cover of book

On Knowing--The Natural Sciences
by Richard P. McKeon
edited by David B. Owen and Zahava K. McKeon
compiled by David B. Owen
University of Chicago Press, 1994
Cloth: 978-0-226-56026-7 | Paper: 978-0-226-56027-4 | eISBN: 978-0-226-40983-2
Library of Congress Classification Q174.8.M38 1994
Dewey Decimal Classification 501

Well before the current age of discourse, deconstruction, and multiculturalism, Richard McKeon propounded a philosophy of pluralism showing how "facts" and "values" are dependent on diverse ways of reading texts. This book is a transcription of an entire course, including both lectures and student discussions, taught by McKeon. As such, it provides an exciting introduction to McKeon's conception of pluralism, a central aspect of neo-Pragmatism, while demonstrating how pluralism works in a classroom setting.

In his lectures, McKeon outlines the entire history of Western thinking on the sciences. Treating the central concepts of motion, space, time, and cause, he traces modern intellectual debates back to the ancient Greeks, notably Plato, Aristotle, Democritus, and the Sophists. As he brings the story of Western science up to the twentieth century, he uses his fabled semantic schema (reproduced here for the first time) to uncover new ideas and observations about cosmology, mechanics, dynamics, and other aspects of physical science.

Illustrating the broad historical sweep of the lectures are a series of discussions which give detail to the course's intellectual framework. These discussions of Plato, Aristotle, Galileo, Newton, and Maxwell are perhaps the first published rendition of a philosopher in literal dialogue with his students. Led by McKeon's pointed questioning, the discussions reveal the difficulties and possibilities of learning to engage in serious intellectual communication.
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