Philosophy of special sciences

The last decade has seen the flourishing of this new genre well beyond the three most familiar disciplines: philosophy of mathematics, philosophy of physics, and philosophy of biology. (I suppose philosophy of mind is a close cousin, even if it is not quite the same as what one might call philosophy of cognitive science.) A selection of recent titles:

Baird, Scerri, and McIntyre, Philosophy of Chemistry (2011)

Bechtel, “Philosophy of Cell Biology” (2019)

Boniolo and Nathan, Philosophy of Molecular Medicine (2016)

Brigandt, “Philosophy of Molecular Biology” (2018)

Broadbent, Philosophy of Epidemiology (2013)

Cartwright and Montuschi, Philosophy of Social Science (2014)

Fagan, Philosophy of Stem Cell Biology (2013)

Gabbay, Thagard, and Woods, Philosophy of Statistics (2011)

Green, “Philosophy of Systems and Synthetic Biology” (2017)

Griffiths and Stotz, Genetics and Philosophy (2013)

Kincaid and Ross, The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Economics (2009)

O’Malley, Philosophy of Microbiology (2014)

Plutynski, Explaining Cancer (2018)

Thagard, Woody, and Hendry, Philosophy of Chemistry (2012)

Valles, Philosophy of Population Health (2018)

Beyond these there have also been several new books in the philosophy of medicine: Broadbent, Howick (on evidence-based medicine), Stegenga, Thompson and Upshur.

A rather glaring omission is the philosophy of engineering.

Science in crisis

An abbreviated list of a new genre yoking together meta-science, sociology of science, and social epistemology, focusing on varieties of scientific malfeasance:

R. Barker Baussell, The Problem with Science: The Reproducibility Crisis and What to do About It (2021)

Aubrey Clayton, Bernoulli’s Fallacy: Statistical Illogic and the Crisis of Modern Science (2021)

Nicolas Chevassus-au-Louis, Fraud in the Lab: The High Stakes of Scientific Research (2019)

Ben Goldacre, Bad Science: Quacks, Hacks, and Big Pharma Flacks (2010)

Gareth Leng and Rhodri Ivor Leng, The Matter of Facts: Skepticism, Persuasion, and Evidence in Science (2020)

Philip Mirowski, Science-Mart (2011)

Stuart Ritchie, Science Fictions: Exposing Fraud, Bias, Negligence, and Hype in Science (2020)

There’s also a generic counterpart that defends science against these worries (cf. Latour on critique running out of steam):

Harry Collins, Rethinking Expertise (2008)

Harry Collins, Are We All Scientific Experts Now? (2014)

Harry Collins and Robert Evans, Why Democracies Need Science (2017)

Lee McIntyre, The Scientific Attitude (2020)

Naomi Oreskes, Why Trust Science? (2019)

And finally, there are volumes that focus on trust, democracy, mistrust and distrust, consensus and dissensus, and the sociology and politics of expertise:

Mark B. Brown, Science in Democracy: Expertise, Institutions, and Representation (2009)

Gil Eyal, The Crisis of Expertise (2019)

Stephen Hilgartner, Science on Stage: Expert Advice as Public Drama (2000)

Philip Kitcher, Science in a Democratic Society (2011)

Robert K. Merton and Londa Schiebinger, Agnotology: The Making and Unmaking of Ignorance (2008)

David Michaels, The Triumph of Doubt: Dark Money and the Science of Deception (2020)

Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, Merchants of Doubt (2011)

Zeynep Pamuk, Politics and Expertise: How to Use Science in a Democratic Society (2021)

Everybody’s meritocracy book

Kenneth Arrow et. al., Meritocracy and Economic Inequality (2000)

Daniel A. Bell, The China Model: Political Meritocracy and the Limits of Democracy (2016)

Fredrik de Boer, The Cult of Smart (2020)

Mark Bovens and Anchrit Wille, Diploma Democracy: The Rise of Political Meritocracy (2017)

