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Our Oldest TaskMaking Sense of Our Place in Nature$
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Eric T. Freyfogle

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226326399

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226326429.001.0001

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Composing the World

Composing the World

(p.18) One Composing the World
Our Oldest Task

Eric T. Freyfogle

University of Chicago Press

This chapter explains the considerable difficulty we have in making sense of the world and finding our place in it. To undertake that task we need to start with the most basic questions about how we gain knowledge of the world (epistemology), including the limits on our senses and the inevitable ways we form mental images that shape our understandings. It explores longstanding issues of the composition of the world (metaphysics), particularly the challenges of coming to terms with intangibles, along with the limits on human rationality and the inevitable origins of normativity in human sentiment, genetics, and cultural inertia. It takes up the cultural disorientation brought on by the decline of religion and the claims of Darwin, Freud, Einstein and others leading to the pessimism of such works as Krutch, The Modern Temper from the 1920s. It reviews the three basic definitions of truth, considers how the parts of nature form wholes with emergent properties, considers intangibles and continued claims for the objective reality of morals, and challenges the misleading claims about the social construction of nature. All of this supplies a foundation for a critique of prevailing culture and key institutions and calls for cultural reform.

Keywords:   definitions of truth, emergent properties, epistemology, intangibles, limits on senses, objective morality, sentiment, social construction of nature, sources of normativity

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