John Stuart Mill's best-known work is On Liberty (1859). In it he declared that Western society was in danger of coming to a standstill. This was an extraordinarily pessimistic claim in view of Britain's global dominance at the time and one that has been insufficiently investigated in the secondary literature. The wanting model was that of China, a once advanced civilization that had apparently ossified. To understand how Mill came to this conclusion requires one to investigate his notion of (...) the stages from barbarism to civilization, and also his belief in imperialism as part of the civilizing process. Here India plays a central role, as both Mill and his father worked for the East India Company. This study, then, investigates the relationship between Mill's liberalism and his justification of imperialism. It takes us into the Utilitarianism of his family background, and such other influences as Romanticism, Scottish political economy and such key French thinkers as Saint-Simon, Guizot, Comte and Tocqueville. Mill, then, provides the focus of a debate on the origins, meaning, and consequences of Western civilization. It encompasses discourses on colonialism and orientalism, on Enlightenment optimism and conservative despair, on the need for leadership and the advance of democracy; in short, on the blessings, curses and dangers of modernization from approximately the time of the American and French revolutions to that of the so-called mid-Victorian calm in which On Liberty was written. Furthermore, current political issues concerning the West and Islamic countries have heightened interest in just the kind of question that this book discusses: that of how the West relates to, and assesses, the rest of the world. (shrink)
We face two great probems of learning: learning about the universe and about ourselves as a part of the universe, and learning how to create world civilization. We have solved the first problem, but not the second. We need to learn from our solution to the first problem how to solve the second. That involves getting clear about the nature of the progress-achieving methods of science, generalizing these methods so that they become fruitfully applicable to any problematic endeavour, and (...) then getting these generalized progress-acheving methods into all our other institutions besides science, and above all into the endeavour to make progress towards a good, civilized world. This article spells out what this programme involves. (shrink)
The New Leviathan, originally published in 1942, a few months before the author's death, is the book which R. G. Collingwood chose to write in preference to completing his life's work on the philosophy of history. It was a reaction to the Second World War and the threat which Nazism and Fascism constituted to civilization. The book draws upon many years of work in moral and political philosophy and attempts to establish the multiple and complex connections between the levels (...) of consciousness, society, civilization, and barbarism. Collingwood argues that traditional social contract theory has failed to account for the continuing existence of the non-social community and its relation to the social community in the body politic. He is also critical of the tendency within ethics to confound right and duty. The publication of additional manuscript material in this revised edition demonstrates in more detail how Collingwood was determined to show that right and duty occupy different levels of rational practical consciousness. The additional material also contains Collingwood's unequivocal rejection of relativism. (shrink)
This classic study by a distinguished scholar surveys the major philosophical trends and thinkers of a vital period in Western civilization. Based on Maurice DeWulf's celebrated Princeton University lectures, it offers an accessible view of medieval history, covering scholastic, ecclesiastic, classicist, and secular thought of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. From Anselm and Abelard to Thomas Aquinas and William of Occam, it chronicles the influence of the era's great philosophers on their contemporaries as well as on subsequent generations.
A people divided -- Impact of science -- The physical world and its life forms -- Human beginnings -- Our animal instincts -- An inward look -- Emergence of civilization -- Flaws in civilizations -- Brutal despair in ancient Rome -- Persistent cruelty -- The search for ethics in antiquity -- Ecclesiastical search for ethics in Christianity -- The Gospel's ethical impact -- Ethical impact in multi-invaded Britannia -- Ethical impact in seeking freedom -- Rather humanitarian Britain -- Rather (...) humanitarian United States -- The goal of the Gospel -- Concluding summation. (shrink)
In this ambitious exploration of humanity and civilizations throughout history, major historical events and processes in the history of mankind are looked at in order to understand the "currents" of history. Jaroslav Krejc analyzes the whole history of civilization and considers historical events such as feudalism and the development of science. By bringing both sociological and historical insights to this broad subject, and particular attention to different types of knowledge (such as religion and its impact state law labor and (...) ownership), the book offers insights into the future of civilization and shifting global power. (shrink)
Yin Haiguang’s investigation and pursuit of the idea of “Man” reflect not merely a limited historical or parochial academic interest, but indeed address an ultimate concern of humanity which transcends any spatio-temporal limitations. In criticizing “modern man” for its faceless and non-self-identical figure, Yin Haiguang brings the conditions, purposes and noble values of humanity to light. His work has extraordinary significance for the highest aims of humanity and civilization.
