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Collapse Vol. V: The Copernican Imperative

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Damian Veal

Oct 14, 2008, 5:39:51 AM10/14/08
Dear Friends,

We are pleased to announce that *Collapse Volume V*, entitled *The
Copernican Imperative*, will be published on 15 December 2008. The volume
will be available to order in advance from from
mid-November. As usual, the volume will be printed in a limited numbered
edition of 1000.

The volume will include contributions from: *Julian Barbour, Nick Bostrom,
Gabriel Catren, Milan Cirkovic, Jack Cohen and Ian Stewart, Nigel Cooke,
Alberto Gualandi, Iain Hamilton Grant, Paul Humphreys, Immanuel Kant, James
Ladyman, Thomas Metzinger, Carlo Rovelli, Martin Schönfeld, Conrad
Shawcross, Keith Tyson* and *Damian Veal*.

*Copernicanism tore asunder the fit between the world and man's organs: the
congruence between reality and visibility.*
- Hans Blumenberg, T*he Genesis of the Copernican World*

In his* Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems*, Galileo
proclaimed, through his mouthpiece Salviati, that he could 'never
sufficiently admire the outstanding acumen' of those early advocates of
Copernicanism who, 'through sheer force of intellect' - that is, without
even the benefit of a telescope to confirm the theory observationally - 'had
done such violence to their own senses as to prefer what reason told them
over that which sensible experience plainly showed them to the contrary'.

Since Galileo published his work in 1632, recognition of the deeply
counterintuitive nature of scientific findings has become virtually
commonplace, and the 'explanatory gap' between the 'manifest' and
'scientific' images of reality has long been a central concern for
philosophers and philosophically-minded scientists alike. In this volume of
*Collapse*, we bring together samples of the most intellectually challenging
contemporary work devoted to exploring the philosophical implications of
'Copernicanism' from a variety of overlapping and complementary standpoints.

As in previous volumes, the involvement in *Collapse V* of several major
contemporary artists alongside groundbreaking philosophers and prominent
scientists is designed to open up new perspectives and new directions for
thinking outside disciplinary constraints. From multiple philosophical and
artistic perspectives, and from scientific fields as diverse as theoretical
physics and cosmology, biology, mathematics, cognitive neuroscience, and
astrobiology, the volume addresses the issues of the
'deanthropomorphisation' of reality initiated by the Copernican Revolution,
the relation between scientific and philosophical (Kantian) 'Copernicanism',
and the enduring gulf between the spontaneous image of the world bequeathed
to us by evolution and that revealed by the physical sciences in the wake of

With several of the contributions in interview form, *Collapse V: The
Copernican Imperative* will be an accessible and thought-provoking volume
exemplifying that characteristic blend of speculative audacity and
scientifically informed insight which has always been the hallmark of

Contents of *Volume V* will be as follows (some details subject to

In 'Anaximander's Legacy', theoretical physicist *Carlo Rovelli *(co-founder
of Loop Quantum Gravity and author of *Quantum Gravity*) charts the
historical dynamics of science's ever more radical overturning of the
commonsense image of the world from Anaximander through Copernicus to the
'unfinished revolution' of twentieth-century physics - a revolution which,
suggests Rovelli, challenges us to find a way of understanding the world in
the absence of the familiar stage of space and time.

Rovelli's question 'Can we think the world without time?' is one which has
preoccupied renegade theoretical physicist and historian of science *Julian
Barbour* (author of *Absolute or Relative Motion?* and *The End of Time*)
for the best part of five decades. In our interview 'The View From Nowhen'
we discuss the nature of his radical rethinking of the foundations of
physics, his arguments for the non-existence of time and change, and the
influence his ideas have exerted on contemporary quantum gravity research
from outside the halls of academe.

In his contribution to the volume, Turner Prize winning artist *Keith
Tyson*- well known for his intricate and provocative artistic
displacements and
extrapolations of scientific ideas - presents his own unique take on the
enigma of Copernicanism.

In our interview with *Jack Cohen and Ian Stewart* (authors of dozens of
ground-breaking popular science books, including their co-authored works T*he
Collapse of Chaos*, *Figments of Reality*, and *What Does A Martian look
Like*?), we discuss with them the continuing collaboration between
mathematician and biologist; the key conceptual innovations of their
co-authored works; their trenchant criticisms of what they see as the overly
conservative and unimaginative nature of contemporary astrobiology; and
their positive programme for a new science of alien life, beyond
astrobiology, which they call 'xenoscience'.

