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Between Two Truths

Time in Physics and Fiji

Naoki Kasuga

This article provides an ontological reconsideration of time, which anthropological theory has typically presumed as a given. It does so by ‘comparing’ two truth claims: that of native activists in Fiji, who worked to actualize their leader’s prediction and ‘His Time’, and that of physics, the sturdiest of the scientific disciplines. The aim of this thought experiment is to expand our understanding of natives’ claims but also to question our perception of time and how our technological environment preserves its reality. The article argues for an understanding where the levels of qualia and quanta cease to be disconnected, thereby confirming the significance of ontological approaches in anthropology today.

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David Spurrett

In a famous passage in his Philosophical Investigations Wittgenstein compares a language to an ancient city, saying that we can see it as ‘a maze of little streets and squares, of old and new houses, and of houses with additions from various periods; and this surrounded by a multitude of new boroughs with straight regular streets and uniform houses’(1958: paragraph 18). Descartes exploited a similar analogy in his Discourse on the Method, drawn in his case between a city and a system of knowledge. His position, though, was strikingly different. Where Wittgenstein describes, he prescribes, stating, first, that ‘there is not usually so much perfection in works composed of several parts and produced by various different craftsmen as in the works of one man’ and going on to argue that the proper task of philosophy is to show us how, individually, we can ‘get rid of’ the opinions which form our existing epistemological landscape, ‘in order to replace them afterwards with better ones, or with the same ones once … squared … with the standards of reason’ (1985: Discourse 1).

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Erica L. Fraser

With the onset of the Cold War and a new nuclear world order, Soviet physicists found themselves at the nexus of scientific research and weapons development. This article investigates the subjectivity of these physicists as an issue of masculinity. Influenced by Connell's models of subordinated, complicit, and hegemonic masculinity, the article finds that the stories nuclear physicists tell about their research in the 1950s are inconsistent and shifting, with the narrators simultaneously remembering unfreedom and privilege. They tell of being conscripted to military work against their will but then enjoying (and deserving) the resulting power, all while maintaining strong homosocial networks in the laboratory predicated on excluding women. Evidence from personal narratives provides unique insight into these multiple masculinities and the way the authors position themselves as (masculinized) Cold War subjects.

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Cartwright on Fundamentalism

Unmasking the Enemy

Steve Clarke

Nancy Cartwright has a reputation as an opponent of realism, a reputation which is based on her notorious claim that the way in which the fundamental laws of physics are used in explanation argues for their falsehood (Cartwright 1983). In a recent paper, Cartwright has made it clear that she no longer sees the principal arguments in the book in which she presented that claim, How the Laws of Physics Lie (henceforth How the Laws) as objections to realism itself, but as objections to a doctrine that she understands to be a common fellow-traveller with realism, which she refers to as fundamentalism.

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Christian Fuchs and John Collier

Economic logic impinges on contemporary political theory through both economic reductionism and economic methodology applied to political decision-making (through game theory). The authors argue that the sort of models used are based on mechanistic and linear methodologies that have now been found wanting in physics. They further argue that complexity based self-organization methods are better suited to model the complexities of economy and polity and their interactions with the overall social system.

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Matthew Eshleman

Although most of the contemporary debates around subjectivity are framed by a rejection of the metaphysical subject, more time needs to be spent developing the implications of abandoning the meta-physics of constraint. Doing so provides the key to approaching our pressing problem that concerns freedom, and only once invisible, ideal "constraints" have been adequately understood will all of the contemporary puzzlement that concerns intentional resistance to power be assuaged. While Sartre does not solve the problem of freedom bequeathed to us by Foucault, it is clear that he struggled with similar issues, and that his work sheds important light on the issue of ideal constraint. Once more, on Sartre's second view, power and freedom are not mutually exclusive, and in this he advances over much contemporary liberal thought. Thus, on the approach of what would be Sartre's hundredth birthday, I invite others to take this opportune moment to reevaluate the early work of this once shining philosophical star, only recently and perhaps prematurely eclipsed by anti-humanism, and recognize that now, more than ever, Sartre's thought is relevant to our very pressing concerns.