The purpose of this book -- Intentionality -- Collective intentionality and the assignment of function -- Language as biological and social -- The general theory of institutions and institutional facts: -- Language and social reality -- Free will, rationality, and institutional facts -- Power : deontic, background, political, and other -- Human rights -- Concluding remarks : the ontological foundations of the social sciences.
In this collection of interviews, Derrick Jensen discusses the destructive dominant culture with ten people who have devoted their lives to undermining it. Whether it is Carolyn Raffensperger and her radical approach to public health, or Thomas Berry on perceiving the sacred; be it Kathleen Dean Moore reminding us that our bodies are made of mountains, rivers, and sunlight; or Vine Deloria asserting that our dreams tell us more about the world than science ever can, the activists and philosophers interviewed (...) in How Shall I Live My Life? each bravely present a few of the endless forms that resistance can and must take. (shrink)
This book formulates a new approach to philosophy which, instead of simply rejecting postmodern thought, tries to assimilate some of its main features. Paul Crowther identifies conceptual links between value, knowledge, personal identity and civilization, understood as a process of cumulative advance.
At a time of transformation, a threshold of a new civilization based on fundamentally new principles, the wisdom of Kabbalah serves as a means to arrive at a new era of individual and collective consciousness. These will be discussed in relation to the way by which Kabbalah, as a method of internal change, can be disseminated, and the implications of its worldwide spreading. While work in Kabbalah is toward personal change, the significance of coming to know this wisdom is (...) paramount to a vitally new social direction, achievement of a corrected civilization, and peaceful life in congruence with nature's laws. (shrink)
Jacob Burckhardt's The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy is "read" as a nineteenth century conceptualization of modernity. Its method is one of induction from a dense mass of details drawn from the literature, historiography, and art of the Renaissance. In some respects, Burckhardt anticipates Weber and parallels Marx, but he also includes certain elements of modernity that are absent from the other theorists, such as the emergence of modernity from the interstices of the political order, the formation of (...) the totalitarian state, the cult of celebrity, and the tendency toward crime. He is particularly concerned with Renaissance society as a transitional form of society, and thus implicitly, with the nature of transitions. (shrink)
Wittgenstein's remarks on the nature of culture presuppose a view according to which there is an important difference between culture and civilization. This view aligns his thinking to that of the Romantic tradition in philosophy. It also leads him to perceive ?the disappearance of a culture? in our time. In many of his remarks on art and certain artists he expresses this view by attempting to clarify the different ways in which the spirit of man is manifested in modern (...) times (in arts, science, and industry) as opposed to how it is manifested in an age of culture. This article undertakes to describe and explain the remarks which lead him to this view. It then considers whether Wittgenstein was, in fact, correct in his evaluation regarding the disappearance of a culture. (shrink)
This essay presents central themes from my forthcoming book, The Awakening of the Global Mind. This book seeks to open a new frontier of Global Consciousness that has been long emerging in human evolution through the ages. When we step back from our more localized perspectives and expand into a more integral, holistic, and global space through the awakening of the global mind we are able to discern striking mega-trends in cultural evolution across diverse cultural and religious worldviews and perspectives (...) through time. One striking finding through this global lens is that the collective wisdom of humanity is quite clear that we make our living realities through the conduct of our consciousness: our technology of minding. And when we make ourselves and worlds through egocentric patterns of thinking we get polarized and fragmented worlds that are not sustainable. This essay joins a growing chorus of visionary thinkers and futurists which recognizes that in the 21st Century we face grave planetary crises and that our ego-based cultures are at a tipping point and not sustainable. The primary crisis on the planet now is a crisis of consciousness, and our global wisdom suggests that humanity is in a painful transformation toward a more healthful integral technology of mind that ushers in a new sustainable global civilization wherein the whole human family may flourish together on our sacred planet. (shrink)
