The problem with “Indigenous science”

The logo of the Worldwide Indigenous Science Network

Last month I was invited by Frances Widdowson, a faculty in the Department of Economics, Justice and Policy Studies at Mt. Royal University, in Calgary, to participate to a panel discussion on the topic of the “indigenization” of the university curriculum. It was a weird experience, to say the least. [Warning: if you think that as a White Male European I am automatically disqualified from offering reasoned opinions on matters pertaining the history of exploitation of Indigenous people by Western nations, you may want to stop reading and take a walk. I’m trying to save you a possible ulcer.]

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How I became a philosopher

Aristotle, the first scientist-philosopher

As some of my readers know, I have an unusual background. I began my academic career as an evolutionary biologist (Master’s at the University of Rome; Doctorate at the University of Ferrara, Italy; PhD at the University of Connecticut), switching to philosophy (PhD at the University of Tennessee) later on. A number of people, even recently, have asked me why. Here’s the answer, which I offer not (just) as a self indulgent piece of personal biography, but as a reflection on the academic world and the role of serendipity in life. It may be of interest to some, especially young students who are considering a career in either field.

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Book club: Philosophy of Nature, ch. 6

GalileoTime to bring to an end my ongoing series on Paul Feyerabend’s posthumously published Philosophy of Nature. (Here you will find part I; part II; part III; part IV; and part V.) I don’t know how many people had the fortitude to actually follow me and read the book, rather than just my commentary, but if you are among them, congratulations, it wasn’t easy!

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Can evolution explain ethics?

ethicsThe latest conversation with my friend and colleague Dan Kaufman (he of The Electric Agora) was on what, exactly, science can tell us about morality, meaning not the trivially misguided notion that somehow ethics can be reduced to neuroscience, or evolutionary biology, or whatever, but rather the more nuanced question of whether and how science can inform philosophizing about ethics.

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Book club: Philosophy of Nature, ch. 5

Parmenides
Parmenides

We now get to the next to the last chapter in Paul Feyerabend’s recently (and obviously posthumously published) Philosophy of Nature. (Here you will find part I; part II; part III; and part IV.) Recall that the point of this rather idiosyncratic book is to provide a broad account of the transitions among three major “forms of life” representing three ways in which humans have made sense of the world: myth, philosophy, and science. This chapter is about the pre-Socratics until Parmenides, while the last (very long) chapter will cover everything that has happened over the past couple of millennia, up to modern physics. (Yes, I know.)

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Book club: Philosophy of Nature, ch. 4

Anaximander
Anaximander

Let’s resume our discussion of Paul Feyerabend’s recently (posthumously) published Philosophy of Nature, an idiosyncratic analysis of the evolution of Western culture via the succession of the “forms of life” aimed at making sense of the world: myth, philosophy, and science. (Part I; Part II; Part III) The fourth chapter is about the transition between myth and philosophy, or what Feyerabend refers to as the shift toward a conceptual (as opposed to a poetic) understanding of nature.

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