Grand Theories and Everyday Beliefs: Science, Philosophy, and Their Histories

Wallace Matson. Oxford Univ., $35 (240p) ISBN 978-0-19-981269-1
From evolutionary beginnings to philosophical endings, Matson—Professor of Philosophy at UC-Berkeley—spans nearly all disciplines in mapping the origins of language, imagination and, most importantly, beliefs. Introducing the classifications of "low" and "high" beliefs—the former being empirically founded and the latter being conceptually possible—he successfully describes the role of imagination in the progression of both science and religion; two disciplines, he notes, once united and now essentially severed. Matson posits that the interplay of low and high beliefs causes the debates—from antiquity to today—between science and philosophy, religion and philosophy, and morality and logic. Matson manages to reinforce the classification of religious beliefs as high beliefs without discrediting their function in uniting communities. While utilizing the insights and criticisms of philosophers and scientists before him, the book avoids the literary downfalls of its predecessors; it is succinct, approachable, and immensely enjoyable to read. Each chapter offers up a distinct focus and resolves in a clarifying abstract. The topics addressed inevitably set the book as a spark for debate between scholars and laymen alike, but it serves also as tangible proof of the low belief that philosophy matters every day. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 01/30/2012
Release date: 12/01/2011
Genre: Nonfiction
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