Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools

Navigation

Cosmopolitics II

2011
Author:

Isabelle Stengers
Translated by Robert Bononno

Cosmopolitics II

A sweeping inquiry that critiques modern science’s claims of objectivity, rationality, and truth

Arguing for an “ecology of practices” in the sciences, Isabelle Stengers explores the discordant landscape of knowledge derived from modern science, seeking intellectual consistency among contradictory, confrontational, and mutually exclusive philosophical approaches. She concludes with a forceful critique of tolerance, proposing a “cosmopolitics” that rejects politics as a universal category and allows modern scientific practices to peacefully coexist with other forms of knowledge.

Cosmopolitics is Isabelle Stengers’ most ambitious and comprehensive work of science studies. In it, she reconsiders the entire history of modern science from Galileo to the complexity theory of today, and proposes a radical rethinking of the ‘science wars’ of the 1990s, and of the whole question of scientific truth-claims. This is a work of great originality and importance; reading it forced me to reconsider a lot of what I believed, or thought I knew.

Steven Shaviro

Originally published in French in seven volumes, Cosmopolitics investigates the role and authority of the sciences in modern societies and challenges their claims to objectivity, rationality, and truth. Cosmopolitics II includes the first English-language translations of the last four books: Quantum Mechanics: The End of the Dream, In the Name of the Arrow of Time: Prigogine’s Challenge, Life and Artifice: The Faces of Emergence, and The Curse of Tolerance.

Arguing for an “ecology of practices” in the sciences, Isabelle Stengers explores the discordant landscape of knowledge derived from modern science, seeking intellectual consistency among contradictory, confrontational, and mutually exclusive philosophical ambitions and approaches. For Stengers, science is a constructive enterprise, a diverse, interdependent, and highly contingent system that does not simply discover preexisting truths but, through specific practices and processes, helps shape them.

Stengers concludes this philosophical inquiry with a forceful critique of tolerance; it is a fundamentally condescending attitude, she contends, that prevents those worldviews that challenge dominant explanatory systems from being taken seriously. Instead of tolerance, she proposes a “cosmopolitics” that rejects politics as a universal category and allows modern scientific practices to peacefully coexist with other forms of knowledge.

Cosmopolitics II

Trained as a chemist and philosopher, Isabelle Stengers has authored or coauthored more than twenty-five books and two hundred articles on the philosophy of science. In the 1970s and 1980s, she worked with Nobel Prize recipient Ilya Prigogine, with whom she wrote Order out of Chaos: Man’s New Dialogue with Nature. Her interests include chaos theory, the history of science, the popularization of the sciences, and the contested status of hypnosis as a legitimate form of psychotherapy. She is a professor of philosophy at the Université Libre de Bruxelles. Her books Power and Invention: Situating Science (1997), The Invention of Modern Science (2000), and Cosmopolitics I (2010) have been translated into English and published by the University of Minnesota Press.


Robert Bononno has translated more than a dozen books, including Psychoanalysis and the Challenge of Islam by Fethi Benslama (Minnesota, 2009) and Decolonization and the Decolonized by Albert Memmi (Minnesota, 2006).

Cosmopolitics II

Cosmopolitics is Isabelle Stengers’ most ambitious and comprehensive work of science studies. In it, she reconsiders the entire history of modern science from Galileo to the complexity theory of today, and proposes a radical rethinking of the ‘science wars’ of the 1990s, and of the whole question of scientific truth-claims. This is a work of great originality and importance; reading it forced me to reconsider a lot of what I believed, or thought I knew.

Steven Shaviro

Her writings represent a significantly creative practice and her inventions take the reader on a journey of learning and transformation that most educationalists could only dream of for their students.

London Review of Education

Cosmopolitics II

Contents

Preface

Book IV. Quantum Mechanics: The End of the Dream
1. Atoms Exist!
2. Abandon the Dream?
3. Niels Bohr’s Lesson
4. Quantum Irony
5. The Physicists’ Double Standard
6. The Silent Descendant of the Queen of Heaven

Book V. In the Name of the Arrow of Time: Prigogine’s Challenge
7. The Arrow of Time
8. Boltzmann’s Successor
9. Boltzmann’s Heir
10. The Obligations of Chaos
11. The Laws of Chaos?
12. The Passion of the Law

Book VI. Life and Artifice: The Faces of Emergence
13. The Question of Emergence
14. The Practices of Emergence
15. Dissipative Coherence
16. Artifice and Life
17. The Art of Models
18. Transition to the Limit

Book VII. The Curse of Tolerance
19. The Curse of Tolerance
20. The Curse as Test
21. Anxiety and Fright
22. The Politics of Technical Inventions
23. The Cosmopolitical Question
24. Nomadic and Sedentary
25. The Betrayal of the Diplomats
26. The Diplomat’s Peace
27. Calculemus
28. The Final Challenge

Notes
Index