The Values of Science: The Oxford Amnesty Lectures 1997

By Wes Williams | Go to book overview

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.


Notes
1.
C. H. Waddington, The Scientific Attitude (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1941), p. 170.
2.
René Descartes, Discourse on Method, pt. two.
3.
For a drastic questioning of this claim, see Ken Booth, "Human Wrongs and International Relations," International Affairs 71 ( 1995), pp. 103-126.
4.
I have discussed this point more fully in my book Heart and Mind ( London: Methuen, 1983).
5.
See Garret Hardin, "Living on a Lifeboat," Bioscience ( October 1974), and more fully in The Limits of Altruism ( Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1977). I am not sure who produced the rival image, but Hardin's whole argument was well discussed by Peter Singer in his Practical Ethics ( Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979), where further reading may be found on this whole debate.
6.
For further discussion of this useful concept, see Timothy Dunne and Nicholas Wheeler, eds., Human Rights in Global Politics (forthcoming, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998).
7.
I have discussed the kind of relativism that would make this agreement seem impossible in Can't We Make Moral Judgements? ( Bristol: The Bristol Press,

-131-

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The Values of Science: The Oxford Amnesty Lectures 1997
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface to the Oxford Amnesty Lectures ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • 1 - Introduction: Nature, Values, And the Future of Science 1
  • Notes 10
  • 2 - The Values of Science And The Science of Values 11
  • Notes 37
  • 3 - Science with Scruples 42
  • Notes 55
  • 4 - What Shall We Tell The Children? 58
  • Notes 78
  • 5 - Is the World Simple Or Complex? 80
  • 6 - Faith in the Truth 95
  • Notes 108
  • 7 - The Myths We Live By 110
  • Notes 131
  • About the Editor And Contributors 133
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