One of the 20th century's most popular non-realistic genre is absurd. The root "absurd," connotes something that does not follow the roots of logic. Existence is fragmented, pointless. There is no truth so the search for truth is abandoned in Absurdist works. Language is reduced to a bantering game where words obfuscate rather elucidate the truth. Action moves outside of the realm of causality to chaos. Absurdists minimalize the sense of place. Characters are forced to move in an incomprehensible, void-like (...) realm. Danish philosopher Sїren Kierkegaard was the first to use the term "absurd" in its modern context. His application of the term related it to, what he considered, the incomprehensibility and unjustifiability of Christianity. Existentialist philosophers such as the Frenchman, Jean-Paul Sartre and the German, Martin Heidegger propagated use of the terms in their work. In the philosophical world of the novel, Albert Camus employed absurdism to portray the difference between man's intent and the resultant chaos he encounters. In modern civilization man is posited as the subject of knowledge in science and technology, animating the utopian projects of industrial civilization, and culminating in great urban conglomerates, as in the sealed universe of commodities which constitutes the omnipresent mall. Technique, defined as the ensemble of means, is the driving force of social development, moreimportant than the ends it is supposed to serve. Unfortunately, technique became an end in itself and the society is organized around it. Of course, we are all aware that we need a certain changes to subdue technique, but I think it is now too late to change the course of technique. However, technique is frequently pictured as the only hope for a better future and the only means of making the world more humane. And that is the sort of statement that French philosopher Jacques Ellul calls the technological bluff. Technology is a discourse on techniques: therefore, the bluff lies not in the failure of techniques as such but in presenting them in a falsely optimistic light. The author formulated in 1954 two laws of technical progress: first, it is irreversible: second, it advances by a geometric progression. Thus, a computer revolution changes nothing in the nature of technical progress, although products are new. This progress is hamperednot by internal mechanisms, but by maladaptation of the social body to it, since society is rooted in the past and constantly refers to it. On the other hand, technique is future oriented and discards as valueless everything that cannot be incorporated into the web of techniques. (shrink)
Chinese environmentalists have called for an ecological civilization. To promote this, ecology is defended as the core science embodying process metaphysics,and it is argued that as such ecology can serve as the foundation of such a civilization. Integrating hierarchy theory and Peircian semiotics into this science,it is shown how “community” and “communities of communities,” in which communities are defined by their organization to promote the common good of theircomponents, have to be recognized as central concepts not only of (...) ecology, but of life itself. This perspective is used to defend Lovelock’s “Gaia” hypothesis and the call of Prugh, Costanza, and Daly for strong democracy. An ethics and political philosophy is sketched based on “eco-poiesis” or “home-making,” which is equated with augmenting the life of communities, both human and non-human. (shrink)
This paper reconsiders Marcuse's Eros and Civilization from the perspective of Gayle Rubin's classic article “The Traffic in Women.” The primary goals of this comparison are to investigate the social and psychological mechanisms that perpetuate the archaic sex/gender system Rubin describes under current conditions of post-industrial capitalism; to open possible new avenues of analysis and liberatory praxis based on these authors' applications of Marxist insights to cultural interpretations of Freud's writings; and to make clearer the role sexual repression continues (...) to play in all forms of oppression, even in a public world seemingly saturated with sex. (shrink)
