Understanding Nature. Case Studies in Comparative Epistemology

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Comparative epistemology is the discipline that tries to assess, in a critical manner, the relative validity and value of various forms of knowledge. One tends to identify "real" knowledge of nature with science. Yet, science is not the only route to understanding and unlocking the truth about nature. Literature based on careful, true-to-life observations can also tell us much about nature as well. This volume presents a series of case studies in comparative epistemology, critically comparing the works of prominent representatives of the life sciences, such as Aristotle, Darwin, and Mendel, with the writings of literary masters, such as Andersen, Melville, Verne, and Ibsen. The author shows how both scientific and literary disciplines make valid contributions to our understanding of nature.The comparative analysis deftly weaves together fields of inquiry that tend to be seen as completely separate from one another. It constitutes a major contribution to the expanding field of science and literature studies, demonstrating how the sciences and the humanities can mutually challenge and enlighten one another. – Part I: Introduction. 1: Comparative epistemology. 2: Antecedents – comparative epistemology as an outcome. – Part II: Animal epistemology. 3: What is an animal? A comparative epistemology of animals. 4: What is a whale? Moby Dick, marine science and the sublime. 5: Animal experiments and the novel. 6: The birth of a research animal. Ibsen’s Wild Duck and the origin of a new animal science. – Part III. Plants, landscapes & environments. 7: Aquaphobia, tulipmania, biophilia. 8: Environmental Pollution and professional responsibility: Ibsen’s A public enemy as a seminar on science communication and ethics. 9: Pea stories. Why was Mendel’s research ignored in 1866 and rediscovered in 1900?. – Part IV. Extremophilia: scientific journeys. 10: Jules Verne’s oeuvre: a literary encyclopædia of science and technology. 11: The novel as a research tool: Michael Crichton as a philosopher of science. M.-M. V.