Rock, Bone, and Ruin: An Optimist's Guide to the Historical Sciences

Rock, Bone, and Ruin: An Optimist's Guide to the Historical Sciences

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780262037266
Publisher: MIT Press
Publication date: 02/16/2018
Series: Life and Mind: Philosophical Issues in Biology and Psychology
Pages: 376
Sales rank: 833,798
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.30(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Adrian Currie is a Postdoctoral Associate at the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk at Cambridge University.

Robert A. Wilson is Professor of Philosophy at La Trobe University, the author of Genes and the Agents of Life, and coeditor of The MIT Encyclopedia of the Cognitive Sciences and of Explanation and Cognition (MIT Press). He directed the project that built EugenicsArchive.ca and is a director and the executive producer of the documentary Surviving Eugenics.Kim Sterelny is Professor of Philosophy at Australian National University and Victoria University of Wellington. His books include Language and Reality (with Michael Devitt; second edition, MIT Press).

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii

1 The Tooth of the Platypus 1

2 Snowballs and Sauropods 31

3 Traces 63

4 Over and Under 85

5 Ripples 111

6 The Main Business of Historical Science 137

7 Parochialism and Analogy 167

8 Exquisite Corpse: Historicity and Analogy 203

9 How to Build Sea Urchins and Manufacture Smoking Guns 229

10 Idealization and Historical Knowledge 249

11 Optimism, Speculation, and the Future of the Past 275

12 Promoting Success in Historical Science: The Why and the How 293

13 P.S.: A Note on Progress and Realism 309

Notes 323

References 335

Index 357

What People are Saying About This

Alison Wylie

Rock, Bone, and Ruin is an extraordinarily ambitious, provocative, and generative treatment of the epistemic predicament of the historical sciences. Adrian Currie trains his philosophical eye on the research strategies of 'unlucky' historical scientists—those who contend with messy, incomplete, and opaque traces of the past—and explains how, against the epistemic odds, they establish a robust understanding of seemingly inaccessible geological events, evolutionary processes, and cultural dynamics. This is a nuanced and richly illustrated account of scientists operating under non-ideal circumstances that demonstrates what can be accomplished by taking seriously the turn to practice. It has implications that will be of interest to practitioners and it is an incisive argument for doing philosophy differently: attentive to the epistemic challenges scientists actually face, resolutely local and contextual, and unabashedly normative.

Martin Rudwick

The 'historical' sciences have been neglected by philosophers. Adrian Currie analyzes both the problems and the opportunities involved in reconstructing and understanding the unobservable deep past. His engaging discussion—ranging from the character of global ice ages through the habits of giant dinosaurs to the meaning of Mayan monuments—explores the surprising commonalities that underlie these superficially diverse sciences.

From the Publisher

The 'historical' sciences have been neglected by philosophers. Adrian Currie analyzes both the problems and the opportunities involved in reconstructing and understanding the unobservable deep past. His engaging discussion—ranging from the character of global ice ages through the habits of giant dinosaurs to the meaning of Mayan monuments—explores the surprising commonalities that underlie these superficially diverse sciences.

Martin Rudwick, University of Cambridge; author of Earth's Deep History and Bursting the Limits of Time

Rock, Bone, and Ruin is an extraordinarily ambitious, provocative, and generative treatment of the epistemic predicament of the historical sciences. Adrian Currie trains his philosophical eye on the research strategies of 'unlucky' historical scientists—those who contend with messy, incomplete, and opaque traces of the past—and explains how, against the epistemic odds, they establish a robust understanding of seemingly inaccessible geological events, evolutionary processes, and cultural dynamics. This is a nuanced and richly illustrated account of scientists operating under non-ideal circumstances that demonstrates what can be accomplished by taking seriously the turn to practice. It has implications that will be of interest to practitioners and it is an incisive argument for doing philosophy differently: attentive to the epistemic challenges scientists actually face, resolutely local and contextual, and unabashedly normative.

Alison Wylie, Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of British Columbia

Endorsement

Rock, Bone, and Ruin is an extraordinarily ambitious, provocative, and generative treatment of the epistemic predicament of the historical sciences. Adrian Currie trains his philosophical eye on the research strategies of 'unlucky' historical scientists—those who contend with messy, incomplete, and opaque traces of the past—and explains how, against the epistemic odds, they establish a robust understanding of seemingly inaccessible geological events, evolutionary processes, and cultural dynamics. This is a nuanced and richly illustrated account of scientists operating under non-ideal circumstances that demonstrates what can be accomplished by taking seriously the turn to practice. It has implications that will be of interest to practitioners and it is an incisive argument for doing philosophy differently: attentive to the epistemic challenges scientists actually face, resolutely local and contextual, and unabashedly normative.

Alison Wylie, Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of British Columbia

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