Societal collapse has been a perennial concern of humanity, at least since the early Greeks. Recent publication of Jared Diamond's Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed and Ervin Laszlo's The Chaos Window: The World at the Crossroads renew this concern. Despite the urgency in these and many similar calls to action, no consensus theory and practice of evolutionary civilization exists. This article calls for collaborative action by the evolutionary systems community and related disciplines to provide insight into (...) what has been dubbed "the most important question in the world today" (Smith, 2005, p. 436). (shrink)
This paper presents a framework for understanding that rather mysterious process by which life evolved into diverse biological species, then produced humankind, founded civilization, and is now creating high-tech societies that are entering space. A macrotechnological analysis reveals that evolution fundamentally consists of seven waves of technological innovation forming a "Life Cycle of Evolution," which is roughly comparable to the ordinary life cycles of all organisms. Finally, I note that this organic process of planetary development is drawn inexorably toward (...) heightened awareness, existential choices, and other transcendent concerns for the same reason all phases of progress have evolved-out of sheer necessity. (shrink)
Since the early nineties, the term ‘civilization’ has undergone remarkable transformations and has assumed political and ideological functions it has not been fit for as a linchpin of the more than two-centuries-old academic discourse on ‘civilizations’. These transformations materialized in the political-ideological formations known as the ‘clash of civilizations’ and the ‘dialogue among civilizations’ which comprise a ‘civilizational discourse’ in many respects alternative to the academic one. This essay intends, firstly, to uncover the structural and thematic differences between the (...) academic ‘civilizational discourse’ and its trendy alternative. Secondly, the essay aspires to demonstrate how complementary, at their methodological and ideological bases, the ‘clash of civilizations’ and the ‘dialogue among civilizations’ are, despite their highly-publicized antagonism. Thirdly, the article aims to highlight the actual political processes underway in our world which manifest themselves through and make use of the alternative ‘civilizational discourse’ as part of their modus operandi. The essay ties these processes with the global triumph of capitalism at the closure of the 20th century, and with the rise of the projects of authoritarian hegemony. (shrink)
This article analyzes philosophical discussions on the problem of barbarity as the reverse side of civilization in general, and of the modern civilization in particular (as exemplified by the works of K. Offe, L. Klausen, K.-Z. Reberg, M. Miller, H.-G. Soeffner, S.N. Eisenstadt and Z. Bauman. Joining in these discussions, the author makes a critical appraisal of these works and presents (in brief) her own conception of civilization which she has been elaborating for the last 25 years. (...) Particular attention is drawn to the studies of barbarity implanted in the development of the modern civilization and revealed in the various forms of present-day barbarism (ecological, political, militaristic violence, utter dereliction in daily life, etc.), especially evident in ‘outbursts’ of violence, suppressing and violating legal rules and moral principles (fascism, totalitarianism, international aggression). (shrink)
Nylan, Michael, and Thomas Wilson, Lives of Confucius: Civilization’s Greatest Sage Through the Ages Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-4 DOI 10.1007/s11712-012-9273-2 Authors Jim Peterman, Department of Philosophy, Sewanee: The University of the South, 735 University Avenue, Sewanee, TN 37375, USA Journal Dao Online ISSN 1569-7274 Print ISSN 1540-3009.
Knowledge and Civilization advances detailed criticism of philosophy's usual approach to knowledge and describes a redirection, away from textbook problems of epistemology, toward an ecological philosophy of technology and civilization. Rejecting theories that confine knowledge to language or discourse, Allen situates knowledge in the greater field of artifacts, technical performance, and human evolution. His wide ranging considerations draw on ideas from evolutionary biology, archaeology, anthropology, and the history of cities, art, and technology.
