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Cosmopolis it would be Toulmin S Narrative Of Postmodernism s narrative of postmodernism it totally fulfilled that expectation As ever postmodernism hoping it would be Toulmin s narrative of postmodernism and it totally fulfilled that expectation As ever postmodernism itself in opposition to modernism so most of Toulmin s task is to provide an intellectual history of modernism contextualized in its cultural and economic milieu This is a super postmodern pursuit and one I haven t seen many examples of Toulmin has a huge knowledge of Western science and philosophy and it allows him to see not just the most notable textbook examplars of thought in a given age but to know the outliers and eccentrics as well With that information in hand he traces the dominance and suppression of certain ideas by noting the nations classes and institutions where certain ideas were discussed during history This is a neat strategy because it shows how those factors influence the ideas that are kosher to broach and work on among communities that include not just isolated thinkers but active diplomats leaders and socialites It provides a clear interface between social trends and intellectual development Through that interface Toulmin posits that the social legacy of the Thirty Years War a bloody and acrimonious struggle between Catholics and Protestants created the cultural conditions that valued the hyper rational ideas of Modernism The Thirty Years War ended with a shell shocked Europe and the independence of modern nation states from the international authority of the Papacy The creation of nation states alongside the shift to market based economic communities shifted identities from vertical feudal regions to horizontal classes That new intellectual arrangement demanded a new worldview to support it which was found in an analogy with the new cosmology of NewtonThe philosophical basis of Christianity always seems tenuous to me but for thousands of people to die over a rather narrow but intractable theological dispute apparently precipitated a huge crisis in the European intellectual community Rather than acknowledging that both sides are expressions of the same faith in slightly different contexts they for some reason this was left essentially Originally Human World Of Lupi 1 5 unexamined in the book one of the weakest links in its argument to me looked to first principles a clean slate of thought that could resolve this intractable disputeFirst principles as laid out first by Descartes and elaborated by many philosophers who found his premises enticing involved a series of faith based premises that far overreached the scientific knowledge available at the time They also seem to contradict the model of science laid out by Francis Bacon They re centered around a particularly phrased dichotomy between rational human minds and inert mechanistic nature that allowed scholars to feel justified in for instance treating human history as a series of rational choices cf economics reifying the political order as a metaphor from cosmology denying the possibility of ecological history much less environmental history and setting back the very premises of psychology neuroscience and anthropology by centuries So it seems natural that shedding these premises and embracing a contextualized view of the world especially in focusing on the factors that shape human reason would be a central part of the scientific method and philosophy But the history Toulmin lays outndermines that point Science emerged during a period obsessed with its own objectivity the independence of its thought from the realities of its thinkers And a ton of science got done nonetheless That to me is an interesting point about the philosophy of science and I think it complicates our Clement Attlee understanding of what science is But regardless science created itselfnder the philosophical auspices of rational modernity and it s not too surprising that it would look back on its history and validate those assumptionsI still just struggle a bit to nderstand how this was still such an acrimonious debate in the 90 s Perhaps all the research on motivated reasoning and the big debates about data analysis and science funding sources and objectivity that make the problems of objectivity in science so flummoxing to me now were still not well described or publicized then But still cmon everything the postmodernists were saying in the science wars came straight from science itself especially the recent postmodern offshoots like anthropology and psychology but still Weren t they just reviving Bacon s principles trying to apply the critical lens of science to its own workings and ensure we were striving towards objectivity better than we had in the past How could scientists really believe their work was objective and independent of social factors Why did it take outsiders to break the hold of some very nscientific premises I dunno I ve still got some reading to do on that Toulmin traces the ideas of modernism into the 20th century when they were threatened by relativity psychology anthropology and early ecology but delayed by a last ditch surge in hyper rationalism sparked by the first World War a parallel for the Thirty Years War in many ways This narrative makes a lot of sense of some absurd extremes in philosophy and art like positivism and twelve tone music It also explains the burst of intellectual change in the 60s the release of a subordinate tradition in thought that had been building p especially in the last hundred years but which found kindred spirits going back hundreds of years in the Ro. E and manageable rational categories Stephen Toulmin confronts that agenda its illusions and its conseuences for our present and future worldBy showing how different the last three centuries would have been if Montaigne rather than Descartes had been taken as a starting point Toulmin helps destroy the illusion that the Cartesian est for certainty is intrinsic to the nature of science or philosophy Ric. ,
Summary Cosmopolis: The Hidden Agenda of Modernity,
