The Disorder of Things: Metaphysical Foundations of the Disunity of Science

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Harvard University Press, 1995 - Philosophy - 308 pages
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The great dream of philosophers and scientists for millennia has been to give us a complete account of the order of things. A powerful articulation of such a dream in this century has been found in the idea of a unity of science. With this manifesto, John Dupre systematically attacks the ideal of scientific unity by showing how its underlying assumptions are at odds with the central conclusions of science itself. In its stead, the author gives us a metaphysics much more in keeping with what science tells us about the world. The order presupposed by scientific unity is expressed in the classical philosophical doctrines of essentialism, materialist reductionism, and determinism. Employing examples from biology, that most "disordered" of sciences, Dupre subjects each of these doctrines to detailed and devastating criticism. He also identifies the shortcomings of contemporary approaches to scientific disunity, such as constructivism and extreme empiricism. He argues that we should adopt a "moderate realism" consistent with pluralistic science. Dupre's proposal for a "promiscuous realism" acknowledges the existence of a fundamentally disordered world, in which different projects or perspectives may reveal distinct, somewhat isolated, but nevertheless perfectly real domains of partial order. This argument makes connections with recent discussions of science and value, especially in the work of feminist scholars. In Dupre's view, we have a great deal of choice about which scientific projects to pursue, a choice that can be informed only by value judgments. Such choices determine not only what kinds of order we observe in nature but also what kinds of order we impose on the world we observe.Elegantly written and compellingly argued, this provocative book should be of crucial interest to all philosophers and scholars of science.
  

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Review: The Disorder of Things: Metaphysical Foundations of the Disunity of Science

User Review  - Frank - Goodreads

James Watson once said "real science is physics--all the rest is social work." Dupre has done a great job attacking the idea that there is some ontologically foundational science. Very important book ... Read full review

Contents

Introduction
1
Natural Kinds
17
Species
37
Essences
60
Reductionism and Materialism
87
Ecology
107
Genetics
121
Reductionism and the Mental
146
Determinism
171
Probabilistic Causality
194
The Disunity of Science
221
Science and Values
244
Notes
267
Bibliography
291
Sources
303
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About the author (1995)

John Dupré is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Stanford University and the editor ofThe Latest on the Best: Essays on Evolution and Optimality.

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