In this paper, I try to explore Bennabi’s contribution to social theory, his views and the approach he developed in dealing with issues concerning human society and civilization. I also try to show his efforts to build a huge theory that would apply to every human society, and to encircle all of civilization. Because Bennabi was raised in circumstances that appeared to confirm the military, scientific, economic and political superiority of the west. He tried to analyse and define (...) the causes ofmuslim failure. As a response to western colonialism. Bennabi supported the idea of providing the Muslims with means of self-defense and self-justification, instead of merely transforming the immediate social conditions of the people. Besides, Bennabi was excited by the historical experience of Japan, which had been brought from the medieval to the modern age in only fifty years. Despite Muslims and Japanese similar had attempted to learn from Western civilization, the Japanese alone had refused to borrow the destructive ideas of the west and remained faithful to their culture and history. (shrink)
The paper states that the world as a self-ruling system needs creation of its new concept based on philosophy of harmony. Harmonic foundation-building of the world system, safeguarding the turning strategy of the world from non-balanced into balanced development, formation of world order on the basis of convergent idea on world unity of nationstates, the leading way of integral globalization contrary to unipolar globalization are the principal conditions of the world’s progress. The necessity on creation of harmony in the world (...) occupies an important place in the practice of international social, political, economic and civilizationalrelations. Global civilization, which appears as a result of historical development of humanity, the evolution of philosophical idea of world unity, interaction of globalizational and civilizational processes and other specific development conditions, defines itself as a new stage of our planet. Through forming the organics of national cultures and local civilizations global civilization begins to create its own complex of common-universal behaviors and values. The historical and international importance of the globalization era is that it opens its very successful perspectives having rational basis of world development towards global civilization not in a spontaneous, but in a naturally determined movement. Global civilization comprising humanity’s potential harmonically is and will continue to be the principal project of world-building. (shrink)
Modern civilization, which is proud of its material richness and high intellectual level, is in crisis, so that the new value “sustainability” becomes the basic philosophical principle. Introducing what we Korean philosophers think on philosophy today, I want to suggest to the Asian and the world philosophers that we should reflect together and declare solidarity upon the problems of both Asia and the world.
According to Popper, democracy, and the one of the western type at that, is the best form of the state system which makes open society possible. At the same time, democratic traditions and institutions have been historically developing not only in the West but also in the East. A number of crucial principles of Buddhistcivilization forming throughout the millennium appear to be quite corresponding to the model of open society. The principles of universal humanism and compassion as the staple of (...) the world; the principle of universal responsibility for forming social institutes and organizations aimed to solve problems common to all people; the principle of tolerance and common ethical direction of all world religions can be attributed to such principles. The humanistic ideal of Buddhism is an individual satisfied with life in society and living in harmony with nature. Buddhism encourages self-restriction and social solidarity, justice and equality, pure thoughts and deeds. Buddhist civilization lies “in between” since in most cases it acts a close-to-perfect mediator among other cultures and civilizations, various ethnic groups and peoples. (shrink)
The main philosophical question of the contemporaneity consists in that how far mankind is capable to change "direction of development" and to provide itself a Sustainable Future. Today it is obvious that any planetary actions driven by values of modern technocratic (material) civilization assume great risk and can lead tothe global ecological catastrophe. Consequently, the search for new values of civilization development has a truly decisive importance for man and mankind. In our opinion, Sustainable Development and Environmental Ethics (...) are the main components of a new value paradigm of civilization’s transformation. To emphasize fundamental novelty of the above-named value basics of a future civilization and its alternative character with respect to the modern technocraticculture, we introduce the concept of "ecological civilization". We imagine the ecological civilization as the ideal form of integrity preservation of the Whole-Life-System with a view to provide sustainable future for mankind. This is spiritually oriented and highly moral society because the ecological imperative, as a matter of fact, coincides with the ideal of spirituality. We connect prospects of ecological (spiritual) civilization with forming of planetary value consciousness on principles of Environmental Ethics. (shrink)
Proceeding from dinamism's strategy, Russia's civilization tasks of strategy of new monistic (ontology) traditions are revealed. These tasks represent connected with each other problems: the Problem of Education having the ontology load from the Way's nature (Fatherland-East); the Problem of the Federalism having theontology load of the System (Motherland-West).
