FW: [iDC] reading list // religious mediated spaces

Keith Hart keith at thememorybank.co.uk
Mon Sep 11 09:57:58 EDT 2006


> Likewise with science, if you really believe there is no objectivity 
> there (as Gellner put it) you have the problem of explaining how we 
> moved from being five thousand years ago a few scattered roving bands 
> of scavengers to corresponding globally like this now.

Good to see a plug for Ernest Gellner. Just to keep the record straight, 
5,000 years ago was Childe's urban revolution starting in Mesopotamia 
and agriculture was invented as many millennia before that, in places 
like New Guinea, not just Anatolia. Granted that this was just a 
rhetorical flourish, your concluding statement still sounds rather like 
the onward and upward school satirized by Feyerabend as "Science gave us 
a man on the moon and color TV. I'm in favor of science. So vote for me."

If we are going to get into the part played by 'science' (positive 
science?) in human social evolution, I would suggest that we start with 
Rousseau's Discourse on Inequality, the first systematic anthropological 
reading of human evolution. This hinges on the discovery of property 
('the first man who...'), among other things. The idea of human 
evolution as the improvement of technology was abandoned by Leslie 
White, its most committed anthropological protagonist, on his deathbed. 
There are some good speculative books on the subject. I like J.D. 
Bernal's The Extension of Man, for example. I should say that I endorse 
this kind of old-fashioned anthropology. It's fun, but a measure of 
respect for scholarly knowledge should be required.

Incidentally, what is shocking is how little the methods and metaphysics 
of quantum mechanics have influenced the epistemology of the social 
sciences in the twentieth century. (Keynes would be one exception). 
Economics still draws on a mixture of rationalism (micro-economic 
theory) and empiricism (econometrics) that has not moved on since 17th 
century England. This is as good an indication as any that ideology, not 
science sustains the social sciences, today and since their inception.

Keith Hart

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