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Rationality and Science: A Social and Environmental Philosophy by Kenneth Wilson

This chapter concerns itself with rationality in its scientific guise. Typically science is often taken to be the paradigm instance of rationality in the modern period. In addition to science being a key representative of reason, it has also become separated from religion, the historical locus of thought about values and ethics.

My concern in this chapter lies in two areas. The first of these lies in the distinction between fact and value, science and ethics, and the second, with the notion that science is ethically neutral. In the discussion of these issues I aim to show that there are confusions and inconsistencies involved which force one to reconsider the status of science and the sense in which it is rational. Indeed I am at pains to counter a tendency which sees scientific facts as somehow determining what our values ought to be, when in actuality scientific facts provide no such solutions. Read more

Rationality, Religion and Modernity Part B: A Social and Environmental Philosophy by Kenneth Wilson

I now turn to a detailed discussion of the alleged legacy of the middle ages in the context of the work of Hans Blumenberg. Blumenberg begins his monograph The Legitimacy of the Modern Age with a discussion of the meaning of secularisation. Blumenberg is interested in the status of the modern age. This obviously leads to a contrast with pre-modern ages, in this case the Christianity of the middle ages.

When one contrasts the middle ages with the modern era it seems clear that our world has undergone a process of secularisation, which Blumenberg points out is incomplete, and that this is a condition of our being able to discuss it at all.[7] In other words, if the process of secularisation had been completed, then perhaps it would not be on the horizon of thought.

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A Social and Environmental Philosophy: The Historical Dimension of Action by Kenneth Wilson

This is the last part of the first section on Action of Kenneth Wilson’s thesis “A Social and Environmental Philosophy”

The last two chapters set out to establish a biospheric and social context for the agent. This chapter develops this sense of context for the agent by arguing for, and describing the nature of, the agent’s historical situatedness. Thus I argue against those, such as John Elster,[1] who take the position that the historical influence on the agent in the present is to be ignored. This position is sometimes referred to as ‘methodological presentism’.

This chapter therefore examines an aspect of the temporality of the agent. The importance of this discussion for the crisis of modernity lies in the characteristic tendency of modernity to jettison the past. This is evidenced in revolutionary, “year zero” types of political change, in which the instigators believe that a truly fresh start can be made, as if history had never happened and as if its influence can be ignored. Read more

Introduction: A Social and Environmental Philosophy by Kenneth Wilson

This is the introduction to Kenneth Wilson’s thesis “A Social and Environmental Philosophy”

Parts One and Two of this thesis explore the traditional themes of action (agency) and rationality (reason) in a somewhat non-traditional fashion. I have put these traditional themes to a non-traditional use because the overall aim of this thesis is to solve a problem which is quite recent in origin; namely, what I will refer to as the crisis of modernity. Specifically, the crisis of modernity resides in the real possibility that as a consequence of our actions in the world, the future of life on Earth may well have been brought into question. Read more

Overview: A Social and Environmental Philosophy by Kenneth Wilson

This is the work of Kenneth Wilson B.Sc.(Edin.); a thesis presented in 1998 for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Aberdeen. It is published in sections on the Ragged University website, and this is the overview.

This thesis addresses the crisis of modernity by examining three inter-related concepts, namely, action, rationality and mediation. Part One on action examines three often neglected aspects of human agency. The first of these is the agent’s relationship with the biosphere or environment. Against a tendency to see the agent as isolated from the biosphere it is argued that he or she is inextricably dependent on it. Read more