Robert H. Frank, Success and Luck: Good Fortune and the Myth of Meritocracy (2016)

Lani Guinier, The Tyranny of the Meritocracy (2015)

Christopher Hayes, Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy (2012)

Walter Kirn, Lost in the Meritocracy (2009)

Nicholas Lemann, The Big Test: The Secret History of American Meritocracy (1999)

Daniel Markovits, The Meritocracy Trap (2019)

Michael Sandel, The Tyranny of Merit (2020)

Ajantha Subramanian, The Caste of Merit (2019)

Michael Young, The Rise of the Meritocracy, 1870–2033 (1958)

Philosophers on artists, artists on philosophers

A too abbreviated list of book-length studies by philosophers on (visual) artists:

Bataille, Manet

Danto, Andy Warhol

Lyotard, Sam Francis: Lessons of Darkness

Valéry, Introduction to the Method of Leonardo da Vinci

The other direction, (visual) artists on philosophers, is even more neglected. Beyond depictions of Socrates, I think only of Paolozzi on Wittgenstein.

Then there is the adjacent question of the (visual) art of philosophy: how to visualize, represent, paint philosophy—the activity, the practice, the discipline, as a body of knowledge, storehouse of concepts, gallery of methods.

The notebook as intellectual form

Benjamin, Arcades Project

Leopardi, Zibaldone

Valéry, Cahiers

Weil, The Notebooks of Simone Weil

These are acts of creation, not just acts of compilation (though they the work of the latter can inspire the former), and they depart from the diary, from the personal journal, in their analytical and intellectual focus. They are more records of thinking than records of personal life. On the act of compilation, see also: commonplace book, formulary, gnomologium, hypomnema (include Erasmus’s Adages, Francis Bacon’s Promus, Locke’s A New Method of Making Common-Place-Books).

The varieties of lexicographic experience

Some instances of an understudied genre, predominantly satirical:

Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

Flaubert, Dictionary of Received Ideas

Fowler, Dictionary of Modern English Usage [which I include under the banner of satirical for such entries as “genteelism”]

Heifetz, Mrs. Byrne’s Dictionary

Slonimsky, Lexicon of Musical Invective

Voltaire, Philosophical Dictionary

How far can the dictionary form depart from the norm? Can there be a dictionary (or encyclopedia?) of—say, jokes? What else? Another lexicographic genre is that of the collection of keywords (not quite a straightforward glossary or scholarly lexicon)—for a culture, for a theme, for a discipline. Some examples:

Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse

Jay, Cultural Semantics: Keywords of Our Time

Lewis, Studies in Words

Williams, Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society

Conversations with X

Examples of this form (distinct from the interview, though at times these works lapse into it):

Boswell, Life of Johnson

Eckermann, Conversations with Goethe

Richter, Conversations with Bruno Monsaigneon

Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden

Some scholarship and secondary reading on conversation:

Gibian, Oliver Wendell Holmes and the Culture of Conversation

Miller, Conversation: A History of a Declining Art

Turkle, Reclaiming Conversation

2008 financial crisis reading list


The Financial Crisis Inquiry Report

Ben Bernanke, Hank Paulson, and Timothy Geithner, Firefighting and First Responders

Alan Binder, After the Music Stopped

Alan Binder, Andrew Lo, and Robert M. Solow, Rethinking the Financial Crisis

Jeffrey Friedman and Wladimir Kraus, Engineering the Financial Crisis

Michael Lewis, The Big Short

Bethany Mclean and Joe Nocera, All the Devils Are Here

Gretchen Morgenson, Reckless Endangerment

Andrew Ross Sorkin, Too Big to Fail

Adam Tooze, Crashed

Martin Wolf, The Shifts and the Shocks


Martin Neil Baily, Matthew S. Johnson, and Robert E. Litan, “The Origins of the Financial Crisis” (Brookings)

Perry Anderson, “Situationism à L’envers?” (review of Tooze’s Crashed), New Left Review

