Is unity of knowledge possible? Is it desirable? Two rival visions clash. One seeks a single way of explaining everything known and knowable about ourselves and the universe. The other champions diverse modes of understanding served by disparate kinds of evidence. Contrary views pit science against the arts and humanities. Scientists generally laud and seek convergence. Artists and humanists deplore amalgamation as a threat to humane values.
These opposing perspectives flamed into hostility in the 1950s "Two Cultures" clash. They culminate today in new efforts to conjoin insights into physical nature and human culture, and new fears lest such syntheses submerge what the arts and humanities most value.
This book, stemming from David Lowenthal’s inaugural Stockholm Archipelago Lectures, explores the Two Cultures quarrel’s underlying ideologies. Lowenthal shows how ingrained bias toward unity or diversity shapes major issues in education, religion, genetics, race relations, heritage governance, and environmental policy.
Aimed at a general academic audience, Quest for the Unity of Knowledge especially targets those in conservation, ecology, history of ideas, museology, and heritage studies.
"No surer guide to the genealogy of this complex landscape of ideas." — David N. Livingstone, Professor of Geography and History, Queen’s University Belfast, UK
"In this absorbing and wide-ranging book, David Lowenthal explores the centuries-old dialogue between ideas of the unity and diversity of knowledge, as expressed in debates over science and the humanities, humanity and nature, place and space, identity and difference, heritage and history. For its remarkable scope, telling insights and sheer wit, this book will be warmly welcomed by scholars across the disciplines." — Felix Driver, Professor of Human Geography, Royal Holloway, University of London, UK
"Makes fundamental tensions in science and the humanities relevant to problems of heritage and conservation studies. The Quest for the Unity of Knowledge combines scientific understanding with voices of disenfranchised communities." — Glenn Wharton, Clinical Professor, Museum Studies, New York University, USA
"A work of stunning erudition, lucid presentation, and judicious even-handedness. It should be of interest to anyone interested in the past - and the future - of knowledge and scholarship." — John Torpey, Presidential Professor of Sociology and History, Director, Institute for International Studies, Graduate Center, City University of New York, USA
"David Lowenthal’s sweeping synthesis of Western thought provides strategies for addressing our grandest challenges. "The mutual interdependence of apparently unrelated knowledges", declares Lowenthal, may be the single most important message of this book. Here is a roadmap of one of the most exciting intellectual journeys of our time." — Marcus Hall, Professor of Environmental Studies, University of Zurich, Switzerland
"Brilliantly charts the history of envisioning intellectual life as a great supercontinent of ideas versus a mental tectonics of many islands. Lowenthal counsels us to welcome both modes of thought, appreciating how supercontinents and islands form from each other, in our ideas no less than in geology. A graceful, learned, and sage work by one of our deepest thinkers." — Michael Bell, Professor of Sociology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA
"An exhilarating intellectual journey across place and time, crafting a shimmering history of ideas. This masterful scholar weaves a lifetime of learning and wisdom into a timely and urgent exploration of the changing contours of knowledge itself." — Tom Griffiths, Professor of History, Australian National University
"This magisterial synthesis navigates skilfully between the totalising and universalising quests for knowledge on the one hand, and the disparate and particularistic accounts of understanding on the other, opting instead for something more fruitful: the creative tension between the two and their dialectic interweaving, beyond any disciplinary straitjackets. Along the way, Lowenthal gathers a plethora of wonderful actors, facts, ideas, and anecdotes, from the history of science, environmental studies, heritage and the politics of the past." — Yannis Hamilakis, Professor of Archaeology and Modern Greek Studies, Brown University, USA
Foreword: Environmental Humanities, the Stockholm Archipelago Lectures, and David Lowenthal. Sverker Sörlin, Libby Robin, and Marco Armiero
1. Unifying Knowledge—Miracle or Mirage?
2. Man and Nature
3. Island Polymaths
4. Purity and Mixture
5. Heritage Universal and Divisive
6. Past into Present
The Routledge Environmental Humanities series is an original and inspiring venture recognising that today’s world agricultural and water crises, ocean pollution and resource depletion, global warming from greenhouse gases, urban sprawl, overpopulation, food insecurity and environmental justice are all crises of culture.
The reality of understanding and finding adaptive solutions to our present and future environmental challenges has shifted the epicenter of environmental studies away from an exclusively scientific and technological framework to one that depends on the human-focused disciplines and ideas of the humanities and allied social sciences.
We thus welcome book proposals from all humanities and social sciences disciplines for an inclusive and interdisciplinary series. We favour manuscripts aimed at an international readership and written in a lively and accessible style. The readership comprises scholars and students from the humanities and social sciences and thoughtful readers concerned about the human dimensions of environmental change.
Please contact the Editor, Rebecca Brennan (Rebecca.Brennan@tandf.co.uk) to submit proposals
Praise for A Cultural History of Climate Change (2016):
A Cultural History of Climate Change shows that the humanities are not simply a late-arriving appendage to Earth System science, to help in the work of translation. These essays offer distinctive insights into how and why humans reason and imagine their ‘weather-worlds’ (Ingold, 2010). We learn about the interpenetration of climate and culture and are prompted to think creatively about different ways in which the idea of climate change can be conceptualised and acted upon beyond merely ‘saving the planet’.
Professor Mike Hulme, King's College London, in Green Letters
Professor Libby Robin, Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University, Canberra; Guest Professor of Environmental History, Division of History of Science, Technology and Environment, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm Sweden.
Dr Paul Warde, Faculty of History, University of Cambridge, UK.
Christina Alt, St Andrews University, UK, Alison Bashford, University of New South Wales, Australia, Peter Coates, University of Bristol, UK, Thom van Dooren, University of New South Wales, Australia, Georgina Endfield, Liverpool UK, Jodi Frawley, University of Western Australia, Andrea Gaynor, The University of Western Australia, Australia, Christina Gerhardt, University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, USA,□ Tom Lynch, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, USA, Iain McCalman, University of Sydney, Australia, Jennifer Newell, Australian Museum, Sydney, Australia, Simon Pooley, Imperial College London, UK, Sandra Swart, Stellenbosch University, South Africa, Ann Waltner, University of Minnesota, US, Jessica Weir, University of Western Sydney, Australia
International Advisory Board
William Beinart,University of Oxford, UK, Jane Carruthers, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa, Dipesh Chakrabarty, University of Chicago, USA, Paul Holm, Trinity College, Dublin, Republic of Ireland, Shen Hou, Renmin University of China, Beijing, Rob Nixon, Princeton University, USA, Pauline Phemister, Institute of Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh, UK, Deborah Bird Rose, University of New South Wales, Australia, Sverker Sörlin, KTH Environmental Humanities Laboratory, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden, Helmuth Trischler, Deutsches Museum, Munich and Co-Director, Rachel Carson Centre, LMU Munich University, Germany, Mary Evelyn Tucker, Yale University, USA, Kirsten Wehner, University of London, UK