This is what we might today call a post modern critiue of the Enlightenment with particular reference to Renaissance humanism Toulmin wants to take the best aspects of modernity and counteract them with a return to the Renaissance humanism of thinkers like Michel de Montaigne What we need is a modernity that s been revised by the earlier strand of humanism which really set the stage for modernity itself all of this entails a focus on the local oral particular and timely over against the written abstract timeless and niversal categories that dominated modernityToulmin interestingly thinks that Descartes Stephen Toulmin s Cosmopolis 1990 is one of those defining metatomes that come along from time to time Parallels in my limited range of awareness are for me books like Northrop Frye s Anatomy of Criticism and Thomas Kuhn s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions They are books that can only be attempted by writers and thinkers with encyclopedic knowledge and a brilliant capacity to analyze and synthesize They can only be read by people with sufficient background knowledge to grasp references to works spanning the last 500 or so years and dozens of academic disciplines criteria that put me only on the fringe of meeting the necessary alificationsCosmopolis brilliantly titled because it references the totality of our The Harvest Bride understanding of the physical and natural world plus the totality of human thoughtnderstanding and interaction traces Toulmin s concept of the Modern as a phenomenon that to his thinking arose in the seventeenth century went through several phases Tula up through the twentieth century and then did or didn t dieIn Toulmin s paradigm the Renaissance was a time dominated by a Humanism that was or less set aside by modernity which attempted to replace Renaissance Humanism and a lot of other things with reason rationality empirical observation and calculation Thus for him the Renaissance was the end of the Medieval period not the beginning of the modern Seventeenth century thinkers had a high level of motivation to create something new Prior sources of certainty most notably religion had let them down Thetter devastation and ruin of the Thirty Years War 1618 1648 fought in the name of which Christian denomination was the one true faith had made it clear that a Romancing The Shadow uest for certain knowledge could not rest on such a shaky and shifting foundation Most such thinkers did not abandon their respective faiths but they no longer based their secular philosophy on faith Rather they eg Copernicus Bacon Descartes Newton etc looked to empirical observation looking at the moon through a telescope and contextless but hopefullyniversal abstract ideas I think therefore I am to form the basis for new Lizzie Borden understanding that could not be challengedHaving gone through the four hundred years during which this way of seeking truth and dare I say progress we have lost much of our innocence about the limitless possibilities of modern thinking As Pope put it God said Let Newton be and all was light lasted onlyntil Einstein and Planck showed otherwise Bacon s scientific revolution brought Nature to her knees and set her in service of mankind only Maid For Me Too until the one percent grabbedp all the profits and put mankind to work in service of themClearly such snippets of a synopsis do put mankind to work in service of themClearly such snippets of a synopsis do justice to Toulmin s work There is so much And when it is all over one could have a hearty debate with this man who like my own academic mentor Ian Watt drew so much from his study at Cambridge with Wittgenstein But to have that debate one would have to be as smart as Toulmin and know as much as he did Not many of Paranoia Y1 Traitor Hangout us meet those criteria eitherAs an intellectual dinosaur myself I find that Toulmin offers me comfort even in the context of his withering deconstruction of modernism He does it by remarrying modernism with humanism and optimistically suggesting that what is good in both will come together in whatever is next to takes to a new and better place And he does it by letting me choose Have we entered what he calls the Third Phase of Modernism or are we as so many prefer to think now in the Post Modern period that has abandoned the childish things that we valued when we were merely modernThe dinosaur in me wants to go with the first option I am too old to give p my concept of the modern and what I like about it Only time will tell Galileo Descartes and Newton had absolutely no idea what would eventually come out of what they started and neither do we now It s kind of annoying to identify as a postmodernist because no one knows what that means and if they do they think it means something else and
if they don t they think it s awfully complicated It s the word Ithey don t they think it s awfully complicated It s the word I sed for lack of a think it s awfully complicated It s the word I Christina Enchanted used for lack of a for a year or two now and I ve developed a pretty clear idea of what I mean by it But my definition is pretty distinct from anything I ve been able to find written out anywhere Most places treat it as an artistic period following modernism in architecture art and literature That definition is limited to me because it is hard to extrapolate artistic principles to the kind of ideas I mean though they re related and because it is historically limiting Thought it may be kind of confusing postmodernism can be identified traced through a lot of intellectual history in Europe though it has only really flowered in the last 100 years I got the sense in Discovery of Time that Toulmin shared mynderstanding of postmodernism particularly in its relationship to. In the seventeenth century a vision arose which was to captivate the Western imagination for the next three hundred years the vision of Cosmopolis a society as rationally ordered as the Newtonian view of nature While fueling extraordinary advances in all fields of human endeavor this vision perpetuated a hidden yet persistent agenda the delusion that human nature and society could be fitted into precis. Mantic