Mechanism and vitalism: the perpetual dialectic

Mechanism, vitalism and organicism in late nineteenth and twentieth-century biology: the importance of historical context Garland E. Allen Abstract The term mechanism has been used in two quite different ways in the history of biology. Operative, or explanatory mechanism refers to the step-by-step description or explanation of how components in a system interact to yield […]

The problem is the solution

‘We are wrong to believe that the true and the false can only be brought to bear on solutions, that they only begin with solutions. […] This prejudice goes back to the childhood, to the classroom: it is the schoolteacher who “poses” the problems; the pupil’s task is to discover the solutions. In this way […]

On French feminism and universalism, by Joan Wallach Scott

This article tells a story about a French feminist attempt to refigure universalism in the 1990s in a movement for gender equality in politics that they called parité.1 It is a story that addresses a set of questions much debated by philosophers and psychoanalysts, to say nothing of feminists: What is the relationship between anatomical […]

Do ‘Universities need scholarship that is more exciting’?

‘It was only in the 20th century that, by acquiring a university position, it became possible in England to pursue a scholarly career if you were not of independent wealth, or a church minister, or prepared to make huge personal sacrifices. Teaching and scholarship could be rolled into salaried employment. I would be the last […]

What is social ontology?, by Tony Lawson

We already know that social reality is in part constituted by social rules. Indeed I think that identifying them is one of the less contentious contributions of scientific ontology; social rules (or rule systems) may even constitute the most significant and pervasive features of social reality. I think too we know their form. Social rules […]

How things in nature tend to sync up

Mathematician Steven Strogatz shows how flocks of creatures (like birds, fireflies and fish) manage to synchronize and act as a unit — when no one’s giving orders. The powerful tendency extends into the realm of objects, too.

Is cruelty the key to prosperity?

According to many politicians, removing benefits is necessary to compel the unemployed to work even if their children suffer as a consequence. What’s the origin of this idea? There’s actually a rationality here that’s rooted in the bifurcated view of human nature that emerged in Anglo-American culture in tandem with the birth of a new […]