Joseph Margolis


On his book The Arts and the Definition of the Human: Toward a Philosophical Anthropology

Cover Interview of January 11, 2010


Viewed in a wider context, The Arts and the Definition of the Human is but a single piece in a larger philosophical venture, one meant to explore the viability and attraction of a picture of the world.  This massive undertaking is not a chaos, but a flux, an order of things that is never fixed or changeless, yet regular enough to support all our sciences and inquiries and projects, enabling us to understand our special talents in mapping the world’s properties.

There is no completely formulated and developed version of this sort, though there have been brief efforts along these lines both in the ancient world and in modern times.  The implications of such a conception are very different from those of views committed to one or another form of invariance or necessity.  Suppose, for instance, that the world does not obey changeless and exceptionless laws, or that what we count as a true science, at every point of contested discovery, is itself a construction of our own, provisionally favored in accord with our historied interests, which are themselves bound to be replaced by interests answering to the changing features of the world we know.

I don’t pretend to determine whether the world is a flux or depends on some ultimate invariance.  I think we must decide for ourselves, however, if the conception of a fluxive world can compete effectively with the usual commitment to invariance.  Thinking along such lines could change our picture of the world and our belief that we may rightly judge whether our ventures are rational and defensible or not.

© 2010 Joseph Margolis