This paper presents a challenge to Eurocentric world history on the grounds that it reifies and exaggerates the role of the West in the creation of modernity, while simultaneously ignoring India's seminal contributions. The groundwork is prepared in the first three sections, which refute the parochial biases of Eurocentrism by revealing India's impressive early developmental record and its place near the center of a nascent global economy. The paper culminates in an approach that places the "dialogue of civilizations" center-stage of (...) progressive world history, which is formulated as an antidote to parochial Eurocentric world history. This entails an extensive discussion of two key contributions that India made in enabling the rise of the modern West. These comprise the dissemination of Indian industrial methods that enabled the British industrial revolution on the one hand, and the transmission of Indian mathematical ideas that helped promote the European scientific revolution on the other hand. Moreover, this discussion is coupled with two speculative counterfactual historical scenarios. They are: first, that in the absence of British imperialism which sought to "contain" Indian development, India might have gone on to make the breakthrough to modernity, and second, that in the absence of Indian (as well as Chinese, African and Middle Eastern) help, the West might not have made the breakthrough to modernity. But whatever the veracity of such counterfactuals may or may not be, the ultimate upshot of the argument presented in this paper reveals that Eurocentrism's central claim - that the West made the breakthrough to modernity all by itself - can no longer hold true. (shrink)
Two great problems of learning confront humanity: learning about the nature of the universe and our place in it, and learning how to become civilized. The first problem was solved, in essence, in the 17th century, with the creation of modern science. But the second problem has not yet been solved. Solving the first problem without also solving the second puts us in a situation of great danger. All our current global problems have arisen as a result. What we need (...) to do, in response to this unprecedented crisis, is learn from our solution to the first problem how to solve the second. This was the basic idea of the 18th century Enlightenment. Unfortunately, in carrying out this programme, the Enlightenment made three blunders, and it is this defective version of the Enlightenment programme that we have institutionalized in 20th century academic inquiry. In order to solve the second great problem of learning we need to correct the three blunders of the traditional Enlightenment. This involves changing the nature of social inquiry, so that social science becomes social methodology or social philosophy, concerned to help us build into social life the progress-achieving methods of aim-oriented rationality, arrived at by generalizing the progress-achieving methods of science. It also involves, more generally, bringing about a revolution in the nature of academic inquiry as a whole, so that it takes up its proper task of helping humanity learn how to become wiser by increasingly cooperatively rational means. The scientific task of improving knowledge and understanding of nature becomes a part of the broader task of improving global wisdom. (shrink)
All past civilizations came to an end for various reasons. We should not assume we are different. Besides the possibility of internal decline, there are threats such as the possibility of nuclear war or a sizable asteroid hitting the earth. While community knowledge of social insects is in their genes, ours is in print computers, etc. Loss of access to this knowledge would be catastrophic for future generations. What might be available would be of little help. In the Dark Ages, (...) monasteries were the guardians of knowledge. We have no equivalent. What is needed is a durable, easily accessible survival manual; it would help restore science as a part our culture and be passed down as an inheritance to future generations. (shrink)
Hume uses the adjectives “civilized” and “barbarous” in a variety of ways, and in a variety of contexts. He employs them to describe individuals, societies, historical eras, and forms of government. These various uses are closely related. Hume thinks that cultural and political development are intimately connected, and are mutually dependent. Civilized government goes together with civilized society. This intimate connection, however, is not an identification. A civilized government is not simply that which produces, or results from, a civilized society. (...) When discussing forms of government, Hume uses the terms “barbarous” and “civilized” consistently to describe governments that possess certain specific characteristics. To understand Hume’s distinction between these two kinds of government, it is useful to abstract away from his discussion of more general issues of cultural development, and to lay temporarily aside the causal question of what social and economic conditions are necessary to produce a civilized government. I explain Hume’s concepts of barbarous and civilized government in terms of the institutional characteristics possessed by each. (shrink)
Modern scientific, academic inquiry suffers from a serious, wholesale fundamental defect. Though very successful at improving specialized scientific knowledge and technological know-how, it is an intellectual and human disaster when it comes to helping us realize what is of value in life - in particlar, when it comes to helping us create a more enlightened, civilized world.
