Against Nature: The Concept of Nature in Critical Theory

SUNY Press
Free sample

Against Nature examines the history of the concept of nature in the tradition of Critical Theory, with chapters on Lukacs, Horkheimer and Adorno, Marcuse, and Habermas. It argues that the tradition has been marked by significant difficulties with respect to that concept; that these problems are relevant to contemporary environmental philosophy as well; and that a solution to them requires taking seriously--and literally--the idea of nature as socially constructed.
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About the author

Steven Vogel is Professor of Philosophy at Denison University.

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Additional Information

Publisher
SUNY Press
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Pages
225
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ISBN
9781438422992
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
Political 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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A provocative argument that environmental thinking would be better off if it dropped the concept of “nature” altogether and spoke instead of the built environment.

Environmentalism, in theory and practice, is concerned with protecting nature. But if we have now reached “the end of nature,” as Bill McKibben and other environmental thinkers have declared, what is there left to protect? In Thinking like a Mall, Steven Vogel argues that environmental thinking would be better off if it dropped the concept of “nature” altogether and spoke instead of the “environment”—that is, the world that actually surrounds us, which is always a built world, the only one that we inhabit. We need to think not so much like a mountain (as Aldo Leopold urged) as like a mall. Shopping malls, too, are part of the environment and deserve as much serious consideration from environmental thinkers as do mountains.

Vogel argues provocatively that environmental philosophy, in its ethics, should no longer draw a distinction between the natural and the artificial and, in its politics, should abandon the idea that something beyond human practices (such as “nature”) can serve as a standard determining what those practices ought to be. The appeal to nature distinct from the built environment, he contends, may be not merely unhelpful to environmental thinking but in itself harmful to that thinking. The question for environmental philosophy is not “how can we save nature?” but rather “what environment should we inhabit, and what practices should we engage in to help build it?”

The classic textbook on comparative biomechanics—revised and expanded

Why do you switch from walking to running at a specific speed? Why do tall trees rarely blow over in high winds? And why does a spore ejected into air at seventy miles per hour travel only a fraction of an inch? Comparative Biomechanics is the first and only textbook that takes a comprehensive look at the mechanical aspects of life—covering animals and plants, structure and movement, and solids and fluids. An ideal entry point into the ways living creatures interact with their immediate physical world, this revised and updated edition examines how the forms and activities of animals and plants reflect the materials available to nature, considers rules for fluid flow and structural design, and explores how organisms contend with environmental forces.

Drawing on physics and mechanical engineering, Steven Vogel looks at how animals swim and fly, modes of terrestrial locomotion, organism responses to winds and water currents, circulatory and suspension-feeding systems, and the relationship between size and mechanical design. He also investigates links between the properties of biological materials—such as spider silk, jellyfish jelly, and muscle—and their structural and functional roles. Early chapters and appendices introduce relevant physical variables for quantification, and problem sets are provided at the end of each chapter. Comparative Biomechanics is useful for physical scientists and engineers seeking a guide to state-of-the-art biomechanics. For a wider audience, the textbook establishes the basic biological context for applied areas—including ergonomics, orthopedics, mechanical prosthetics, kinesiology, sports medicine, and biomimetics—and provides materials for exhibit designers at science museums.


Problem sets at the ends of chapters
Appendices cover basic background information
Updated and expanded documentation and materials
Revised figures and text
Increased coverage of friction, viscoelastic materials, surface tension, diverse modes of locomotion, and biomimetics

There is no part of our bodies that fully rotates—be it a wrist or ankle or arm in a shoulder socket, we are made to twist only so far. And yet there is no more fundamental human invention than the wheel—a rotational mechanism that accomplishes what our physical form cannot. Throughout history, humans have developed technologies powered by human strength, complementing the physical abilities we have while overcoming our weaknesses. Providing a unique history of the wheel and other rotational devices—like cranks, cranes, carts, and capstans—Why the Wheel Is Round examines the contraptions and tricks we have devised in order to more efficiently move—and move through—the physical world.

Steven Vogel combines his engineering expertise with his remarkable curiosity about how things work to explore how wheels and other mechanisms were, until very recently, powered by the push and pull of the muscles and skeletal systems of humans and other animals. Why the Wheel Is Round explores all manner of treadwheels, hand-spikes, gears, and more, as well as how these technologies diversified into such things as hand-held drills and hurdy-gurdies. Surprisingly, a number of these devices can be built out of everyday components and materials, and Vogel’s accessible and expansive book includes instructions and models so that inspired readers can even attempt to make their own muscle-powered technologies, like trebuchets and ballista.

Appealing to anyone fascinated by the history of mechanics and technology as well as to hobbyists with home workshops, Why the Wheel Is Round offers a captivating exploration of our common technological heritage based on the simple concept of rotation. From our leg muscles powering the gears of a bicycle to our hands manipulating a mouse on a roller ball, it will be impossible to overlook the amazing feats of innovation behind our daily devices.
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