the Bauhaus-Universität in Weimar.