Understanding Nature: Case Studies in Comparative Epistemology (The International Library of Environmental, Agricultural and Food Ethics)
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Science is not the only route to understanding nature. This volume presents a series of case studies in comparative epistemology, critically comparing the works of prominent representatives of the life sciences, such as Aristotle, Darwin, and Mendel, with the writings of literary masters, such as Andersen, Melville, Verne, and Ibsen. It constitutes a major contribution to the growing field of science and literature studies.
meta-“object”) began to give way to epistemology (directed towards understanding the “subject” rather than the “object” of inquiry), not as a temporary critical detour, but as a more or less definitive “division of labour” between philosophy and science. After a series of dramatic epistemological crises, philosophers consciously began to abandon the ambition to produce a “master discourse” on nature. This is still clearly noticeable in the philosophical discourse of our own time. At present,
images associated with fire are purity, excitement, but also sexuality. This explains why early accounts of electricity abound with erotic associations and images. The strongest image associated with fire, however, is the image of the explosion. And this, the risk of explosion, is what lay people find both fascinating and frightening about chemistry, the science that uses fire in order to force the other elements to reveal their secrets. These elementary images not only dominate (albeit in
the timescale of nature, that the idea of evolution becomes feasible. Finally, there is a third stage in Darwin’s work, completely different from the previous one, again: notably in terms of scale. The large world of his Beagle adventure gives way, once again, to a micro-cosmos, a house and garden: his Down estate, where he came to spend decades of research on species like barnacles and earthworms, while taking part in practices such as keeping pigeons and cultivating flowers that were popular in
apparently were granted an intimacy with the grander forces of 70 3 What is an Animal? A Comparative Epistemology of Animals being and nature, one that transcended the restricted boundaries of the human realm. By observing them and accompanying them on holidays, they allowed themselves to go beyond the restricted horizons of human experience and to cast a glance into possibilities of being and experience with which these animals seemed to be intimately acquainted. Although in a way these
did. The virtual absence of systematic in vivo research in the latter’s work proved a fatal epistemological flaw. Important aspects of animal life can 106 5 What is a Dog? Animal Experiments and Animal Novels only be observed in living animals. Anatomy (the analysis of structure) had to be complemented by physiology, or “vivisection”, the practice of dissecting living bodies. Yet, Harvey’s success did not silence the debate. For some time to come, sceptics would continue to argue, for