Is life different from the non-living? If so, how? And how, in that case, does biology as the study of living things differ from other sciences? These questions are traced through an exploration of episodes in the history of biology and philosophy. The book begins with Aristotle, then moves on to Descartes, comparing his position with that of Harvey. In the eighteenth century the authors consider Buffon and Kant. In the nineteenth century the authors examine the Cuvier-Geoffroy debate, pre-Darwinian geology (...) and natural theology, Darwin and the transition from Darwin to the revival of Mendelism. Two chapters deal with the evolutionary synthesis and such questions as the species problem, the reducibility or otherwise of biology to physics and chemistry, and the problem of biological explanation in terms of function and teleology. The final chapters reflect on the implications of the philosophy of biology for philosophy of science in general. (shrink)
No student or colleague of Marjorie Grene will miss her incisive presence in these papers on the study and nature of living nature, and we believe the new reader will quickly join the stimulating discussion and critique which Professor Grene steadily provokes. For years she has worked with equally sure knowledge in the classical domain of philosophy and in modern epistemological inquiry, equally philosopher of science and metaphysician. Moreover, she has the deeply sensible notion that she should be a critically (...) intelligent learner as much as an imaginatively original thinker, and as a result she has brought insightful expository readings of other philosophers and scientists to her own work. We were most fortunate that Marjorie Grene was willing to spend a full semester of a recent leave here in Boston, and we have on other occasions sought her participation in our colloquia and elsewhere. Now we have the pleasure of including among the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science this generous selection from Grene's philosophical inquiries into the understanding of the natural world, and of the men and women in it. Boston University Center for the R. S. COHEN Philosophy and History of Science M. W. W ARTOFSKY April 1974 PREFACE This collection spans - spottily - years from 1946 ('On Some Distinctions between Men and Brutes') to 1974 ('On the Nature of Natural Necessity'). (shrink)
A key introduction to Aristotle, emphasizing the importance of his biological thinking to the study of his thought. Written for students and the general reader with little prior knowledge of Aristotle, this edition features a new preface by Professor Grene.
This is another volume in the Modern Studies in Philosophy, a series of anthologies under the general editorship of Prof. Amelie Oksenberg Rorty, which present contemporary interpretations and evaluations of the works of major philosophers. This volume, consisting of a collection of papers by an impressive gallery of scholars, offers a plurality of perspectives on Spinoza. Each interpretation conflicts with some other; yet each illuminates some aspect of the subject. All the papers reflect the "tensions" and "conflicts" which make for (...) very exciting and rewarding reading. Still the substantive puzzles remain and will continue to excite and fascinate successive generations of Spinoza's critics. (shrink)
OUR UNDERSTANDING OF OURSELVES and our place in nature constitutes, if not the central, at least a central problem of metaphysics. Yet, faced with this question, modern philosophical thought has for the most part swung helplessly between an empty idealism and an absurd reductivism. It is time we overcame our narrow factionalism and learned not only to think more independently ourselves about persons, minds, and living nature, but to profit from the efforts of those who have already given us concepts (...) and arguments which could help us along this road. Among such writings, Helmuth Plessner's major work, Die Stufen des Organischen und der Mensch, seems to me outstanding, in that it provides both a firm rational basis for the biological sciences, in their many-levelled structure, and for the sciences of man. (shrink)
Because of the difficulty posed by the contrast between the search for truth and truth itself, Michael Polanyi believes that we must alter the foundation of epistemology to include as essential to the very nature of mind, the kind of groping that constitutes the recognition of a problem. This collection of essays, assembled by Marjorie Grene, exemplifies the development of Polanyi's theory of knowledge which was first presented in _Science, Faith, and Society_ and later systematized in _Personal Knowledge_. Polanyi believes (...) that the dilemma of the modern mind arises from the peculiar relation between the positivist claim for total objectivity in scientific knowledge and the unprecedented moral dynamism characterizing the social and political aspirations of the last century. The first part of _Knowing and Being_ deals with this theme. Part two develops Polanyi's idea that centralization is incompatible with the life of science as well as his views on the role of tradition and authority in science. The essays on tacit knowing in Part Three proceed directly from his preoccupation with the nature of scientific discovery and reveal a pervasive substructure of all intelligent behavior. Polanyi believes that all knowing involves movement from internal clues to external evidence. Therefore, to explain the process of knowing, we must develop a theory of the nature of living things in general, including an account of that aspect of living things we call "mind." Part Four elaborates upon this theme. (shrink)
