Zone Books (2003)

What do biologists mean when they say that to live is to react? Why was the termabreaction invented and later abandoned by the first generation of psychoanalysts? What is meant byreactionary politics? These are but a few of the questions the internationally renowned scholar JeanStarobinski answers in his conceptual history of the word pair, action and reaction.Not simply ahistory of ideas, Action and Reaction is also a semantic and philological history, a literaryhistory, a history of medicine, and a history of the biological sciences. By concentrating on themoment when scientific language and ordinary language diverge, Starobinski uncovers a genealogy ofthe human and natural sciences through their usage of action and reaction as metaphors. Newton's law-- to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction -- becomes a point of departure for anexploration of the lexical and metaphorical traces left in its wake. Starobinski analyzes thescientific, literary, and political effects of the use of the terms action and reaction to describeand explain the material universe, the living body, historical events, and psychological behavior.In what he calls a "polyphonic score" -- a kind of mosaic -- he uses his subject to offer newinsights into the work of philosophers (Aristotle, Leibniz, Kant, Nietzsche, Jaspers), scientists(Newton, Bichat, Bernard, Bernheim, Freud), and writers (Diderot, Constant, Balzac, Poe, Valry).Ultimately, the book explores the power and danger of metaphorical language and questions theconvergence and collapse of scientific and moral explanations of the universe.
Keywords Act (Philosophy  Reaction (Philosophy
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Call number B105.A35.S7313 2003
ISBN(s) 189095120X
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