Science and Poetry

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Cutting through myths of scientific omnipotence, Mary Midgley explores how this inheritance has so powerfully shaped the way we are, and the problems it has brought with it. She argues that poetry and the arts can help reconcile these problems, and counteract generations of "one-eyed specialists," unable and unwilling to look beyond their own scientific or literary sphere. Dawkins, Atkins, Bacon and Descartes all come under fire as Midgley sears through contemporary debate from Gaia to memes and organic food to greenhouse gases. After years of unquestioned imperialism, science is finally forced to take a step back and acknowledge the arts.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
'Clearly and forcefully argued ... no reflective person could disagree with Midgley's view. By bringing some of the more important detail of the arguments into focus and quoting so appositely from the poets whose visions of the world enrich our understanding of it, she performs a service.' - A C Grayling, Literary Review

'With this book Midgley establishes herself as the most cool, coherent and sane critic of contemporary superstition that we have.' - Brian Appleyard, The Sunday Times

This is a paperbound edition of a 2001 book about which Book News wrote: English moral philosopher Mary Midgley seeks to integrate the realms of science and "poetry" (or the personal, imaginative ideas by which we live), arguing that science is too often misunderstood as necessarily atomizing and dehumanizing, while the use of integrative myths and poetry to understand reality is frequently viewed as an indulgence or even delusional. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780415237321
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
  • Publication date: 1/28/2001
  • Pages: 244
  • Product dimensions: 6.35 (w) x 9.65 (h) x 0.93 (d)

Meet the Author

Mary Midgley is a moral philosopher and author of many books, including The Ethical Primate, Wisdom, Information and Wonder, Science as Salvation and Utopias, Dolphins and Computers.

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Table of Contents

Part I: Visions of rationality
1. The sources of thought
2. Knowledge considered as weed-killer
3. Rationality and rainbows
4. The shape of disillusion
5. Atomistic visions: the quest for permanence
6. Memes and other unusual life-forms
Part II: Mind and body: the end of apartheid
7. Putting our selves together again
8. Living in the world
9. The strange persistence of fatalism
10. Chessboards and presidents of the immortals
11. Doing science on purpose
12. One world, but a big one
13. A plague on both their houses
14. Being scientific about our selves
Part III: In what kind of world?
15. Widening responsibilities
16. The problem of humbug
17. Individualism and the concept of Gaia
18. Gods and the goddesses: the role of wonder
19. Why there is such a thing as society
20. Paradoxes of sociobiology and social Darwinism
21. Mythology, rhetoric and religion
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