The Language of Science: A Study of the Relationship between Literature and Science in the Perspective of a Hermeneutical Ontology. With a Case Study of Darwin's The Origin of Species.

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The existence of a separation between science and literature has long been taken for granted. This study shows that in science language functions in very much the same way as in literature: it is rhetorical in that it persuades readers to the author's point of view, and it is poetical in that with its metaphors and other figures of speech it shapes the experience of author and reader. The separation between science and literature proves to be untenable.
This has important ontological implications: science can no longer be considered an action performed by a speaking subject on a mute object. Does the creative role of language in science mean that human beings 'create' the world? The author emphatically rejects a conclusion which would degrade nature to mere malleable material at the mercy of human beings. A hermeneutical model for the relationship between knower and known is suggested: creative interaction between reader and text. The reader's responses actualise a text's meaning; in like manner, scientists give their responses to reality by actualising one of many possibilities. The hermeneutical ontology proposed in this book steers away from the rocks of realism and anti-realism.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This book greatly enhances our understanding of the central role of Spencer Baird and the Smithsonian in ninetheenth-century science and provides the basis for further research."
Daniel Goldstein, ISIS, 1994.

"...Bulhof has prepared a philosophical ground rich enough to yield real fruit."
Robert J. Richards, ISIS, 1994.

Includes a case study of Darwin's The Origin of Species. In the same way that a reader and a text interact to produce meaning, contends Bulhof (philosophy, U. of Leiden, Netherlands), so scientists interact with nature to produce science. Otherwise, we would have to believe either in a speaker with no perspective or context declaiming on a mute nature, which is a discredited notion; or else in a nature that is nothing more than malleable raw material at the mercy of humans, which he finds degrading. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Ilse N. Bulhof is Radboud Professor of Philosophy at the University of Leiden, The Netherlands. She has published books and articles on the philosophy of history, the philosophy of science, and postmodern thought. Most recent publication (with L. ten Kate): Ons ontbreken heilige namen. Negatieve theologie in hedendaagse cultuurfilosofie, (1992).
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Table of Contents

1 Purpose of this study 1
2 Darwin's The Origin of Species: A rhetorical text 11
2.2 The effectiveness of The Origin of Species as text 19
3 The enigma of The Origin of Species 25
3.1 The scientific debate on the origin of species: The Netherlands 25
3.2 Sociological aspects of The Origin of Species' reception in The Netherlands 36
3.3 The enigma of The Origin of Species' success 48
4 Darwin as writer 57
4.1 Various ways of reading a text 57
4.2 Darwin's stylistic devices 59
4.3 Simile and metaphor in The Origin of Species 61
4.4 Personifications 69
4.5 The effects of Darwin's similes and metaphors: nature and culture 72
4.6 Literary genres 91
4.7 Of imagination and reason in The Origin of Species 97
4.8 Darwin's communication strategies in The Origin of Species 108
4.9 Logical argumentation and systematic experimentation in The Origin of Species 117
4.10 Searching language 126
5 The separation of science and literature 129
5.1 Historical background 129
5.1.1 Preliminary remarks: on the separation of science and literature 129
5.1.2 Antiquity and the Middle Ages; nominalism 130
5.1.3 The demise of the language arts from the study of nature 132
5.1.4 Language in natural science: communication 135
5.1.5 Language in natural science: representation 139
5.1.6 Experiments in natural science 145
5.1.7 From the eighteenth to the twentieth century 146
5.2 Ignoring the actual text of scientific writings 148
5.2.1 Science after Darwin 148
5.2.2 Roman Ingarden on scientific writings 149
5.2.3 The contemporary scientific paper 156
5.2.4 Some personal remarks 159
5.3 Moral and political importance of the separation of literary and scientific writings 161
6 Literary language and evasive reality: Toward a hermeneutical ontology 167
6.1 Preliminary remarks: language and ontology. The hermeneutical-rhetorical tradition 167
6.2 The Book of Nature in hermeneutical-rhetorical tradition: historical background 170
6.3 Contemporary literary theory 174
6.4 Sketch for a hermeneutical ontology 177
7 Conclusion and postscript 189
Bibliography 195
General Index 205
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