If, then, we ask how we actually do relate our various maps, the simple answer is that we do it by following the coastlines that appear on all of them showing common patterns which refer us back to the larger context. For instance, political maps, especially maps of Africa and Australia, often show mysterious straight lines not found in most other maps. (There are no straight lines in nature.) The only way to understand these straight lines is to relate them to the history of particular treaties and, beyond that, to the colonial system that produced them. Treaties, however, are not things that can be explained in terms of physiography or vegetation or electrons. Nor can they be explained in terms of the neurons of the people who make them, any more than the people themselves can. The only way to explain treaties is by thinking about human history and human purposes. And this is talk that cuts into the cosmic cake (so to speak) from a quite different angle.
Understanding the relation of history to physiography is not, then, like relating two places on the same map. It involves relating two maps--two distinct ways of thinking--to one another. And when we consider problems about how the physical sciences relate to our conscious experience and more generally to the rest of life, that is what we have to do. This work is philosophical, but that does not mean that it has to be left to philosophers. Like the further understanding of problems about human rights, it is a cooperative venture, one to which all citizens of the intellectual republic can contribute. And for all these citizens, it is a much more interesting and useful occupation than the wars recommended by competitive imperialism.
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Book title: The Values of Science:The Oxford Amnesty Lectures 1997. Contributors: Wes Williams - Editor. Publisher: Westview Press. Place of publication: Boulder, CO. Publication year: 1999. Page number: 131.
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