Historicizing nature

The rise of geohistory did not, argues Martin JS Rudwick in his (literally) massive Bursting the Limits of Time: The Reconstruction of Geohistory in the Age of Revolution , produce a conflict of “Science” and “Religion.” That paradigm for understanding eighteenth-century . . . . Continue Reading »

Prophetic theory

Polanyi points out ( Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy , 5) that the Copernican system had implications that Copernicus himself never knew, but adds that Copernicus and everyone who committed himself to Copernican theory expected “an indefinite range of possible future . . . . Continue Reading »

Varieties of Objectivity

Copernicus is said to have taught human beings to see how little they are in the great heliocentric universe. He woke us from our anthropocentric Ptolemaic dreams. He taught us to look at the world objectively. Not so, writes Michael Polanyi in the opening pages of his classic Personal Knowledge: . . . . Continue Reading »

Attention Deficit

Focus , says author Daniel Goleman, is “utter receptivity to whatever floats into the mind.” And it’s the state of mind that facilitates our most creative thoughts., As Nicholas Carr explains in his NYTBR review, focus goes beyond “‘orienting,' in which we . . . . Continue Reading »

Making Us Smarter

Computers can beat people at chess, but the most powerful intelligence doesn’t come from “thinking machines” on their own, but from a symbiotic interaction between computers and people. In Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better , Clive Thompson . . . . Continue Reading »

Species as relation

In his The Species Problem, Biological Species, Ontology, and the Metaphysics of Biology , David Stamos explores various theories of species, and concludes that none of the existing theories suffice. In their place, he proposes, drawing on but modifying the work of Bertrand Russell, a relational . . . . Continue Reading »


Jeremy MyNott begins his TLS review of Birds & People with this wonderful overview of ornith-anthropology: “Birds are everywhere. They span the globe from the most inhospitable regions of the Arctic and Antarctic, across oceans and seas, through desert, mountain and plain, forest and . . . . Continue Reading »

Transmitting Newton

We speak blithely of modernity and the Enlightenment, as if the mere writing of a treatise suddenly changes the way people think. Margaret C. Jacob has spent a good part of her career retracing the conduits by which atomistic and mechanistic conceptions of the universe became part of the common . . . . Continue Reading »

Newton and the Trinity

In his contribution to John Paul II on Science and Religion: Reflections on the New View from Rome , T.F. Torrance claims that Maxwell’s investigations into field phenomena arose from theology, specifically from a Trinitarian dissatisfaction with Newton’s universe: “Clerk . . . . Continue Reading »

Government and innovation

Americans think of ourselves as entrepreneurs, innovators, and self-starters. That description fits plenty of American businessmen, but in the world we inhabit many technological advances that fuel mega-sized companies started in government programs. John Judis makes this point concisely in a . . . . Continue Reading »