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Anthony Holiday

John Henry Newman’s The Idea of a University speaks to the concerns of African educationalists, not despite, but because of the circumstance that his fidelity to the ideal of a university as a seat of universal knowledge is tied to his argument for the inclusion of theology as an indispensable part of any university syllabus. It is not the case, moreover, that his idealism resonates with us purely because it is carried by a magnificent prose style. Rather, Newman’s thoughts about the universality of higher learning touch us across a considerable culturo-temporal divide, because Africans in their quest for a form of university education which will harmonize with their Africanness are driven by an innate conviction, too seldom made explicit, that such education would have to be inseparable from their own spirituality and religious commitments. If the conviction remains largely unspoken, this has much to do with the global climate of scientism and secularism in which humanity’s aspirations – religious and educational – must seek expression. It is, perhaps, because we are denizens of this climate that we can scarcely suppress a smile at Newman’s claim that theology is a factual science much as, say, physics is a factual science and why his assertion in the Fourth Discourse that “the preservation of our race in Noah’s Ark is an historical fact which history never would arrive at without revelation”1 strikes us (quite rightly) as being something of a howler.

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Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie

The important paper that Pierre Bourdieu has submitted to us is extremely interesting.1 Indeed, while I hope that this paper will not create a precedent, the traditional method by which one or more of us introduce one or other candidate for a Chair, followed by an election in favour of a known colleague and/or a recognised personality, seems to me to be far from optimal. Nonetheless, Pierre Bourdieu, as a sociologist, having taken the effort to examine the field of the historian, and this effort having been extremely enriching for me, I can only be struck tautologically by the quality of his contribution: I wish to respond and to discuss it in detail, and follow our colleague’s and my own train of thought with regard to the introduction of candidates. Perhaps tomorrow at the Collège we shall have, not only, as in this case, history seen by a sociologist, but nuclear physics seen by a biologist or mathematics examined from the Chair of one of our colleagues in medicine. Let there be no doubt that then we would also have, as is the case here, something very exciting for us all. Even so, I must repeat that this method is not the one that I prefer for allocating Chairs and choosing new colleagues.

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Gary Day

Peter Reading’s work provokes two questions about poetry; what is it and what is its role in the modern world? Perhaps the very fact that his writing poses these questions provides a positive answer to his query ‘am I art?’;1 since it is part of the job of art to raise fundamental issues. But art also has other qualities of transformation and transcendence which Reading’s work seems to lack. ‘I DO NOT’, he asserts, ‘transcend pain with poetry’ (‘On the Other Hand’, CP1, 167). We need to distinguish here between at least two traditions in British poetry, one lyrical and the other conceptual. Reading’s work partakes of both but favours the latter. In many ways, he is reminiscent of T. S. Eliot in the choice of subject matter, classical allusion and mixture of registers. The difference is that whereas Eliot believed that poetry could be a vehicle for the redemption of modernity, Reading gives it no such privileged status. It does not stand apart from other discourses but confronts, embraces and is contained by them. Hence we find in Reading, among other registers, those of geology, chemistry, physics, biology, ornithology, medicine, Latin quotations, journalese, letters from local newspapers, adverts offering country barns at knock down prices and the demotic. The effect is, to say the least, jarring but it does serve, perhaps, to negate social meaning by the elevation of form, which is normally invisible in our dominant ‘realistic’ representations. It also challenges our traditional ideas of verse as do his prose poems, collages, typographical experiments and crossings out – the latter finding an echo in Derrida’s idea that writing should always be presented under erasure.

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Portrait

Eileen Barker

Linda Woodhead, James T. Richardson, Martyn Percy, Catherine Wessinger and Eileen Barker

had been sure that when their stage-struck daughter came to her senses, she too would want to study medicine. The agreement was that they would pay for me to go to drama school on the condition that I first sat for those A-Levels (physics, chemistry