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Articulating the World

Conceptual Understanding and the Scientific Image

Naturalism as a guiding philosophy for modern science both disavows any appeal to the supernatural or anything else transcendent to nature, and repudiates any philosophical or religious authority over the workings and conclusions of the sciences. A longstanding paradox within naturalism, however, has been the status of scientific knowledge itself, which seems, at first glance, to be something that transcends and is therefore impossible to conceptualize within scientific naturalism itself.

In Articulating the World, Joseph Rouse argues that the most pressing challenge for advocates of naturalism today is precisely this: to understand how to make sense of a scientific conception of nature as itself part of nature, scientifically understood. Drawing upon recent developments in evolutionary biology and the philosophy of science, Rouse defends naturalism in response to this challenge by revising both how we understand our scientific conception of the world and how we situate ourselves within it.

Author Information

Joseph Rouse is the Hedding Professor of Moral Science in the Philosophy Department and the Science in Society Program at Wesleyan University. He is the author of three previous books, including How Scientific Practices Matter, also from the University of Chicago Press; and he is the editor of John Haugeland’s posthumous Dasein Disclosed.


" Articulating the Worldis a work of synthesis that few authors could attempt, much less carry through. In extending and correcting avenues of inquiry opened up by the late John Haugeland, Rouse has produced a systematic and comprehensive work that that is very much Rouse's own. A work of ambition and extraordinary range, Rouse's book makes asignificant contribution to the revival of Pragmatism in philosophy today."
— Michael Williams, Johns Hopkins University

"Rouse's Articulating the World is a profound, important, and systematic work. It centers on the question of how to understand knowledge of a natural world as itself a part of that world, but he approaches this not from the point of view of a reductionist, the eliminativist, or any of the other standard approaches. Rather Rouse subtly mobilizes recent ideas in evolutionary biology to revise the received understanding of the social/biological distinction, of normativity, and of intentionality. Drawing on themes in Heidegger, Haugeland, and a range of other philosophers, Rouse has done something special: he has produced a genuinely new conception of our place in a natural world."
— Mark Lance, Georgetown University

"With Articulating the World, Rouse has written a book that is, characteristically, at once creative,synthetic, erudite, and deep. Rouse breaks down all barriers between the biological materiality and the discursivity of social selves. His picture of conceptual understanding as ecological niche construction will generate a new and invigorating philosophical research program."
— Rebecca Kukla, Georgetown University

"Rouse has written a wide-ranging, systematic attempt to give an account of naturalism and to solve some of the problems confronting it. He gives many of the basic concepts that are often employed in articulating naturalism a novel twist, one that breaks ground for research at new levels. Articulating the World will have a central place in debates about naturalism that will surely follow from the many important theses he advances."
— Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

"Thought-provoking – it opens new vistas on problems we thought we had already seen through."
— Organon F

Audience: Professional and scholarly;