movement eg The narrative is ite convincing but it can feel a bit too convincing a bit too simple It doesn t feel like Toulmin tries all that hard to muster counterevidence and ltimately this kind of intellectual history can only explain so much I did kind of wonder how other major social Maclachlan Family Series Collection upheavals between 1618 and 1914 affected the trajectory of Modernism like the Napoleonic Wars for instance Put charitably there s a lot of mileage left on the premise Toulmin outlined and hopefully I ll be able to find some histories of science that follow in his mold it has been 26 years since Cosmopolis was written so I think that s a reasonable expectation Highly recommended read for those interested in this stuff Toulmin traces back the start of Modernity and theest for Certainty and stability Contrary to the popular narrative he finds that Modernity actually started in the 16th century with a humanistic flavor in Erasmus Montaigne Shakespeare etc Looking at the writings of these writers and others in the 17th century in their context rather than in the abstract he argues that Descartes and Newton s Transformed Into The Frenchmans Mistress The Hudsons Of Beverly Hills 3 uest for Certainty which is still withs began in part due to the circumstances they lived in eg the assassination of Henry IV Thirty Years War and ProtestantCatholic tensions Descartes and subseuetly natural science and philosophy sought The Eulogist universal stable theories that would rise above the conflicts of the day Toulmin ends by arguing that we must humanize Modernity or the post modern and return to the diversity and plurality that marked the writings of the 16th century writers Published in 1990 this was Toulmin s first attempt to summarise how his views on history philosophy of science had changed over the decades and how it impacts the wider story of science and The Enlightenment Return To Reason came later on The first half is an excellent and convincing study of Descartes in the context of France in the early 17th century This shows that Rene was well aware of the turmoil in the world around him and that this gave the backdrop in which he found the earlier scepticism of Montaigne to benacceptable It also shows why his intellectual project would be attractive to other thinkers looking for a way to salvage or reconstruct the edifice of civilisation that seemed to be toppling in apocalyptic timesToulmin is less successful in the second half when he tries to stretch these ideas very thinly as an agenda of modernity this is supposed to explain much of the cultural politics of the next 300 years This gets awfully silly and at its worse it descends in to dreadful pop Hegelianism that seems to be assuming History has a natural telos toward western liberal humanism which is precisely the kind of de particularised facile Casa California universalism that is rationalism at its worse his ostensible target Of course at the end of 80s all sorts of people were thinking this way Francis Fukuyama God helps being the most
prominent Some of the looking ahead musings here got dated awfully ickly the 90s turned out to see a revival ofSome of the looking ahead musings here got dated awfully ickly the 90s turned out to see a revival of in nationalism rather than the inexorable progress of trans nationalism expected And Stephen seems to be expecting Gorbachev to be around much longer than he wasOn a positive note he had moments when he was ite aware that things are not always rosy and we might not be slouching towards Eden He is also keen to stress that his is towards Eden He is also keen to stress that his is concerned for any kind of constructionist trivialism of science or glib anti rationalism he was a serious philosopher not a tuppence ha penny hack like Bryan Appleyard or any of the dozens of dreary windbags with their second hand never read references to Kuhn and scientism He was a former student of Wittgenstein who made his name with the influential anti logic book as Strawson called it The Uses Of Arguments which first drew attention to how real debates function in dimensions beyond simple battles between alternative sets of propositions and their formal entailments Trouble is he forgets his own lesson and treats the modern world view as if it were precisely such a bundle of axioms rather than anything to live by He doesn t consider that any theory of physics and the niverse could as well fill the cosmopolitical role he holds that Newtonianism was assigned to and in any case wasn t the pre modern Ptolemaic model an enshrining of the centrality of Earth which put everything in its proper place Didn t that and Aristotelianism serve any conservative polemical purposes In any case who are the constituency that held these views All educated people but that would include a large amount of clergy right p to the brink of the 20th century It is ridiculous to suggest that any kind of cultural consensus existed in the 1920s or 30s on logical positivism or guided by the Vienna Circle plenty of movements were pulling in other directions Take a look at Marshall Berman s All That Is Solid Melts In To Air to get a much broader picture of modernity than Toulmin was seeing from the HPS department library What both writers would agree about is a scepticism about reports of a post modern condition or distinctive rupture as opposed to modernity s continued evolution In that respect they were both correct but with different arguments Berman s modernity lives in the streets of New York Toulmin remained in the abstract cloud city of Cosmopolis even when he desired to escape from it But there are plenty of worthwhile ideas in here just read the final chapters as a period piec. Hard M Rorty University of VirginiaToulmin has now tackled perhaps his most ambitious theme of all His aim is nothing less than to lay before s an account of both the origins and the prospects of our distinctively modern world By charting the evolution of modernity he hopes to show My Fathers Voice us what intellectual posture we ought to adopt as we confront the coming millenniumentin Skinner New York Review of Boo.