- Hardcover: 420 pages
- Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 1 edition (January 15, 1994)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0226560260
- ISBN-13: 978-0226560267
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #14,071,897 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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On Knowing--The Natural Sciences 1st Edition
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Where in our lives, indeed, where in our world are we not faced with problems that come already "pushed far enough"?
This book -- a transcription of McKeon's introductory philosophy course -- presents how great philosophers have already pushed it farther -- Plato, Aristotle, Galileo, Newton. But it's so much more than re-hashing what they've written. This book gives you a model that allows you to think broadly, rigorously & diversely about all problems you face.
McKeon -- best known as "The Chairman" in Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values (P.S.) -- was a fearsome scholar. His knowledge of the history of philosophy was frighteningly comprehensive. He wrote scholarly articles in at least 5 modern languages. And in addition to being a philosopher with a world-wide reputation, he was also a professor of Greek. (His impromptu translations from Greek & Latin were legendary.) But throughout his career, McKeon remained ruthlessly focused not only on truly understanding great thinkers, but also on bringing their understandingS (plural!) onto the most important, most urgent problems of his post-World War II/Cold War age.
Among many other things, McKeon was also perhaps the foremost philosopher of science in his time. In this volume, he presents an orderly way of thinking very different understandings of motion (or change), and motion's related concepts of time and space. To accomplish this, he presents a comprehensive & systemic pluralism, which accounts for the differing ways that great Western thinkers constructed their basic assumptions, their methods for proceding from those assumptions, the bits of the world they selected to operate on, and the conclusions or interpretations they reached.
If that seems breath-taking, it is. But it's also spelled out here, and illustrated by significant readings drawn from 5 great thinkers. And you not only get McKeon's explanations, you also get to watch him draw this system out from his students.
Those readings are, unfortunately, not included in this volume, presumably for reasons of space. But translations are readily available in any library or on Amazon, new or used.
In some ways, this is a more detailed working out & exampling of his great & often difficult-to-read essay, "Philosophic Semantics and Philosophic Inquiry", which is found both in Freedom and History and Other Essays: An Introduction to the Thought of Richard McKeon and in Selected Writings of Richard McKeon: Volume One: Philosophy, Science, and Culture (v. 1). (See my reviews.) And that essay, as well as this book, represent the distillation of McKeon's greatest & most enduring contribution -- his systemic pluralism. In many essays, such as those in the two books just cited, McKeon uses, demonstrates his pluralism. In this book and in "Philosophic Semantics", however, he EXPLAINS it.
I'm not a philosopher; I'm a psychotherapist, formerly a musicologist & conductor. But I was trained by a student of McKeon's, Eugene Gendlin, who was both a philosopher & a psychologist. (See, for example, Gendlin's classic book, Focusing; his approach to psychotherapy, Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy: A Manual of the Experiential Method, and his philosophy, Experiencing and the Creation of Meaning: A Philosophical and Psychological Approach to the Subjective (SPEP).) Gene spent his life working where thinking & living was "pushed far enough", pushed right to the edge of knowing, the edge where creativity & evolving emerge. As a psychotherapist, I work with multiply-hospitalized clients -- professionally I'm always "pushed far enough". And in my very practical work as well as in Gene's, McKeon's systemic pluralism gives ways forward like nothing else, in my field or out of it. (Except, of course, Gene's work.)
So regardless of your field, you may find this book a fundamental shift in how you understand & solve the problems you face.
Please note: this book, and McKeon's sysmatic pluralism (NOT a relativism), aren't easy. Then what fundamental change, no matter how useful or how needed is easy? But after reading it -- and as with any book of new thinking, you'll likely need to read it more than once -- you'll certainly be a better philosopher. And a better problem-solver, whatever your field.