Steve Joshua Heims: The Cybernetics Group (1991)

19 September 2017, dusan

“This is the engaging story of a moment of transformation in the human sciences, a detailed account of a remarkable group of people who met regularly from 1946 to 1953 to explore the possibility of using scientific ideas that had emerged in the war years (cybernetics, information theory, computer theory) as a basis for interdisciplinary alliances. The Macy Conferences on Cybernetics, as they came to be called, included such luminaries as Norbert Wiener, John von Neumann, Margaret Mead, Gregory Bateson, Warren McCulloch, Walter Pitts, Kurt Lewin, F. S. C. Northrop, Molly Harrower, and Lawrence Kubie, who thought and argued together about such topics as insanity, vision, circular causality, language, the brain as a digital machine, and how to make wise decisions.

Heims, who met and talked with many of the participants, portrays them not only as thinkers but as human beings. His account examines how the conduct and content of research are shaped by the society in which it occurs and how the spirit of the times, in this case a mixture of postwar confidence and cold-war paranoia, affected the thinking of the cybernetics group. He uses the meetings to explore the strong influence elite groups can have in establishing connections and agendas for research and provides a firsthand took at the emergence of paradigms that were to become central to the new fields of artificial intelligence and cognitive science.

In his joint biography of John von Neumann and Norbert Wiener, Heims offered a challenging interpretation of the development of recent American science and technology. Here, in this group portrait of an important generation of American intellectuals, Heims extends that interpretation to a broader canvas, in the process paying special attention to the two iconoclastic figures, Warren McCulloch and Gregory Bateson, whose ideas on the nature of the mind/brain and on holism are enjoying renewal today.”

Paperback edition appeared under the title Constructing a Social Science for Postwar America: The Cybernetics Group (1946–1953) in 1993.

Publisher MIT Press, 1991
ISBN 0262082004, 9780262082006
xii+334 pages

Reviews: N. Katherine Hayles (Hist Human Sciences, 1992), R.V. Jones (New Scientist, 1992), Carlos A. Martínez-Vela (2001).


PDF (11 MB)

Donna Haraway: Primate Visions: Gender, Race, and Nature in the World of Modern Science (1989)

19 June 2016, dusan

“Haraway’s discussions of how scientists have perceived the sexual nature of female primates opens a new chapter in feminist theory, raising unsettling questions about models of the family and of heterosexuality in primate research.”

This “large book may be read from start to finish as a chronological and thematic survey of twentieth-century primatology. … But each chapter is simultaneously history of science, cultural studies, feminist exploration, and engaged intervention into the constitutions of love and knowledge in the disciplined crafting of the Primate Order. … My placing this account of primatology within SF–the narratives of speculative fiction and scientific fact–is an invitation for the readers of Primate Visions–historians, culture critics, feminists, anthropologists, biologists, anti-racists, and nature lovers–to remap the borderlands between nature and culture.” (from the Introduction)

Publisher Routledge, 1989
ISBN 0415902940, 9780415902946
ix+486 pages

Reviews: George E. Marcus (Science 1990), Alison Jolly and Margaretta Jolly (New Scientist 1990), Robin Dunbar (NY Times 1990), Louise Krasniewicz and Michael Blitz (Discourse 1990), Anne Fausto-Sterling (J Hist Biology 1990), Susan Cachel (Am J Primatology 1990), Meredith F. Small (Am J Physical Anthropology 1990), Sarah Franklin (J Hist Sexuality 1990), Matt Cartmill (Int J Primatology 1991), M. Lynn Byrd (H-Ideas 2001).



Donna Haraway: How Like a Leaf: An Interview with Thyrza Nichols Goodeve (1999)

5 October 2015, dusan

A lengthy interview-conversation that covers aspects of both Haraway’s life and work.

Publisher Routledge, 1999
ISBN 0415924022, 9780415924023
197 pages

Reviews: Tony Scott (Kairos, 2000), Erika Bourguignon (NWSA Journal, 2001).
Commentary: McKenzie Wark (Public Seminar, 2015).


PDF (2 MB)

Georges Canguilhem: A Vital Rationalist: Selected Writings (1994)

5 March 2015, dusan

“Georges Canguilhem is one of France’s leading philosophers and historians of science. Trained as both a medical doctor and a philosopher, Canguilhem overlapped these practices to demonstrate that there could be no epistemology without concrete study of the actual development of the sciences and no worthwhile history of science without a philosophical understanding of the conceptual basis of all knowledge.

A Vital Rationalist brings together some of Canguilhem’s most important writings, including excerpts from previously unpublished manuscripts. Organized around the major themes and problems that have preoccupied Canguilhem throughout his intellectual career, this collection allows readers both familiar and unfamiliar with Canguilhem’s work access to a vast array of conceptual and concrete meditations on epistemology, methodology, science, and history. Although Canguilhem is a demanding writer, Delaporte succeeds in identifying the main lines of his thought with unrivaled clarity and maps out the complex and crucial place this thinker holds in the history of twentieth-century French thought.”

Edited by François Delaporte
Translated by Arthur Goldhammer
Introduction by Paul Rabinow
Critical bibliography by Camille Limoges
Publisher Zone Books, New York, 1994
This edition, 2000
ISBN 9780942299731
481 pages

Reviews: Levin (The Journal of the American Medical Association, 1994), Keller (Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 1996), Sutton (The British Journal for the History of Science, 1997).


PDF (7 MB)

Sylvia Berryman: The Mechanical Hypothesis in Ancient Greek Natural Philosophy (2009)

19 December 2014, dusan

“It has long been thought that the ancient Greeks did not take mechanics seriously as part of the workings of nature, and that therefore their natural philosophy was both primitive and marginal. In this book Sylvia Berryman challenges that assumption, arguing that the idea that the world works ‘like a machine’ can be found in ancient Greek thought, predating the early modern philosophy with which it is most closely associated. Her discussion ranges over topics including balancing and equilibrium, lifting water, sphere-making and models of the heavens, and ancient Greek pneumatic theory, with detailed analysis of thinkers such as Aristotle, Archimedes, and Hero of Alexandria. Her book shows scholars of ancient Greek philosophy why it is necessary to pay attention to mechanics, and shows historians of science why the differences between ancient and modern reactions to mechanics are not as great as was generally thought.”

Publisher Cambridge University Press, 2009
ISBN 0521763762, 9780521763769
286 pages

Review (Serafina Cuomo, Aestimatio, 2012)
Review (Jean De Groot, Metascience, 2012)
Talk by the author (video, at UBC, 104 min, 2011)



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