Films and Videos

The Big Short, directed by Adam McKay

Panic, HBO’s Vice

Crisis on Wall Street, CNBC

YouTube: “The Crisis of Credit Visualized” (by graphixmdp), “The 2008 Financial Crisis” (by CrashCourse), “Crises of Capitalism” (RSA animation of David Harvey lecture), “The Root Cause of the Financial Crisis: The CDO” (by Paddy Hirsch), “The Financial Crisis: A Decade of Debt” (by Financial Times)

Crisis on Wall Street Extended Cut interviews: Jamie Dimon, Warren Buffett, Hank Paulson, Timothy Geithner

Radio and Podcasts

“The Giant Pool of Money,” This American Life

Visual X

Needham’s book is the example par excellence of treating modern analytical material in a more classical, geometric vein; some of these books approach it in that regard, while others just include nice pictures or illustrations. I’m sure I’m forgetting about many texts with beautiful figures; I’ll add to the list as I’m reminded of them.

Tristan Needham, Visual Complex Analysis

Nathan Carter, Visual Group Theory

Martin Weissman, An Illustrated Theory of Numbers

Elias Wegert, Visual Complex Functions

Siegmund Brandt and Hans Dieter Dahmen, The Picture Book of Quantum Mechanics

James Callahan, Advanced Calculus: A Geometric View

H. M. Schey, Div, Grad, Curl and All That

Michio Kuga, Galois’ Dream: Group Theory and Differential Equations

Charles Misner, Kip Thorne, and John Archibald Wheeler, Gravitation

Michael Spivak, A Comprehensive Introduction to Differential Geometry

David Hilbert and Stephan Cohn-Vossen, Geometry and the Imagination

The English Reformation and Puritanism in New England

The English Reformation

A. G. Dickens, The English Reformation (1964)

Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, 1400–1580 (1992)

Christopher Haigh, English Reformations: Religion, Politics, and Society Under the Tudors (1993)

Peter Marshall, Heretics and Believers: A History of the English Reformation (2017)

Dairmaid MacCulloch, The Reformation: A History (2003)

Richard Rex, “Disenchanting the English Reformation,” Los Angeles Review of Books (November 24, 2017)

Puritanism and Early New England

James Truslow Adams, The Founding of New England (1921)

Charles Andrews, The Colonial Period of American History, v. 1 (1935)

Patricia Bonomi, Under the Cope of Heaven: Religion, Society, and Politics in Colonial America (1986)

Francis Bremer, The Puritan Experiment: New England Society from Bradford to Edwards (1976)

Richard D. Brown and Jack Teger, Massachusetts: A Concise History (2000)

Bruce Daniels, Puritans at Play: Leisure and Recreation in Colonial New England (1996)

George Francis Dow, Every Day Life in the Massachusetts Bay Colony (1935)

David D. Hall, ed., Puritans in the New World: A Critical Anthology (2004)

Alan Heimert and Andrew Delbanco, eds., The Puritans in America: A Narrative Anthology (1985)

Perry Miller and Thomas Herbert Johnson, eds., The Puritans: A Sourcebook of Their Writings (1939)

Perry Miller, The New England Mind: From Colony to Province (1953)

Perry Miller, The American Puritans: Their Poetry and Prose (1956) — an updated version of the earlier sourcebook with Johnson, without their long introduction

Marilynne Robinson, “Which Way to the City on a Hill?New York Review of Books (July 18, 2019)

Nathaniel Philbrick, Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War (2006)

Richard Ruland and Malcolm Bradbury, From Puritanism to Postmodernism: A History of American Literature, chapter 1 (1991)

Alan Taylor, American Colonies: The Settling of North America (2002)

R. H. Tawney, “Puritanism and Capitalism,” The New Republic (1926) and Religion and the Rise of Capitalism (1922)

Max Weber, The Protestant Work Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1905)

Michael Winship, Godly Republicanism: Puritans, Pilgrims, and a City on a Hill (2012)

Michael Winship, Hot Protestants: A History of Puritanism in England and America (2019)