Science, according to the received wisdom of the day, can answer any question we choose to put to it – even the most fundamental about ourselves, our behaviour and our cultures. But for Mary Midgley it can never be the whole story, as it cannot truly explain what it means to be human.
In this typically crusading work, universally acclaimed as a classic on first publication, she powerfully asserts her corrective view that without poetry (or literature, or music, or history, or even theology) we cannot hope to understand our humanity. In this remarkable book, the reader is struck by both the simplicity and power of her argument and the sheer pleasure of reading one of our most accessible philosophers.
‘A fiercely combative philosopher … our foremost scourge of scientific pretension.’ – The Guardian
Part 1: Visions of Rationality 1. The Sources of Thought 2. Knowledge Considered as Weed-Killer 3. Rationality and Rainbows 4. The Origin of Disillusion 5. Atomistic Dreams - The Quest for Permanence 6. Memes and Other Unusual Life-Forms
Part 2: Mind and Body - The End of Apartheid 7. Putting Our Selves Together Again 8. Living in the World 9. The Strange Persistence of Fatalism 10. Chess-Boards and Presidents of the Immortals 11. Doing Science on Purpose 12. One World but a Big One 13 A Plague on both their Houses 14. Being Scientific about Our Selves
Part 3: In What Kind of World? 15. Widening Responsibilities 16. The Problem of Humbug 17. Individualism and the Concept of Gaia 18. Gods and Goddesses - The Role of Wonder 19. Why There is Such a Thing as Society? 20. Paradoxes of Sociobiology and Social Darwinism 21. Mythology, Rhetoric and Religion