Naomi Zack begins this extraordinary book with the premise that if one is to understand Western conceptions of racialized and gendered identity, one needs to go back to a period when such categories were not salient and examine how notions of identity in the seventeenth century were fundamentally different from subsequent constructions. The seventeenth century is the last time, for example, that Europeans had any contact with non-Europeans without racializing them. From the eighteenth century onward, race becomes a central category for Europeans in their transactions with a different world, and gender undergoes radical transformation.
Zack takes the reader through a lucid tour of the lives, times, and writings of such key "bachelors of Science" as Bacon, Descartes, Newton, and Gassendi. The book situates these empiricist philosophers and their canonical reputations within the larger framework of the de facto "masculinization of science" and "scientizing of masculinity" in the seventeenth century, arguing for a more nuanced understanding of these key thinkers of the period.
Other fascinating issues examined in this book include pre-racial conceptions of slavery, witchcraft trials and their connection to homosociality, and the highly sexualized nature of women's identity in the seventeenth century. Zack points out the link between elite bachelorhood, the profession of philosophy, and scientific pursuit as recreational activity. This book is a must for understanding the historical and philosophical precedents of modern scientific identity, race, and gender.
Does science have all the answers? Can it even deal with abstract reasoning which reaches beyond the world experienced by us? How can we be so sure that the physical world is sufficiently ordered to be intelligible to humans? How is it that mathematics, a product of human minds, can unlock the secrets of the physical universe? Are all such questions to be ruled out as inadmissible if science cannot settle them?
Metaphysics has traditionally been understood as reasoning
beyond the reach of science, sometimes even claiming realities that are beyond its grasp. Because of this, metaphysics has often been contemptuously dismissed by scientists and philosophers who wish to remain within the bounds of what can be scientifically proven. Yet scientists at the frontiers of physics unwittingly engage in metaphysics, as they are now happy to contemplate whole universes that are, in principle, beyond human reach.
Roger Trigg challenges those who deny that science needs philosophical assumptions. In fact, Trigg claims that the foundations of science themselves have to lie beyond science. It takes reasoning apart from what can be experienced to discover what is not yet known, and this metaphysical reasoning to imagine realities beyond what can be accessed.
“In Beyond Matter, Roger Trigg advances a powerful, persuasive, fair-minded argument that the sciences require a philosophical, metaphysical foundation. This is a brilliant book for new-comers to philosophy of science and experts alike.” —Charles Taliaferro, professor of philosophy, St. Olaf College
(1) Science, (2) philosophy, and (3) poetry, myth, and mysticism are three modes of consciousness that are radically different today. We are usually very good at carefully distinguishing them so as not to corrupt them, reduce them, or to confuse them with each other. But almost no one tries to connect them in a synthesis in which each maintains its own identity yet each contributes to a greater whole that no one of them could attain alone – like a happy marriage. If we bring them together at all, it is only to focus in three different ways on a specific issue (like health care, or children’s literature, or gender roles). If Einstein Had Been a Surfer dares to do it for Everything, or rather for a “Theory of Everything” that only scientists today dare to talk about. But how can a “theory of the whole” be discovered by a brain that is less than a whole brain?
In this book all three dimensions of consciousness not only speak about a “theory of everything” but speak to each other in dialog. The three voices are incarnated in three characters from an upcoming novel, An Ocean Full of Angels: Evan Jellema is a theoretical physicist (and a clumsy Dutchman), ’Isa Ben Adam is a philosophical Muslim (and cantankerously clear), and Libby Rawls is a poet, mystic, and surfer (and a sassy, classy Black feminist).
Isn’t “surfer” a bit of a stretch? Not at all. Actually, the papers reported last year that an amateur scientist has in fact finally discovered, or claimed to have discovered, the “theory of everything” that Einstein failed to find and that scientists have been searching for ever since – and he is a surfer! Perhaps this is no accident, but a natural connection: the mind of the “soul surfer,” having become one with the sea, has awakened its “third eye” which alone gives the scientist the binocular vision, the synoptic perspective, that he lacks. And perhaps only a philosopher can mediate the two other modes of vision, as Aquinas mediated and synthesized the science of Albert the Great and Aristotle with the poetry and symbolism of mystics like Augustine.
This lively trialog, full of irony, intellectual surprise, and humor, is a serious call for a post-medieval synthesis. It does not claim to have arrived anywhere near the end of a journey to a “Theory of Everything,” only to have begun it. Even that modest ambition will certainly be criticized a priori as impossibly ambitious. Does that tell you anything about the book, or does it tell you something about the critic?
What, if anything, does biological evolution tell us about the nature of religion, ethical values, or even the meaning and purpose of life? The Moral Meaning of Nature sheds new light on these enduring questions by examining the significance of an earlier—and unjustly neglected—discussion of Darwin in late nineteenth-century Germany.
We start with Friedrich Nietzsche, whose writings staged one of the first confrontations with the Christian tradition using the resources of Darwinian thought. The lebensphilosophie, or “life-philosophy,” that arose from his engagement with evolutionary ideas drew responses from other influential thinkers, including Franz Overbeck, Georg Simmel, and Heinrich Rickert. These critics all offered cogent challenges to Nietzsche’s appropriation of the newly transforming biological sciences, his negotiation between science and religion, and his interpretation of the implications of Darwinian thought. They also each proposed alternative ways of making sense of Nietzsche’s unique question concerning the meaning of biological evolution “for life.” At the heart of the discussion were debates about the relation of facts and values, the place of divine purpose in the understanding of nonhuman and human agency, the concept of life, and the question of whether the sciences could offer resources to satisfy the human urge to discover sources of value in biological processes. The Moral Meaning of Nature focuses on the historical background of these questions, exposing the complex ways in which they recur in contemporary philosophical debate.
