Human Nature and the Limits of Science

Human Nature and the Limits of Science

3.39 (18 ratings by Goodreads)
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John Dupre warns that our understanding of human nature is being distorted by two faulty and harmful forms of pseudo-scientific thinking. Not just in the academic world but increasingly in everyday life, we find one set of experts seeking to explain the ends at which humans aim in terms of evolutionary theory, and another set of experts using economic models to give rules of how we act to achieve those ends. Dupre charges this unholy alliance of
evolutionary psychologists and rational-choice theorists with scientific imperialism: they use methods and ideas developed for one domain of inquiry in others where they are inappropriate. He demonstrates that these theorists' explanations do not work, and furthermore that if taken seriously their theories tend to have
dangerous social and political consequences. For these reasons, it is important to resist scientism - an exaggerated conception of what science can be expected to do for us. To say this is in no way to be against science - just against bad science.
Dupre restores sanity to the study of human nature by pointing the way to a proper understanding of humans in the societies that are our natural and necessary environments. He shows how our distinctively human capacities are shaped by the social contexts in which we are embedded. And he concludes with a bold challenge to one of the intellectual touchstones of modern science: the idea of the universe as causally complete and deterministic. In an impressive rehabilitation of the idea of
free human agency, he argues that far from being helpless cogs in a mechanistic universe, humans are rare concentrations of causal power in a largely indeterministic world.
Human Nature and the Limits of Science is a provocative, witty, and persuasive corrective to scientism. In its place, Dupre commends a pluralistic approach to science, as the appropriate way to investigate a universe that is not unified in form. Anyone interested in science and human nature will enjoy this book, unless they are its targets.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 212 pages
  • 145 x 227 x 17mm | 383g
  • Clarendon Press
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0199248060
  • 9780199248063

Table of contents

1. Introduction ; 2. The Foundations of Evolutionary Psychology ; 3. The Evolutionary Psychology of Sex and Gender ; 4. The Charms and Consequences of Evolutionary Psychology ; 5. Kinds of People ; 6. Rational Choice Theory ; 7. Freedom of the Will ; Bibliography, Index
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Review quote

Dupre writes with considerable grace and economy...this book works very well indeed as a critique of the presumptions of two simplistic projects that wield undo influence on our conception of us. This critique alone is worth the price of the book. Richard C. Francis, Biology and Philosophy 'excellent, clear, and helpful' His [Dupre's] criticisms are well made ... His approach is certainly interesting and deserving of both scrutiny and elaboration ... Dupre ends with the wonderful suggestion that his view leaves a role for philosophy as providing a "synoptic and integrative vision", and so moving "from underlabourer to Queen of the Sciences" The Philosophers' Magazine
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About John Dupre

John Dupre is Professor of Philosophy of Science at the University of Exeter. He was formerly at Stanford University and Birkbeck College, London.
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Rating details

18 ratings
3.39 out of 5 stars
5 11% (2)
4 39% (7)
3 33% (6)
2 11% (2)
1 6% (1)
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