Mathematics, Science, and Postclassical Theory

Duke University Press
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Mathematics, Science, and Postclassical Theory is a unique collection of essays dealing with the intersections between science and mathematics and the radical reconceptions of knowledge, language, proof, truth, and reality currently emerging from poststructuralist literary theory, constructivist history and sociology of science, and related work in contemporary philosophy. Featuring a distinguished group of international contributors, this volume engages themes and issues central to current theoretical debates in virtually all disciplines: agency, causality, determinacy, representation, and the social dynamics of knowledge.
In a substantive introductory essay, the editors explain the notion of "postclassical theory" and discuss the significance of ideas such as emergence and undecidability in current work in and on science and mathematics. Other essays include a witty examination of the relations among mathematical thinking, writing, and the technologies of virtual reality; an essay that reconstructs the conceptual practices that led to a crucial mathematical discovery—or construction—in the 19th century; a discussion of the implications of Bohr’s complementarity principle for classical ideas of reality; an examination of scientific laboratories as "hybrid" communities of humans and nonhumans; an analysis of metaphors of control, purpose, and necessity in contemporary biology; an exploration of truth and lies, and the play of words and numbers in Shakespeare, Frege, Wittgenstein, and Beckett; and a final chapter on recent engagements, or nonengagements, between rationalist/realist philosophy of science and contemporary science studies.


Contributors. Malcolm Ashmore, Michel Callon, Owen Flanagan, John Law, Susan Oyama, Andrew Pickering, Arkady Plotnitsky, Brian Rotman, Barbara Herrnstein Smith, John Vignaux Smyth, E. Roy Weintraub

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About the author

Barbara Herrnstein Smith is Professor of Comparative Literature and English and Director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Science and Cultural Theory at Duke University. Arkady Plotnitsky is Visiting Scholar at Duke University’s Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Science and Cultural Theory.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Duke University Press
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Published on
Mar 4, 1997
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Pages
288
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ISBN
9780822382720
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
Literary Criticism / Semiotics & Theory
Mathematics / General
Science / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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This ambitious book by one of the most original and provocative thinkers in science studies offers a sophisticated new understanding of the nature of scientific, mathematical, and engineering practice and the production of scientific knowledge.

Andrew Pickering offers a new approach to the unpredictable nature of change in science, taking into account the extraordinary number of factors—social, technological, conceptual, and natural—that interact to affect the creation of scientific knowledge. In his view, machines, instruments, facts, theories, conceptual and mathematical structures, disciplined practices, and human beings are in constantly shifting relationships with one another—"mangled" together in unforeseeable ways that are shaped by the contingencies of culture, time, and place.

Situating material as well as human agency in their larger cultural context, Pickering uses case studies to show how this picture of the open, changeable nature of science advances a richer understanding of scientific work both past and present. Pickering examines in detail the building of the bubble chamber in particle physics, the search for the quark, the construction of the quarternion system in mathematics, and the introduction of computer-controlled machine tools in industry. He uses these examples to address the most basic elements of scientific practice—the development of experimental apparatus, the production of facts, the development of theory, and the interrelation of machines and social organization.
In this important and original book, eminent scholar Barbara Herenstein Smith describes, assesses, and reflects upon a set of contemporary intellectual projects involving science, religion, and human cognition. One, which Smith calls "the New Naturalism", is the effort to explain religion on the basis of cognitive science. Another, which she calls "the New Natural Theology", is the attempt to reconcile natural-scientific accounts of the world with traditional religious belief. These two projects, she suggests, are in many ways mirror images -- or "natural reflections"--Of each other. Examing these and related efforts from the perspective of a constructivist-pragmatist epistemology, Smith argues that crucial aspects of belief - religious and other - that remain elusive or invisible under dominant rationalist and computational models are illuminated by views of human cognition that stress its dynamic, embodied, and interactive features. She also demonstrates how constructivist understandings of the formation and stabilization of knowledge - scientific and other - alert us to simularities in the springs of science and religion that are elsewhere seen largely in terms of difference and contrast. In Natural Reflections, Smith develops a sophisticated approach to issues often framed only polemically. Recognizing science and religion as complex, distinct domains of human practice, she also insists on their significant historical connections and cognitive continuities and offers important new modes of engagement with each of them--Jacket.
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