How should we weigh the costs and benefits of scientific research on humans? Is it right that a small group of people should suffer in order that a larger number can live better, healthier lives? Or is an individual truly sovereign, unable to be plotted as part of such a calculation?
These are questions that have bedeviled scientists, doctors, and ethicists for decades, and in Pain, Pleasure, and the Greater Good, Cathy Gere presents the gripping story of how we have addressed them over time. Today, we are horrified at the idea that a medical experiment could be performed on someone without consent. But, as Gere shows, that represents a relatively recent shift: for more than two centuries, from the birth of utilitarianism in the eighteenth century, the doctrine of the greater good held sway. If a researcher believed his work would benefit humanity, then inflicting pain, or even death, on unwitting or captive subjects was considered ethically acceptable. It was only in the wake of World War II, and the revelations of Nazi medical atrocities, that public and medical opinion began to change, culminating in the National Research Act of 1974, which mandated informed consent. Showing that utilitarianism is based in the idea that humans are motivated only by pain and pleasure, Gere cautions that that greater good thinking is on the upswing again today and that the lesson of history is in imminent danger of being lost.
Rooted in the experiences of real people, and with major consequences for how we think about ourselves and our rights, Pain, Pleasure, and the Greater Good is a dazzling, ambitious history.
In the first book-length study of American philosophy at the turn of the century, Daniel J. Wilson traces the formation of philosophy as an academic discipline. Wilson shows how the rise of the natural and physical sciences at the end of the nineteenth century precipitated a "crisis of confidence" among philosophers as to the role of their discipline. Deftly tracing the ways in which philosophers sought to incorporate scientific values and methods into their outlook and to redefine philosophy itself, Wilson moves between close analysis of philosophical texts and consideration of professional careers of illustrative philosophers, such as Charles Sanders Peirce, John Dewey, and Josiah Royce.
The author situates the emergence of professional philosophy in the context of the professionalization of American higher education and articulates, in the case of philosophy, the structures and values of a professional discipline. One of the most important consequences of this transformation was a new emphasis on communal theories of truth. Peirce, Dewey, and Royce all developed sophisticated and important theories of community as they were engaged in reshaping and redefining the limits of philosophy. This book will be of great importance for those interested in the history of philosophy, the rise of professions, and American intellectual and educational history, and to all those seeking to understand the contemporary revival of pragmatic thought and theories of community.
In The Tenets of Cognitive Existentialism, Dimitri Ginev draws on developments in hermeneutic phenomenology and other programs in hermeneutic philosophy to inform an interpretative approach to scientific practices. At stake is the question of whether it is possible to integrate forms of reflection upon the ontological difference in the cognitive structure of scientific research. A positive answer would have implied a proof that (pace Heidegger) “science is able to think.” This book is an extended version of such a proof. Against those who claim that modern science is doomed to be exclusively committed to the nexus of objectivism and instrumental rationality, the interpretative theory of scientific practices reveals science’s potentiality of hermeneutic self-reflection. Scientific research that takes into consideration the ontological difference has resources to enter into a dialogue with Nature.
Ginev offers a critique of postmodern tendencies in the philosophy of science, and sets out arguments for a feminist hermeneutics of scientific research.
At Columbia University in 1906, William James gave a highly confrontational speech to the American Philosophical Association (APA). He ignored the technical philosophical questions the audience had gathered to discuss and instead addressed the topic of human energy. Tramping on the rules of academic decorum, James invoked the work of amateurs, read testimonials on the benefits of yoga and alcohol, and concluded by urging his listeners to take up this psychological and physiological problem.
What was the goal of this unusual speech? Rather than an oddity, Francesca Bordogna asserts that the APA address was emblematic—it was just one of many gestures that James employed as he plowed through the barriers between academic, popular, and pseudoscience, as well as the newly emergent borders between the study of philosophy, psychology, and the “science of man.” Bordogna reveals that James’s trespassing of boundaries was an essential element of a broader intellectual and social project. By crisscrossing divides, she argues, James imagined a new social configuration of knowledge, a better society, and a new vision of the human self. As the academy moves toward an increasingly interdisciplinary future, William James at the Boundaries reintroduces readers to a seminal influence on the way knowledge is pursued.
In this beautifully conceived book, Ayesha Ramachandran reconstructs the imaginative struggles of early modern artists, philosophers, and writers to make sense of something that we take for granted: the world, imagined as a whole. Once a new, exciting, and frightening concept, “the world” was transformed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. But how could one envision something that no one had ever seen in its totality?
The Worldmakers moves beyond histories of globalization to explore how “the world” itself—variously understood as an object of inquiry, a comprehensive category, and a system of order—was self-consciously shaped by human agents. Gathering an international cast of characters, from Dutch cartographers and French philosophers to Portuguese and English poets, Ramachandran describes a history of firsts: the first world atlas, the first global epic, the first modern attempt to develop a systematic natural philosophy—all part of an effort by early modern thinkers to capture “the world” on the page.