At the heart of Touching a Nerve is the question of what happens when we accept that everything we feel, think and experience stems not from an immaterial soul but from electrical and chemical activity in our brains. Patricia Churchland, one of the pioneers of neurophilosophy, explains what the latest brain research into consciousness, sensory experience, memory and free will can tell us about the enduring philosophical and ethical questions about what the self is, how our personalities are created and what determines our decisions and behaviour. As Churchland reveals, once we accept that our brains determine everything about who we are and how we experience the world, neuroscience offers new, critical insights into a fascinating range of ethical and philosophical dilemmas.
Human life is a staggeringly strange thing. On the surface of a ball of rock falling around a nuclear fireball in the blackness of a vacuum the laws of nature conspired to create a naked ape that can look up at the stars and wonder where it came from. What is a human being? Objectively, nothing of consequence. Particles of dust in an infinite arena, present for an instant in eternity. Clumps of atoms in a universe with more galaxies than people. And yet a human being is necessary for the question itself to exist, and the presence of a question in the universe - any question - is the most wonderful thing. Questions require minds, and minds bring meaning. What is meaning? I don't know, except that the universe and every pointless speck inside it means something to me. I am astonished by the existence of a single atom, and find my civilisation to be an outrageous imprint on reality. I don't understand it. Nobody does, but it makes me smile. This book asks questions about our origins, our destiny, and our place in the universe. We have no right to expect answers; we have no right to even ask. But ask and wonder we do. Human Universe is first and foremost a love letter to humanity; a celebration of our outrageous fortune in existing at all. I have chosen to write my letter in the language of science, because there is no better demonstration of our magnificent ascent from dust to paragon of animals than the exponentiation of knowledge generated by science. Two million years ago we were apemen. Now we are spacemen. That has happened, as far as we know, nowhere else. That is worth celebrating.
Ludwig Wittgenstein is arguably the most important philosopher of the twentieth century. In On Certainty he discusses central issues in epistemology, including the nature of knowledge and scepticism. The Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Wittgenstein and On Certainty introduces and assesses: * Wittgenstein's career and the background to his later philosophy * the central ideas and text of On Certainty, including its responses to G.E. Moore and discussion of fundamental issues in the theory of knowledge * Wittgenstein's continuing importance in contemporary philosophy. This GuideBook is essential reading for all students of Wittgenstein, and for those studying epistemology and philosophy of language. On Certainty, Wittgenstein's final work, addresses a category of world-picture propositions discovered by G.E. Moore. These challenge Wittgenstein's enduring commitment to a well-defined category of empirical propositions, and help to generate a critique of scepticism. Developing Wittgenstein's view that scepticism is self-undermining, the Guidebook offers a combative yet therapeutic interpretation that locates On Certainty between the standpoints of Kant and Hume.
In On Marx, Alan Ryan examines Marx's writing, not within the framework of Lenin or Tolstoy but within its own time, tracing its Hegelian roots and providing a sterling explication and critique of his theories of alienation, class struggle and revolution. This volume provides the clearest, most accessible introduction to Marx's theories in recent years. On Marx features a chronology, biography and excerpts from Marx's major works.
In On Tocqueville, Alan Ryan brilliantly illuminates the observations of the French philosopher who first journeyed to the United States in 1831 and went on to catalogue the unique features of the American social contract. Tocqueville's prescient analyses of American life remain as relevant today as when they were first written. On Tocqueville features a chronology, biography and excerpts from Tocqueville's major works.
What is knowledge? How does it differ from mere belief? Do you need to be able to justify a claim in order to count as knowing it? How can we know that the outer world is real and not a dream? Questions like these are ancient ones, and the branch of philosophy dedicated to answering them - epistemology - has been active for thousands of years. In this thought-provoking Very Short Introduction, Jennifer Nagel considers these classic questions alongside new puzzles arising from recent discoveries about humanity, language, and the mind. Nagel explains the formation of major historical theories of knowledge, and shows how contemporary philosophers have developed new ways of understanding knowledge, using ideas from logic, linguistics, and psychology. Covering topics ranging from relativism and the problem of scepticism to the trustworthiness of internet sources, Nagel examines how progress has been made in understanding knowledge, using everyday examples to explain the key issues and debates ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.
Here, in a grand narrative spanning 1,800 years of European history, a distinguished political philosopher firmly rejects Western liberalism s usual account of itself: its emergence in opposition to religion in the early modern era. Larry Siedentop argues instead that liberal thought is, in its underlying assumptions, the offspring of the Church.
What does it mean to be a conservative in an age so sceptical of conservatism? How can we live in the presence of our 'canonized forefathers' at a time when their cultural, religious and political bequest is so routinely rejected? With soft left-liberalism as the dominant force in Western politics, what can conservatives now contribute to public debate that will not be dismissed as pure nostalgia? In this highly personal and witty book, renowned philosopher Roger Scruton explains how to live as a conservative in spite of the pressures to exist otherwise. Drawing on his own experience as a counter-cultural presence in public life, Scruton argues that while humanity might survive in the absence of the conservative outlook, it certainly won't flourish. How to be a Conservative is not only a blueprint for modern conservatism. It is a heartfelt appeal on behalf of old fashioned decencies and values, which are the bedrock of our weakened, but still enduring civilization.
For evolutionary biologists, the concept of chance has always played a significant role in the formation of evolutionary theory. As far back as Greek antiquity, chance and luck were understood to be key factors in the evolution of the natural world. Emphasizing chance is an entire way of thinking about nature, and it is also one of the key ideas that separates Charles Darwin from other systematic biologists of his time. Studying the concept of chance in Darwin's writing reveals core ideas in his theory of evolution, as well as his reflections on design, purpose, and randomness in nature's progression over the course of history. In Darwin's Dice: The Idea of Chance in the Thought of Charles Darwin, Curtis Johnson does exactly that. He examines the work of Darwin in terms of his views on randomness and chance, and how the views changed as his work progressed. Randomness was a focal point for Darwin, and pursuing it as a theme helped significantly transform his research. Darwin's Dice shows us how Darwin defined chance, and explores Darwin's influential architect metaphor in relation to the idea. Through the lens of randomness, Johnson reveals how Darwin's treatment of free will becomes more complex. This approach can shed light on many other quirks and points of interest in Darwin's work, including the curiously shifting presence of giraffes in subsequent drafts of On the Origin of Species. Johnson also reexamines Darwin's Metaphysical Notebooks, and discusses the role Darwin felt that chance plays in morality and religion. Darwin's Dice presents a new way to look at Darwinist thought and the writings on Charles Darwin. Curtis Johnson reveals that chance and randomness play a large part in Darwinist thought, and that we can better understand Darwin's work by understanding that part.
This is Arthur Koestler's extraordinary history of humanity's changing vision of the universe. In this masterly synthesis, Arthur Koestler cuts through the sterile distinction between 'sciences' and 'humanities' to bring to life the whole history of cosmology from the Babylonians to Newton. He shows how the tragic split between science and religion arose and how, in particular, the modern world-view replaced the medieval world-view in the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century. He also provides vivid and judicious pen-portraits of a string of great scientists and makes clear the role that political bias and unconscious prejudice played in their creativity.