The typescript of the following lecture is preserved in the archive of Adolf Portmann, University Library Basel, NL 345. The typescript has the heading “Lecture Three” and the subtitle “The Language of Nature Reread.” As the heading “Lecture Three” suggests, the lecture was part of a series; details about the location and dates of the series are not listed. From the text itself we are informed that the series was devoted to the topic of “man in nature” and the preceding (...) lectures were specifically related to the philosophical biology of Adolf Portmann and the opposition of his approach to the Galilean scientific ontology. “The Language of Nature Reread” continues the topic and focuses on the epistemology of Michael Polanyi, whose theory of tacit knowing is argued to provide a “philosophical accounting” for Portmann’s biological program. (shrink)
In writing, in the Origin of Species, of 'two great laws' on which organic beings are formed, 'Unity of Type' and 'Conditions of Existence', Darwin was referring to the famous opposition between Cuvier and Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, first stated publicly in the spring of 1830. After a brief statement of the chief points at issue in the debate, I raise the question of Darwin's attitude to the disagreement and the views of the two protagonists. There are numerous earlier, and some later, (...) references to Cuvier and Geoffroy in the Darwin archives, notebooks, marginalia and correspondence. An examination of these materials suggests a shift in Darwin's sympathies, from Geoffroy to Cuvier. However, some of Geoffroy's principles are retained, and, in adopting Cuvier's phrase 'conditions of existence', Darwin partly alters its meaning. Finally, since originally, and in its adoption by such writers as Whewell and Owen, the expression 'conditions of existence' was interpreted as entailing design or final cause, I consider the vexed question of Darwin's attitude to teleology. (shrink)
Before publishing his landmark _Meditations_ in 1641, Rene Descartes sent his manuscript to many leading thinkers to solicit their objections to his arguments. He included these objections, along with his own detailed replies, as part of the first edition. This unusual strategy gave Descartes a chance to address criticisms in advance and to demonstrate his willingness to consider diverse viewpoints—critical in an age when radical ideas could result in condemnation by church and state, or even death. _Descartes and his Contemporaries_ (...) recreates the tumultuous intellectual community of seventeenth-century Europe and provides a detailed, modern analysis of the _Meditations_ in its historical context. The book's chapters examine the arguments and positions of each of the objectors—Hobbes, Gassendi, Arnauld, Morin, Caterus, Bourdin, and others whose views were compiled by Mersenne. They illuminate Descartes' relationships to the scholastics and particularly the Jesuits, to Mersenne's circle with its debates about the natural sciences, to the Epicurean movements of his day, and to the Augustinian tradition. Providing a glimpse of the interactions among leading 17th-century intellectuals as they grappled with major philosophical issues, this book sheds light on how Descartes' thought developed and was articulated in opposition to the ideas of his contemporaries. (shrink)
Treats, in retrospect and prospect, dominant themes and main currents in twentieth century philosophy, such as the European sources of Anglo-American philosophy, Continental philosophy in America, and German and French Existentialism. Special attention is directed toward Heidegger, Jaspers, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, and their crucial ideas. Originally published in 1976 by the University of California Press. Co-published by arrangement with the Center for Advanced Research in Phenomenology.
THE HYPERBOLICAL DOUBT OF THE FIRST MEDITATION is often taken for the epitome of skepticism. Thus Myles Burnyeat, in his 1982 paper, “Idealism and Greek Philosophy: What Descartes Saw and Berkeley Missed,” argues that Descartes goes further than the ancient skeptics in doubting the existence of his own body—a given of everyday experience they never doubted. Nor was “the existence of the external world,” which was imperiled by the agency of the evil demon and has been recurrently questioned ever since, (...) a major subject for doubt in the skeptical tradition. Moreover, Burnyeat explains, Descartes was able to carry skepticism to this extreme because his doubt was merely methodological: it left his provisional rules of conduct intact while he was searching theoretically for a truth that would itself be in the first instance theoretical. Of course we should not forget that eventually, Descartes believed, the truth he was on the way to discovering would have excellent consequences for practice also, namely, in medicine, mechanics, and morality. Meantime, however, Burnyeat is certainly correct in maintaining that Cartesian doubt was indeed insulated against practice—as Hume’s doubt would eventually be also, confined as it was to his closet. So Descartes, and other modern skeptics after him, could be as skeptical as you like, as skeptical as any one can be. The ancient skeptics could not go that far, Burnyeat argues, because it was daily life they were concerned with, not some purely theoretical gambit. Like the philosophers of other Hellenistic schools—though differently, of course—they were seeking peace of mind, and they wanted to eliminate those unnecessary questions about hidden things—causes or “ultimate” realities—that served to obstruct the state of mind they called “tranquillity.” Merely methodologically, doubt can become much more radical, and it is that radicalization that, with the help of his demon, Descartes accomplishes. (shrink)
Why existentialism ? -- Søren Kierkegaard: The self against the system. -- Sartre and Heidegger: The free resolve. -- Sartre and Heidegger: The self and other selves. -- French existentialism and politics: The new revolutionary. -- Jaspers and Marcel: The new revelation. -- Postscript. -- Bibliographical note (p. 150).