Science, Philosophy and Sustainability: The End of the Cartesian dream, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Science, Philosophy and Sustainability

The End of the Cartesian dream, 1st Edition

Edited by Angela Guimaraes Pereira, Silvio Funtowicz


170 pages

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pub: 2015-02-26
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For science to remain a legitimate and trustworthy source of knowledge, society will have to engage in the collective processes of knowledge co-production, which not only includes science, but also other types of knowledge. This process of change has to include a new commitment to knowledge creation and transmission and its role in a plural society.

This book proposes to consider new ways in which science can be used to sustain our planet and enrich our lives. It helps to release and reactivate social responsibility within contemporary science and technology. It reviews critically relevant cases of contemporary scientific practice within the Cartesian paradigm, relabelled as 'innovation research', promoted as essential for the progress and well-being of humanity, and characterised by high capital investment, centralised control of funding and quality, exclusive expertise, and a reductionism that is philosophical as well as methodological.

This is an accessible and relevant book for scholars in Science and Technology Studies, History and Philosophy of Science, and Science, Engineering and Technology Ethics. Providing an array of concrete examples, it supports scientists, engineers and technical experts, as well as policy-makers and other non-technical professionals working with science and technology to re-direct their approach to global problems, in a more integrative, self-reflective and humble direction.


"This inspired collection serves to awaken us from the illusory dependence on the Cartesian dream that arrogantly assumes that nature and society can be controlled. It calls for a renewed sense of responsibility in science, driving innovation to serve society in the pursuit of sustainability, justice and equality."Cynthia Selin, Arizona State University, USA

"For too long, sustainability was considered a low-hanging fruit for science and technology. It appeared to require nothing but an expansion of rational control, optimized performance, more efficient resource-use. This book shows that a more humble, probing, and integrative approach is required for science and technology to genuinely promote sustainable development. Aside from defining the challenge, it provides the conceptual tools for meeting it." –Alfred Norman, Technische Universität Darmstadt, Germany

"The book edited by Ângela Guimarães Pereira and Silvio Funtowicz on Science, Philosophy and Sustainability, is a sign of hope. If humanity wants to address and overcome the vital challenges of global environment crisis we will need a New Organon for scientific research and scientific debate. This book is a milestone in the right path." –Viriato Soromenho Marques, University of Lisbon, Portugal

"The Cartesian dream of absolute scientific knowledge and absolute technological power has suffered greatly over the past decades, giving way to increasing paradox, confusion, indeterminacy and concerns over technology’s perverse effects. This outstanding collection of articles is required reading for anyone seeking to understand this philosophical, scientific, technological and social crisis."Tsjalling Swierstra, Maastricht University, the Netherlands

"Overall, this is an excellent study that should be required reading for think tanks and policymakers."David Lorimer, The End of the Cartesian Dream?

Table of Contents

Introduction: Cartesian Dreams Silvio Funtowicz and Ângela Guimarães Pereira Part 1: Original Matters1.Plenty of Room at the Top Ragnar Fjelland 2. The Tower of Babel, Pentecostal Science, and the Language of Epidemics David Waltner-Toews 3. Love Life or Fear Death? Cartesian Dreams and Awakenings Edvin Schei and Roger Strand Part 2: Techno-Science and Innovation 4. The Ontological Objection to Life TechnoSciences Fern Wickson 5. The dream of the Internet of Things: Do we really want, can and need to be smart? Alice Benessia and Ângela Guimarães Pereira 6. From Biobanks to Genetic Digital Networks: Why official pre-identified values may not work Mariachiara Tallacchini 7. Geoengineering dreams Paula Curvelo Part 3: Quality in A World Of Connected Bytes 8.Animals and beggars: imaginative numbers in the real worldDaniel Sarewitz9.Evidence-based Policy at the End of the Cartesian Dream: the case of mathematical modellingAndrea Saltelli and Silvio Funtowicz

About the Editors

Ângela Guimarães Pereira is a scientific officer of the Joint Research Centre – European Commission, Ispra, Italy.

Silvio Funtowicz is Professor at the Centre for the Study of the Sciences and the Humanities of the University of Bergen, Norway.

About the Series

Routledge Explorations in Sustainability and Governance

Routledge Explorations in Sustainability and Governance aims to expose the glaringly obsolete narratives currently used to frame relevant sustainability issues and to provide alternative, fresh narratives better tuned to our present reality. The books in this series will contribute useful insights to the debate on sustainability by providing a critical appraisal of ideological leftovers and outmoded and perhaps dangerous beliefs, as well as a more sobering view of the role of technology and innovation in relation to sustainability. This book series will be characterized by politically incorrect views, thinking outside the box, and unorthodox proposals in relation to sustainability of human development.

We invite book proposals that address a relevant issue in relation to the framing of sustainability issues and/or governance, by exposing a systemic problem found in the pre-analytical framing – i.e. the adoption of an obsolete narrative (perception/representation of an issue), and provide an alternative take on it and a possible way out from the box.

To submit proposals, please contact the Editor, Rebecca Brennan (

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Development / Sustainable Development
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / Environmental Policy