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Beyond Metaphysics?

Explorations in Alfred North Whitehead’s Late Thought

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Edited by Roland Faber, Brian G. Henning and Clinton Combs

Alfred North Whitehead’s interpreters usually pay less attention to his later monographs and essays. Process and Reality is taken to be the definitive center of the Whiteheadian universe and the later works, thereby, appear to many only as applications or elaborations of themes already introduced earlier. Yet, is it also possible that the dominance of this perspective has obscured or even distorted further creative developments of Whitehead’s thought? This volume offers a sort of Copernican revolution in Whitehead interpretation, methodologically and conceptually inviting its contributors to observe Whitehead’s work from the perspective of his later works. The aim of this preferencing is meant not to invalidate earlier approaches to Whitehead’s thought nor is the inference that the later works are more authoritative. Yet, just as the first space-based images of our planet forever changed humanity’s understanding of its place in the universe, shifting the alleged center of, or even decentering of the view on, Whitehead’s “philosophy of organism” to the later works, we might discover previously obscured ideas or new vistas of thought relevant not only to our current philosophical landscape, but also to the pressing issues of our fragile and endangered world. This volume invites its contributors and readers to consider whether one thereby also moves beyond metaphysics?

imagining the unimaginable

The Poetics of Early Modern Astronomy

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Ladina Bezzola Lambert

How is it possible to imagine what is unknown and therefore unimaginable? How can the unimaginable be represented? On what materials do such representations rely? These questions lie at the heart of this book.
Copernican theory redefined the role and importance of the imagination even as it implied the moment of its crisis. Based on this claim, Ladina Bezzola Lambert analyzes seventeenth-century astronomical texts – particularly descriptions of the moon and treatises written in support of the theory of the plurality of worlds – to show how early modern astronomers questioned the role of the imagination as a tool to visualize the unknown, but also how, pressed by the need to support their theories with convincing descriptions of other potential worlds, they sought to overcome the limitations of the imagination with a sophisticated rhetoric and techniques more commonly associated with poetic writing. The limitations of the imagination are at once a problem that all of the texts discussed struggle with and their recurrent theme.
In the first and last chapter, the focus shifts to a more explicitly literary context: Ariosto’s Orlando furioso and the work of Italo Calvino. The change of focus from science to literature and from the narratives of the past to contemporary ones serves to emphasize that the issues relating to the imagination, its limitations and creative means, are basically the same both in science and literature and that they are still relevant today.

Remapping Reality

Chaos and Creativity in Science and Literature (Goethe – Nietzsche – Grass)

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John A. McCarthy

This book is about intersections among science, philosophy, and literature. It bridges the gap between the traditional “cultures” of science and the humanities by constituting an area of interaction that some have called a “third culture.” By asking questions about three disciplines rather than about just two, as is customary in research, this inquiry breaks new ground and resists easy categorization. It seeks to answer the following questions: What impact has the remapping of reality in scientific terms since the Copernican Revolution through thermodynamics, relativity theory, and quantum mechanics had on the way writers and thinkers conceptualized the place of human culture within the total economy of existence? What influence, on the other hand, have writers and philosophers had on the doing of science and on scientific paradigms of the world? Thirdly, where does humankind fit into the total picture with its uniquely moral nature? In other words, rather than privileging one discipline over another, this study seeks to uncover a common ground for science, ethics, and literary creativity.
Throughout this inquiry certain nodal points emerge to bond the argument cogently together and create new meaning. These anchor points are the notion of movement inherent in all forms of existence, the changing concepts of evil in the altered spaces of reality, and the creative impulse critical to the literary work of art as well as to the expanding universe. This ambitious undertaking is unified through its use of phenomena typical of chaos and complexity theory as so many leitmotifs. While they first emerged to explain natural phenomena at the quantum and cosmic levels, chaos and complexity are equally apt for explaining moral and aesthetic events. Hence, the title “Remapping Reality” extends to the reconfigurations of the three main spheres of human interaction: the physical, the ethical, and the aesthetic or creative.

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Edited by Emma O’Donnell Polyakov

Antisemitism, Islamophobia, and Interreligious Hermeneutics: Ways of Seeing the Religious Other, edited by Emma O’Donnell Polyakov, examines the hermeneutics of interreligious encounter in contexts of conflict. It investigates the implicit judgments of Judaism and Islam that often arise in response to these conflicts, and explores the implications of these interpretations for relations between Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Addressing antisemitism and Islamophobia through the tools of interreligious hermeneutics, this volume brings together three distinct discourses: the study of ancient and new tropes of antisemitism as they appear in today’s world; research into contemporary expressions of fear or suspicion of Islam; and philosophical reflections on the hermeneutics of interreligious encounters.