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Cosmopolitics I (Volume 9)

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From Einstein’s quest for a unified field theory to Stephen Hawking’s belief that we “would know the mind of God” through such a theory, contemporary science—and physics in particular—has claimed that it alone possesses absolute knowledge of the universe. In a sweeping work of philosophical inquiry, originally published in French in seven volumes, Isabelle Stengers builds on her previous intellectual accomplishments to explore the role and authority of science in modern societies and to challenge its pretensions to objectivity, rationality, and truth.


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. She addresses conceptual themes crucial for modern science, such as the formation of physical-mathematical intelligibility, from Galilean mechanics and the origin of dynamics to quantum theory, the question of biological reductionism, and the power relations at work in the social and behavioral sciences. Focusing on the polemical and creative aspects of such themes, she argues for an ecology of practices that takes into account how scientific knowledge evolves, the constraints and obligations such practices impose, and the impact they have on the sciences and beyond.


This perspective, which demands that competing practices and interests be taken seriously rather than merely (and often condescendingly) tolerated, poses a profound political and ethical challenge. In place of both absolutism and tolerance, she proposes a cosmopolitics—modeled on the ideal scientific method that considers all assumptions and facts as being open to question—that reintegrates the natural and the social, the modern and the archaic, the scientific and the irrational.


Cosmopolitics I includes the first three volumes of the original work. Cosmopolitics II will be published by the University of Minnesota Press in Spring 2011.

272 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2003

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About the author

Isabelle Stengers

98 books116 followers
Isabelle Stengers is the author of many books on the philosophy of science, and is Professor of Philosophy at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium.

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Displaying 1 - 5 of 5 reviews
Profile Image for Blaine Snow.
141 reviews106 followers
Want to read
April 12, 2020
This is a Pre-Review (still working on these volumes)

Stengers' Cosmopolitics vols I and II, comprising seven books on science and culture, is definitely a tour de force, but one helluva difficult read. I read TONS of nonfiction in philosophy, science, Asian philosophy, cognitive science, etc. and Stengers' prose is in the zone with the most difficult German idealist writing. Well, not quite... but it's tough. What I've been able to absorb so far is very much in line with my views on where science should place itself in the global commons. These volumes are part of a Univ. of Minnesota series called Posthumanities, edited by Cary Wolfe.

I will update this review once I've more completely absorbed them but for now, here are the titles of the seven books in these two volumes:

Cosmopolitics Vol. 1
Book 1: The Science Wars
Book 2: The Invention of Mechanics: Power and Reason
Book 3: Thermodynamics: The Crisis of Physical Reality

Cosmopolitics Vol. 2
Book 4: Quantum Mechanics
Book 5: In the Name of the Arrow of Time
Book 6: Life and Artifice
Book 7: The Curse of Tolerance

But the slog is worth it!
Profile Image for Thomaz Amancio.
154 reviews18 followers
August 29, 2019
Não sei se conheço alguém que leve mais a sério (no sentido de responsabilidade) a tarefa de pensar coisas doidas que a Stengers. Para ela tudo demanda um cuidado e uma minúcia que são raríssimos.
Profile Image for Lu Han.
25 reviews
Currently reading
May 15, 2023
Eventually, inevitably, this book.
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