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Conquest of Abundance: A Tale of Abstraction Versus the Richness of Beingby Paul Feyerabend
Synopses & Reviews
From flea bites to galaxies, from love affairs to shadows, Paul Feyerabend reveled in the sensory and intellectual abundance that surrounds us. He found it equally striking that human senses and human intelligence are able to take in only a fraction of these riches. "This a blessing, not a drawback," he writes. "A superconscious organism would not be superwise, it would be paralyzed." This human reduction of experience to a manageable level is the heart of Conquest of Abundance, the book on which Feyerabend was at work when he died in 1994.
Prepared from drafts of the manuscript left at his death, working notes, and lectures and articles Feyerabend wrote while the larger work was in progress, Conquest of Abundance offers up rich exploration and startling insights with the charm, lucidity, and sense of mischief that are his hallmarks. Feyerabend is fascinated by how we attempt to explain and predict the mysteries of the natural world, and he looks at the ways in which we abstract experience, explain anomalies, and reduce wonder to formulas and equations. Through his exploration of the positive and negative consequences of these efforts, Feyerabend reveals the "conquest of abundance" as an integral part of the history and character of Western civilization.
"Paul Feyerabend . . . was the Norman Mailer of philosophy. . . . brilliant, brave, adventurous, original and quirky."--Richard Rorty, New Republic
"As much a smudged icon as a philosophical position holder, [Feyerabend] was alluring and erotic, a torch singer for philosophical anarchy."--Nancy Maull, New York Times Book Review
"[A] kind of final testament of Feyerabend's thought . . . Conquest of Abundance is as much the product of a brilliant, scintillating style as of an immense erudition and culture. . . . This book is as abundant and rich as the world it envisions."--Arkady Plotnitsky, Chicago Tribune
Book News Annotation:
Philosopher of science Feyerabend (1924-94) was working on this book when he died. Bert Terpstra, with the help of Feyerabend's widow, has reconstructed it from manuscript drafts and notes, and accompanied it with 12 essays he wrote on the same themes while he was working on the book. His underlying theme is how people in western society have reduced the abundance of experience into abstract principles, and how that process has condemned some people to a drab world obedient only to scientific data and economic imperatives. Unfortunately, but perhaps appropriately, he never began the final chapter that would have synthesized all his examples into a single account.
Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
This unusual book, structured primarily as a dialogue, follows four menand#151;a physicist, a philosopher, a biologist and a mathematicianand#151;who are adrift in a ship on the sea. In dense fog, they get involved in a discussion about the Tunguska event which occurred in 1908: the explosions and lightning that devastated a vast woodland area in Siberia. To this day, no one knows exactly what happened, and the four scholars seem unable to agree on any one explanation. They try to solve the Tunguska mystery by applying the established natural laws results in a fundamental debate on the definition of nature itself.and#160; Perhaps it is the world as it was before the intervention of people?and#160; Or merely a game of chance? Is it intrinsically good or evil? Are humans part of it or not? Or is it ultimately nothing but an idea borne of a manand#8217;s imagination? This fictional conversation, which is based on real-life scholars (Paul Feyerabend, Gand#252;nter Hasinger, Steven Weinberg, Adolf Portmann, and Alfred North Whitehead), debates climate change, environmental destruction, and sustenanceand#151;some of todayand#8217;s burning issues that center on natureand#151;as it seeks to define a cohesive concept of nature.
On June 30, 1908, a mysterious explosion erupted in the skies over a vast woodland area of Siberia. Known as the Tunguska Event, it has been a source of wild conjecture over the past century, attributed to causes ranging from meteors to a small black hole to antimatter. In this imaginative book, Michael Hampe sets four fictional men based on real-life scholarsand#151;a physicist (Gand#252;nter Hasinger and Steven Weinberg), a philosopher (Paul Feyerabend), a biologist (Adolf Portmann), and a mathematician (Alfred North Whitehead)and#151;adrift on the open ocean, in a dense fog, to discuss what they think happened. The result is a playful and highly illuminating exploration of the definition of nature, mankindand#8217;s role within it, and what its end might be.
Tunguska, Or the End of Nature uses its four-man setup to tackle some of todayand#8217;s burning issuesand#151;such as climate change, environmental destruction, and resource managementand#151;from a diverse range of perspectives. With a kind of foreboding, it asks what the world was like, and will be like, without us, whether we are negligible and the universe random, whether nature can truly be explained, whether it is good or evil, or whether nature is simply a thought we think. This is a profoundly unique work, a thrillingly interdisciplinary piece of scholarly literature that probes the mysteries of nature and humans alike.and#160;
From Homeric gods to galaxies to perspective in painting, Paul Feyerabend reveled in physical and cultural abundance. Struck, however, by the fact that human senses and intelligence can take in only a fraction of these riches, a fraction that limits and shapes our sense of reality, Feyerabend began writing Conquest of Abundance to decry these limitations. Unfinished when he died in 1994, this book represents a new way of thinking for this philosophical genius.
About the Author
Paul Feyerabend (1924-94) held numerous teaching posts throughout his career in Europe and the United States. Among his books are Against Method; Science in a Free Society; Farewell to Reason; and Killing Time: The Autobiography of Paul Feyerabend, the last published by the University of Chicago Press.
Table of Contents
A Note on the Editing
Part One: The Unfinished Manuscript
1. Achilles' Conjecture
3. Parmenides and the Logic of Being
Interlude: On the Ambiguity of Interpretations
4. Brunelleschi and the Invention of Perspective
Part Two: Essays on the Manuscript's Themes
1. Realism and the Historicity of Knowledge
2. Has the Scientific View of the World a Special Status Compared with Other Views?
3. Quantum Theory and Our View of the World
5. Historical Comments on Realism
6. What Reality?
8. Art as a Product of Nature as a Work of Art
9. Ethics as a Measure of Scientific Truth
10. Universals as Tyrants and as Mediators
11. Intellectuals and the Facts of Life
12. Concerning an Appeal for Philosophy
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