Since the consolidation and professionalization of the sciences, science has become increasingly isolated from philosophy (a relationship that is even more divided with regards to theology) and as a result philosophy is increasingly concerned with its ability to speak to the concrete concerns of the world. The rigid disciplinary boundaries enforced by the academe have allowed for great advances but left each increasingly isolated from the other.
This highly thought-provoking book is a large scale expansion of the Gifford Lectures originally delivered at the University of Edinburgh in 1983. The series of lectures, delivered by Michael Arbib, a researcher in artificial intelligence, brain theory and cognitive science, and Mary Hesse, a specialist in the history and philosophy of science, aims to establish new lines of communication between research in artificial intelligence and work done in the history and philosophy of sciences.
Over the course of twelve lectures, the two thinkers seek to put forward an integrated account of human knowledge, drawing on both cognitive science and philosophy of science to address the fundamental questions of human action in the world and whether the ‘space time world exhausts all there is of reality.’ (ix) The argument proceeds through explanation and exploration of “schema theory” (drawn from Arbib’s own work) which seeks to explain how the individual brain represents the world around it. Where Arbib focuses on the individual, Hesse takes a more social view, seeking to understand the interactions of pragmatic criteria and social consensus in the development of physical theories.
Beginning with an outline of the basic schema theory, the challenge that this book undertakes is to build on a theory of schema that represent immediate experience in order to understand the construction of social reality and what this might tell us about knowledge of the sciences and, importantly, God. Moving from Piaget and Pierce this intriguing work includes lectures on relating brain and mind, an excellent reading of Freud (with his connection to epistemology and religion) as well as sections on the social nature of the schema theory and how this influences hermeneutics, interpretation and reality. The final three lectures apply the thoroughly explored theory to religion, treating it as a vital social schema. The Great Schema of the Christian faith is well treated in the lecture on myth, history and the Bible as symbolic system. The final lecture closes with an appeal for a genuine secularism, wherein the radically different peoples can be valued and respected. Arbib and Hesse have put together a compelling set of lectures which has the potential to cause much needed productive dialog between the sciences and humanities and proves the vital role clear philosophical reasoning still plays.