By Stephen Kern

ISBN-10: 0691127689

ISBN-13: 9780691127682

This pioneering paintings is the 1st to track how our knowing of the reasons of human habit has replaced significantly over the process ecu and American cultural historical past on the grounds that 1830. concentrating on the act of homicide, as documented vividly through greater than 100 novels together with Crime and Punishment, An American Tragedy, The Trial, and Lolita, Stephen Kern devotes each one bankruptcy of A Cultural background of Causality to reading a selected causal issue or purpose for murder--ancestry, youth, language, sexuality, emotion, brain, society, and beliefs. as well as drawing on specific novels, every one bankruptcy considers the sciences (genetics, endocrinology, body structure, neuroscience) and structures of proposal (psychoanalysis, linguistics, sociology, forensic psychiatry, and existential philosophy) so much germane to every causal issue or motive.

Kern identifies 5 shifts in puzzling over causality, shifts towards expanding specificity, multiplicity, complexity, likelihood, and uncertainty. He argues that the extra researchers discovered in regards to the motives of human habit, the extra they learned how even more there has been to understand and the way little they knew approximately what they inspiration they knew. The publication closes by way of contemplating the progressive effect of quantum thought, which, even though it inspired novelists merely marginally, shattered the version of causal figuring out that had ruled Western inspiration because the 17th century.

Others have addressed altering rules approximately causality in particular parts, yet nobody has tackled a huge cultural background of this idea as does Stephen Kern during this engagingly written and lucidly argued book.

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Extra resources for A Cultural History of Causality: Science, Murder Novels, and Systems of Thought

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Without the novels, this history would lack dramatic action to flesh it out in observable movements and lack the voices of the past in dialogue to articulate its living actuality; without the systems of thought, it would lack evidence from some of the most probing and influential examinations of the human condition made during the years of this study; and without the science, it would lack concrete evidence for the essentially progressive movement of historical change that an argument about increasing specificity implies.

The same communication and transportation technologies that expanded the spatial and temporal range of causal action in social relations and economic undertakings also revolutionized how individuals became motivated to commit murder and carried it out. A number of fictional murderers, and especially serial murderers, found their victims or became worked up about something they learned about them from modern communication technologies such as newspapers, movies, and television—media they also used to follow investigations into their own murderous acts and observe their growing public reputations afterward.

I had mixed feelings about my argument for this huge subject turning out to be as obvious as a cliché—that the more one knows, the more one realizes how little one knows. Its obviousness meant that it was easy to grasp, although it also suggested that the argument might be trivial. But the force of my argument about the specificity-uncertainty dialectic is not its unexpected nature but its broad applicability, which implies that there just might be a unifying sense to the history of such a fundamental concept as causality that grounds many natural and social sciences and also shapes how novelists over the past 170 years made their characters’ actions plausible.

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A Cultural History of Causality: Science, Murder Novels, and Systems of Thought by Stephen Kern


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