Robert Rosen: Essays on Life Itself (1999)

15 July 2015, dusan

“In this collection of twenty-two essays, Rosen takes to task the central objective of the natural sciences, calling into question the attempt to create objectivity in a subjective world. The book opens with an exploration of the interaction between biology and physics, unpacking Schrödinger´s famous text What Is Life? and revealing the shortcomings of the notion that artificial intelligence can truly replicate life.

He also refutes the thesis that mathematical models of reality can be reflected entirely in algorithms, that is, are of a purely syntactical character. He argues that it is the noncomputable, nonformalizable nature of biology that makes organisms complex, and that these systems are generic, whereas those systems described by reductionistic reasoning are simple and rare.

An intriguing enigma links all of the essays: ‘How can science explain the unpredictable?'”

Publisher Columbia University Press, 1999
Complexity in Ecological Systems series
ISBN 023110510X, 9780231105101
x+360 pages

Reviews: Bruce J. West (Quarterly Review of Biology, 2001), Donald C. Mikulecky (c1999).


PDF (removed on 2019-10-30 upon request from Judith Rosen)

Common Knowledge 17(1): Comparative Relativism: Symposium on an Impossibility, I-IV (2011)

6 March 2015, dusan

A journal section based on the conference “Comparative Relativism” held in September 2009 at the IT University of Copenhagen.

The aim of this publication “is to place in unlikely conjunction the two terms ‘comparison’ and ‘relativism’. On the one hand, comparison, in the most general sense, involves the investigation of discrete contexts to elucidate their similarities and differences. Comparative methods have been widely used in many social science disciplines, including history, linguistics, sociology, and anthropology. On the other hand, relativism, as a tendency, stance, or working method in social anthropology, and more recently in science and technology studies (STS), usually involves the assumption that contexts exhibit, or may exhibit, radically different, incomparable, or incommensurable traits.”

Based on this paradoxical premise, “comparative relativism is understood by some to imply that relativism comes in various kinds and that these have multiple uses, functions, and effects, varying widely in different personal, historical, and institutional contexts; moreover, that those contexts can be compared and contrasted to good purpose…On the other hand, comparative relativism is taken by other[s] to imply and encourage a ‘comparison of comparisons’, in order to relativize what different peoples—say, Western academics and Amerindian shamans—compare things “for’.” (from the Introduction)

“In other words, comparative relativism can ask both what knowledge or truth is being imagined relative to and whether comparison always operates in the “same” way—or with the same grounds or purposes (e.g., shoring up the categories of culture, nature, morality) wherever we find it.” (from Helmreich 2012)

With contributions by Casper Bruun Jensen, Barbara Herrnstein Smith, G. E. R. Lloyd, Martin Holbraad, Andreas Roepstorff, Isabelle Stengers, Helen Verran, Steven D. Brown, Brit Ross Winthereik, Marilyn Strathern, Bruce Kapferer, Annemarie Mol, Morten Axel Pedersen, Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, Matei Candea, Debbora Battaglia, and Roy Wagner.

Publisher Duke University Press, Winter 2011
ISBN 0961-754x
165 pages


PDF (4 MB)

See also
Casper Bruun Jensen, Bifurcations: Comparative Relativism, Conexões Parciais, 2012, 21 pp.
Stefan Helmreich, Extraterrestrial Relativism, Anthropological Quarterly, 2012, 15 pp.

Michael Polanyi: The Tacit Dimension (1966–) [EN, DE]

4 April 2014, dusan

“‘I shall reconsider human knowledge by starting from the fact that we can know more than we can tell,’ writes Michael Polanyi, whose work paved the way for the likes of Thomas Kuhn and Karl Popper. The Tacit Dimension argues that tacit knowledge—tradition, inherited practices, implied values, and prejudgments—is a crucial part of scientific knowledge. This volume challenges the assumption that skepticism, rather than established belief, lies at the heart of scientific discovery.”

Publisher Doubleday, Garden City/NY, 1966
104 pages
via James L. Kelley

Commentaries: Steven Shapin (London Review of Books, 2011), CP Goodman (Polanyiana, 2003)

The Tacit Dimension (English, 1966, no OCR, pp 96-97 missing)
Implizites Wissen (German, trans. Horst Brühmann, 1985, no OCR)