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Ideas Under Fire

Historical Studies of Philosophy and Science in Adversity
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Jonathan Lavery
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The history of Western philosophy and science is marked by numerous moments when a major development has emerged from conditions that are manifestly adverse to intellectual activity. This book surveys a wide range of cases, and considers how these achievements were possible and how adversity helped shape the ideas that emerged.
Since Aristotle’s famous declaration that the speculative sciences originated with the emergence of a leisure class, it has been accepted as a truism that intellectual activity requires political stability and leisure in order to flourish. Paradoxically, however, some of the most powerful and influential contributions to Western intellectual culture have been produced in conditions that were adverse–indeed hostile–to intellectual activity. Examples include Socrates' stirring defense of the examined life before a hostile Athenian jury, Boethius writing The Consolation of Philosophy under the specter of impending torture and execution, Galileo devising key notions for modern mechanics while under house arrest, and Jean-Paul Sartre drafting portions of Being and Nothingness in his war diaries, to name only a few of the most famous incidents–all extraordinary achievements spawned, developed or completed in adversity. In cases such as these, a philosopher or scientist must manage somehow to remain intellectually creative and focused despite living in conditions that are adverse or hostile to thought. In brief, they are working on ideas under fire.

This book is a survey of several momentous cases of philosophers and scientists working under fire. Each chapter of
Ideas Under Fire explores a particular case or set of related cases. For each case contributors consider two questions: How did the individual at the center of a particular moment of discovery overcome such formidable obstacles to leisure and conceptually abstract thought? And how did adversity shape their thinking under fire?

Each chapter has been written by a specialist on its respective subject, and the book covers every period of Western history. All the chapters are written in an accessible style that is intended to appeal to both specialists and generalists.


1. Prophets and Gadflies, Leisure and Adversity
Jonathan Lavery; WLU (Philosophy)

Section I: Ancient & Mediaeval

2. Plato in the Crito
Steven Robinson; Brandon University (Philosophy)

3. Grief and Homecoming in Boetheus' Consolation of Philosophy
James Crooks; Bishop’s University (Philosophy)

4. A Universe Created and Eternal: the Crisis in Faith in the 13th Century
William Carroll; Blackfriars College,Oxford (Theology)

Section II: Renaissance & Modern

5. Why Giordano Bruno’s ‘Tranquil Philosophy’ Ended in a Fire
Hilary Gatti; Universita di Roma, "La Sapienza" (Literature/Philosophy)

6. Galileo under Fire and under Patronage
Maurice Finocchiaro; University of Nevada, Las Vegas (Philosophy)

7. Science during the French Revolution
Maurice Crosland; University of Kent (History)

8. Hegel and the Crises of His Times
William Conklin; University of Windsor (Law)

Section III: Twentieth Century

9. Henri Bergson and the Question of the Philosopher’s Political Commitment
Jean-Benoît Ghenne; l’Université Catholique de Louvain (Philosophy)
Louis Groarke; St. Francis Xavier University (Philosophy)

10. Simone Weil and the Traps of Intellectual Engagement
Robin Lathangue; Trent University (Head of Colleges)

11. The Impact of World War II on Jean-Paul Sartre’s Writings
Christine Daigle; Brock University (Philosophy)

12. Political Philosophy under Apartheid
William Sweet; St. Francis Xavier University (Philosophy)

Section IV: Contemporary

13. Guerrilla Theory and the Origins of the Second Wave: FBI and CIA harassment of
radical second wave feminists in the 1960s and 1970s
Hilary Davis; York University (Philosophy)

14. Was Science Under Fire in Bush's America?
Stephen Haller; Wilfrid Laurier University (Contemporary Studies)
James Gerrie; University College of Cape Breton (Philosophy)

15. The Limits of Philosophy: setting out the legal framework for dissent
Paul Groarke; St Thomas University(Endowed Chair of Criminal Justice)


About the Contributors

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