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Re-Engineering Philosophy for Limited Beings: Piecewise Approximations to Reality
Re-Engineering Philosophy for Limited Beings: Piecewise Approximations to Reality
by William C. Wimsatt
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $56.32
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Face the facts: we are not God, July 5, 2010
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In this collection of essays, Wimssatt invites both philosophers of science and scientists to think about some typical perspectives on the roles of their fields and how their (actual) practice relates to these perspectives. As the title suggests, Wimssatt's core argument lies on the acceptance of human failability: our perception of the world is filtered by multiple layers, from biophysical to psychosocial ones, which leaves us with nothing but a limited amount of information about the world in which we live. Thus, our philosophical/scientific questions are necessarily constrained, our methods are often not optimal and consequently, our answers are modest, "piecewise approximations to reality". Wimssatt argues that people are not really concerned with the "goodness" of their intelectual constructs, simply because they are not omniscient and cannot make rational decisions in an absolute sense. Thus, most of the time, Wimssatt suggests, we are actually targeting satisfaction - not the best possible (because we don't know it!), just the good enough. So, the construction of human knowledge follows much of biological evolution: most of the time, new things come out from re-fashioned, old ones. Wimssatt elaborates on this "human heristics" and other concepts to show how philosophers and scientists could improve their approximations within their fields and to each other.
As a biologist, I found the book's message quite simple, yet very powerful. Wimssatt goes deep into the scrutiny of his ideas, without becoming too boring. In fact, the reading felt to me like a continuous, engaging brain storm. Very nice.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 14, 2010 7:46 AM PST

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