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Science and Poetry (Routledge Classics) Paperback – 1 Feb 2006

4.3 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 334 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (1 Feb. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415378486
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415378482
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 558,486 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

‘A fiercely combative philosopher … our foremost scourge of scientific pretension.’ – The Guardian

About the Author

Mary Midgley is a moral philosopher and author of many books, including The Ethical Primate, Wisdom, Information and Wonder, Science as Salvation and Utopias, Dolphins and Computers. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


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Format: Paperback
Review of Midgley, M. Science and Poetry 2001. London: Routledge
Jill Shepherd
The Graduate School of Business
University of Strathclyde
Scotland, UK
Having just read and enjoyed Darwinizing Culture: The Status of Memetics as a Science. 2001.Edited by Robert Aunger. Oxford: Oxford University Press, I found Science and Poetry to be an equally useful and broader addition to the debate over the connection between the natural sciences and sociology. The aim of the book is to see how the ideas of science and poetry might be brought together to elucidate the problem of 'personal identity' - 'who and what we are' (Introduction p: 1).
Midgely covers three areas of interest in her book. First, in the section 'Visions of rationality' she adds morality, emotion, imagination, visioning and bounded rationality to the traditional view of wholly rational scientists and of science as the source of the ultimate explanation of life. Second, in the section 'Mind and Body: The End of Apartheid,' she discusses the problem of consciousness and the need to become more conscious of consciousness. Here she criticises science for reducing humanity to social atomism, thus making the concept of society questionable. Third, in her last section, 'In what kind of world,' she re-introduces the role of morality and civil rights, arguing that we have a duty to help other citizens. To make her point she uses the concept of Gaia, which she states, unlike most excursions of science into the social world, has a moral and religious element, a multi-level non-atomistic view of the world, and an emphasis on the need to act collectively to stop global warming. In building her argument, Midgely makes the point that to differentiate so strongly between science and non-science is unhelpful.
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Format: Paperback
Science and Poetry by Mary Midgley, Routledge Classics, 2006, 328 ff.

Two aspects of the one culture
By Howard A. Jones

The very title of this book suggests some attempt at unification of C.P. Snow's Two Cultures. Indeed, the whole essence of moral philosopher Mary Midgley's argument is a defence of holism, largely through a via negativa - presenting a critique of the attitudes and statements with which she disagrees. Thus, she is critical of Margaret Thatcher's infamous statement that there is no such thing as a society, of Cartesian dualism, which very largely still holds sway today within much of science, and of Richard Dawkins' statement that `Science is the only way we know to understand the real world' - concepts from the three disparate areas of sociology, philosophy and science for which Midgley is keen to provide connecting threads.

The idea that materialism or physicalism represents the essence of the world may provide a practical basis for scientists to investigate the workings of nature, but there are many other strands that make up human experience and thereby contribute to our interaction with one another and with the world. It is degrading to the nobility of the human mind to suggest that consciousness is a mere chance and incidental outcome of the collaboration of `selfish genes': `a world without subjects is even less conceivable than a world without objects.' But I don't get the sense of criticism of the whole theory evolution from this book that reviewer Jill Shepherd obviously does; however, I endorse her and Midgley's view that we need to be less anthropocentric and individualistic. I don't think Midgley is anti-science, only anti-scientism, like Bryan Appleyard (see my review).
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I found this book excellent. Mary Midgley challenges the notion that science is the royal road to understanding. She traces this view right back to ancient Greece and shows how it has come to prevail since the Enlightenment. Instead she recommends Gaia thinking (though not in the New Age sense), recommending seeing ourselves as part of nature and the planet as a living organism. Such a view is, of course, not original but it needs arguing for, and few have done this as cogently as Mary Midgley.
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To my mind Mary Midgley is one of those people everyone should read at some point. The sooner the better in most cases. She blows the lid on the sloppy thinking that people employ.
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