Reading List- 6-9-09

June 9, 2009 at 2:04 pm 1 comment

When I graduated a few weeks ago, I was very excited about the prospect of reading fiction. So I ran through Haruki Murakami’s excellent The Wind Up Bird Chronicle. But about 3/4 of  the way through, I was already back to nonfiction. I blame Raven Used Books in Harvard Sq. Jerks sell unmarked copies of current philosophy of biology texts on the cheap.

So, the current reading list is this:

Edward Said, Orientalism

I’m borrowing this one from our housemate, but I might as well be borrowing it from Nateene. So far I’m two chapters in, but Said writes in long form and with incredible style. I’ve tried starting on Orientalism before, but gave up. This time, it’s personal. Really, though, this is about the West’s perception and construction of the Orient, and how that has actually affected the orient that’s out there. On this reading, it’s sounding a strong note of caution for reaserch that I hope to do on the attitudes towards evolution possessed by people from Muslim cultures.

Philip Kitcher, In Mendel’s Mirror

As this is an essay collection, I’ve read a few of these before. I’m reading those essays, and others of Kitcher’s, again. It seems like a very good collection, and I can see it coming in handy for future courses that I plan to take in philosophy of biology.

Peter McLaughlin, What Functions Explain

Although filled cover to cover with difficult and frequently esoteric material and terminology, this is the best book-length piece of philosophy of science that I’ve read in a few months. It’s about teleology in philosophy, biology, artifacts, and all sorts of other areas. It covers a range of treatments of teleology and teleological thought, from Aristotle to Kant in some of the earlier chapters through Hempel and Nagel in the chapter I’m currently reading. There’s also a lot of original material and argument from the author.

I’ve been especially excited by this book because it offers a different entry point into issues of scientific and philosophical explanation. The investigation of what counts as a good explanation, what it means to explain something, is a classic issue of philosophy of science (if a domain so young can have classic issues). The trouble is that I don’t have the stamina to read through Carnap’s Aufbau or another Logical Positivist/Empiricist text on my own, when I’m supposed to be on a bit of an academic break. McLaughlin’s book is just accessible enough while being so technical as to be interesting and curious.

Gary Gregg, The Middle East: A Cultural Psychology

Orientalism is a good companion to this book. Written in 2005, this is one of the most current attempts to sketch a psychology of the Middle Eastern/North African region (Gregg refers throughout the book to the region as MENA, to distance himself from the tradition of considering the Middle East as a monolith). It’s a very thorough treatment of the area, at least for its size- at 365 pages, Gregg fits in chapters on the Social Ecology of MENA and chapters on psychological development from early childhood through adulthood. Gregg is very sensitive to the task of characterizing the psychology of a region with diverse geography and cultures, but is general modest in his claims and provides more descriptive material (for example, average number of months Middle Eastern mothers spend breast feeding) than conjecture (as to the effect of this breast feeding on the character of the people of MENA). Of course, he has to draw some conclusions… but the care with which he supports them makes me feel more confident that the information is reliable.

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Entry filed under: Biology, Culture, Explanation, Philosophy, Teleology.

Population Thinking for Epistemology Editing and Knowledge

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. artifiedlady  |  June 9, 2009 at 7:16 pm

    I would highly recommend you add “Nine Hills to Nambonkaha: Two Years in the Heart of an African Village” by Sarah Erdman to your reading list. It seems that your love of politics and social anthropology would definitely lend themselves to this memoir. I read it as an undergrad, and absolutely fell in love!

    Reply

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Everything on this blog should be taken as a draft, the spilling over of mental activity flung far and wide. The author is a graduate of Hampshire College in Amherst, MA who enjoys many things but devotes most of this space to matters academic.
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