Fall 2017 catalog cover

The Penn Press list for fall 2017 includes hardcover releases, first-time paperbacks, and ebook editions intended for scholars, students, and serious general readers worldwide. Click here to explore our forthcoming books, grouped by subject area.

Mastery of Nature
Promises and Prospects

Edited by Svetozar Y. Minkov and Bernhardt L. Trout

304 pages | 6 x 9 | 1 illus.
Cloth Mar 2018 | ISBN 9780812249934 | Add to cart $65.00s | Outside N. America £54.00
Ebook Mar 2018 | ISBN 9780812294866 | Add to cart $65.00s | £42.50 | About
View table of contents and excerpt

"Addressing a mix of technology, politics, culture, and philosophy of science, the essays in Mastery of Nature connect the intellectual stages of philosophical and scientific development with unusual precision and depth. The collection amounts to a rare exchange between philosophical critics of the modern scientific project and its serious defenders."—Robert Faulkner, Boston College

"This volume is an ambitious undertaking made possible by an impressive group of contributors whose essays, while diverse, work together to create a whole greater than the sum of its parts. Mastery of Nature is a significant contribution to several fields, including political philosophy, intellectual history, and philosophy of science."—Ronna Burger, Tulane University

In the early modern period, thinkers began to suggest that philosophy abjure the ideal of dispassionate contemplation of the natural world in favor of a more practically minded project that aimed to make human beings masters and possessors of nature. Humanity would seize control of its own fate and overthrow the rule by hostile natural or imaginary forces. The gradual spread of liberal democratic government, the Enlightenment, and the rise of technological modernity are to a considerable extent the fruits of this early modern shift in intellectual concern and focus. But these long-term trends have also brought unintended consequences in their wake as the dynamic forces of social reason, historical progress, and the continued recalcitrance of the natural world have combined to disillusion humans of the possibility—even the desirability—of their mastery over nature.

The essays in Mastery of Nature constitute an extensive analysis of the fundamental aspects of the human grasp of nature. What is the foundation and motive of the modern project in the first place? What kind of a world did its early advocates hope to bring about? Contributors not only examine the foundational theories espoused by early modern thinkers such as Machiavelli, Bacon, Descartes, and Hobbes but also explore the criticisms and corrections that appeared in the works of Rousseau, Kant, Nietzsche, and Heidegger. Ranging from ancient Greek thought to contemporary quantum mechanics, Mastery of Nature investigates to what extent nature can be conquered to further human ends and to what extent such mastery is compatible with human flourishing.

Contributors: Robert C. Bartlett, Mark Blitz, Daniel A. Doneson, Michael A. Gillespie, Ralph Lerner, Paul Ludwig, Harvey C. Mansfield, Arthur Melzer, Svetozar Y. Minkov, Christopher Nadon, Diana J. Schaub, Adam Schulman, Devin Stauffer, Bernhardt L. Trout, Lisa Van Boxel, Richard Velkley, Stuart D. Warner, Jerry Weinberger.

Svetozar Y. Minkov is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Roosevelt University.

Bernhardt L. Trout is the Raymond F. Baddour, ScD, (1949) Professor of Chemical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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