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Mawrtyr2008's picture

Natural Philosophers

I enjoy reading articles like this that relate the scientific world to the philosophical world. They remind me of something I learned in eleventh grade Physics, that the earlier term for "scientist" was "natural philosopher". I've always found philosophy and science to be very closely linked. To the point, perhaps, that science attemtps to describe the same ideas of philosophy using different mechanisms and approaches. Both fields share an essential skepticism and experimental nature. I like being reminded of this as it reinforces the need for interdisciplinary work.

Through my research this summer, I have found that the terms modernism and postmodernism are a useful way of describing trends in the fields of science, education, and mental healthcare. Thought these terms are often limited to literature studies, they have many applications elsewhere. This paper, to me, reinforces some of the central ideas of modernism and postmodernism.

Rorty touched on an important distinction, and I would argue, reason why the fields of education and mental healthcare aren't working as well as they could, in the line "Singlemindedness... is the quest for purity of heart - the attempt to will one thing - gone rancid. It is the attempt to see yourself as an incarnation of something larger than yourself ... rather than accepting our finitude". To me, this quote highlights the dangers of trying to view all the workings of the universe through a single lens (be it the lens of "truth" "justice" "happiness") as modernism would have it. I personally find Rorty's approach, one of recognizing he decentralized nature of knowledge and appreaciating that lack of a common center, to be very appealing.

I remain uncomfortable with two side issues that come of this shift in emphasis from the central universal to the decentralized diverse. First of all, I wonder if the notions of Rorty's "singlemindedness" and diversity are actually fundamentally incompatible. It isn't that viewing the universe through one lens, one unwobbling pivots, makes appreciation for differences difficult, in fact, it's that it makes appreciation of diversity impossible. Secondly, I think it's upsetting that instead of holding everything in one vision, it isn't enough yet just to learn and explore.


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