Starting from a reflection on the present stage of technological civilisation, a critical reading of Jonas's ethics of responsibility from a Husserlian point of view is presented. It is argued that Jonas's ethics fails to meet the challenge of the collective character of technological action, that his view of human history is problematic and that the metaphysical foundation of his ethics is uncritical and naive.
The West has long had an ambivalent attitude toward the philosophical traditions of the East. Voltaire claimed that the East is the civilization "to which the West owes everything", yet C.S. Peirce was contemptuous of the "monstrous mysticism of the East". And despite the current trend toward globalizations, there is still a reluctance to take seriously the intellectual inheritance of South and East Asia. Oriental Enlightenment challenges this Eurocentric prejudice. J. J. Clarke examines the role played by the ideas (...) of Confucianism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism in the intellectual life of the West and how these ideas, far more than exotic distractions, or even instruments of colonial domination, have been the means towards serious self-questioning and self-renewal, used to dispute and even to undermine Western orthodoxies. (shrink)
The United States has a population of three hundred million, according to latest Census Bureau estimates. Forty-seven million, including many non-citizens, are uninsured. That is, 16% of the total United States population has no health insurance. Millions more have inadequate coverage and are in danger of losing that. Private, corporatized medical coverage, structured by the insurance industry, is the basis for the current system. This article is an attempt to lay out the principal health care issues, to look at the (...) alternatives and the cost of those alternatives, and to try to determine whether there is a particular regime that, despite its imperfections, is the best available to us now. (shrink)
The study of culture and cultural selection from a biological perspective has been hampered by the lack of any firm theoretical basis for how the information for cultural traits is stored and transmitted. In addition, the study of any living system with a decentralized or multi-level information structure has been somewhat restricted due to the focus in genetics on the gene and the particular hereditary structure of multicellular organisms. Here a different perspective is used, one which regards living systems as (...) self-constructing energy users that utilize their genome as a library of information, making the genetic system just another component that adds fitness to the overall integrated unit. In this framework, basic fitness is measured as the ability to gather energy for growth and reproduction, and the fitness of the genetic system is broken down into two aspects: first, the effectiveness in searching for new somatic functional information, and second, the effectiveness in searching for better structures to store and process information. With this more generalized perspective, major evolutionary transitions to higher levels of organization become competitions between different information structures; furthermore the functioning and fitness of cultural systems can be more easily described and compared with other modes of information storage within biological systems. Modern technological societies are self-constructing systems that rely on written (symbolic) information storage and very complex algorithms that effectively search for variation with a high probability of successful selection. These systems are currently competing with traditional organic systems, and this competition constitutes the latest major evolutionary transition. Upon comparison of the energy-gathering potential of symbolic-based systems with DNA-based life, it appears that symbolic systems have a tremendous fitness potential and the current shift to a higher level of selection may be as significant and far-reaching as any of the previous major evolutionary transitions. (shrink)
This essay reviews two recent books commenting on, and contributing to, the “science wars.” In Who Rules in Science? James Robert Brown respectfully but firmly rejects the “nihilist” and the “naturalist” wings of social constructivism. He rejects attempts to debunk science in the name of a relativist or anarchist epistemology. He also criticizes the “strong programme” in the sociology of knowledge and its implied contrast between reasons and causes. In Prometheus Bedeviled Norman Levitt examines the cultural roots of current discontent (...) with science. Levitt's analysis—and polemic—charges contemporary culture with a pervasive cheapening of intellectual standards. (shrink)