Joseph Rouse, "Articulating the World: Conceptual Understanding and the Scientific Image" (U Chicago Press, 2015)


In the words of Joseph Rouse’s new book, “The most pressing challenge for naturalism today is to show how to account for our own capacities for scientific understanding as a natural phenomenon that could be understood scientifically.” Articulating the World: Conceptual Understanding and the Scientific Image (University of Chicago Press, 2015) shows that meeting this pressing challenge requires changing how we account for two things: how to “situate our conceptual capacities within a scientific understanding of the world,” and what a scientific understanding of the world amounts to. This is beautifully and clearly accomplished in two parts of the book. Part I asks readers to reconsider how we think (both philosophically and scientifically) about conceptual understanding. It understands language and scientific practices to be be examples of the “evolutionary process of niche construction.” After the first part of the book situates conceptual understanding within a scientific notion of nature, Part II then explains what it is to have a scientific conception of nature in terms of the account of conceptual understanding that the first part of the book has just laid out for us. Articulating the World is an accessible and clearly written and argued philosophical account that is deeply engaged with a broad range of STS scholarship. In the course of our conversation, we talked about some of the major arguments of the book as well as the larger stakes and consequences of the study. Enjoy!

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