In 'Sailing the Archipelago of Habitability', cosmologist and astrobiologist
*Milan Cirkovic* provides a sophisticated defence of anthropic reasoning
(understood in terms of 'observation selection effects') against the charges
brought against it by the likes of Cohen and Stewart as part of an ambitious
project of laying the 'philosophical groundworks' of the nascent science of

In 'Where Are They?', philosopher and transhumanist *Nick Bostrom* (Director
of Oxford University's Future of Humanity Institute, author of *Anthropic
Bias: Observation Selection Effects in Science and Philosophy*) revisits
Fermi's Paradox, employing probabilistic 'anthropic' reasoning to motivate
the conclusion that, far from being a cause for celebration, the discovery
of extra-terrestrial life would in fact augur very badly for the future of
the human race.

In his (2006) motion-sculpture *Binary Star* artist *Conrad
Shawcross*gestured 'Beyond Copernicanism', simulating the experience
of life in a
solar system where there is 'no such thing as one'. In his contribution to
the volume Shawcross investigates the relationship between his work and the
philosophical trope of Copernicanism.

In an interview charting the journey 'From Copernicanism to
Nemocentrism', *Thomas
Metzinger* (philosopher of neuroscience, author of *Being No One*) discusses
his 'self-model theory of subjectivity', the potential social and cultural
ramifications of the findings of contemporary neuroscience, and responds to
criticisms of his radical eliminativist position with regard to the
existence of 'selves'.

In his 'Thinking Outside the Brain', philosopher *Paul Humphreys* (author of
*Extending Ourselves: Computational Science, Empiricism, and Scientific
Method*) proposes that computational science is fast displacing humans from
the centre of the epistemological universe, speculates on the possibility of
a 'science without humans', and presents his proposals for a radically
non-anthropocentric empiricism.

The paintings of *Nigel Cooke* present a philosophically-informed meditation
on the continual displacement of the author-subject in the history of
thought and artistic representation. His contribution in the form of a
series of drawings, 'Thinker Dejecta', contributes to a thinking-through of
the consequences of Copernicanism from this perspective.

In our fourth and final interview, 'Who's Afraid of Scientism?', *James
Ladyman* (philosopher of science, co-author of *Every Thing Must Go:
Metaphysics Naturalised*) discusses the forlornness of contemporary analytic
metaphysics and the prospects for a radically naturalised metaphysics which
would fully take on board the most counterintuitive findings of contemporary
physics, finally dispensing with the habitual ontology of 'little things and
microbangings' which continues to hold sway in contemporary
'pseudo-naturalist philosophy'.

In his 'The Phoenix of Nature' *Martin Schönfeld* (artist and philosopher of
nature, author of *The Philosophy of the Young Kant*) presents us with a
vivid picture of Immanuel Kant profoundly at odds with the recent popular
characterisation of him as a conservative, anti-Copernican thinker, via a
stimulating exploration of his early cosmology. Here we are presented a
radically anti-anthropocentric, anti-Christian, naturalist, speculatively
audacious Kant who pushes 'Copernicanism' to its limits; who abolishes the
hand of God from, and introduces a history and evolution into, the Newtonian
cosmos; and who as early as 1755 strongly anticipates the fundaments of what
became the Standard Model of modern cosmology only in the 1930s.

To accompany his piece Schönfeld also contributes a new translation of
Kant*'s 'Concerning Creation in the Total Extent of its Infinity in Both
Space and Time', an extended excerpt from his 1755 Universal Natural History
and Theory of the Heavens in which this astonishingly prescient cosmology of
'island universes' and the birth and death of 'worlds' is most magnificently
and perfervidly portrayed.

Tackling the great philosophical 'Copernican Revolution' head-on, *Iain
Hamilton Grant* (philosopher, author of *Philosophies of Nature after
Schelling*) examines the 'Prospects for Dogmatism after Kant'.

In 'Copernicanism, Correlationism, Critique' *Damian Veal *(philosopher,
editor of the volume) critically re-examines the question of the meaning of
'Copernicanism' for philosophy, providing reasons for rejecting the idea
popular amongst recent 'speculative realists' that a proper philosophical
assimilation of the findings of the modern sciences demands a thoroughgoing
break with the Kantian critical legacy.

In 'A Throw of the Quantum Dice Will Never Overturn the Copernican
Revolution' *Gabriel Catren* (Director of the project 'Savoir et Système' at
the Collège International de Philosophie, Paris) presents what he calls a
'speculative overcoming' of recent influential quasi-Kantian interpretations
of quantum mechanics. Rather than being limited to a mathematical account of
the correlations between 'observed' systems and their 'observers', or
pointing to the inherent 'transcendental' limits of physical knowledge,
Catren argues that quantum mechanics furnishes a complete and realistic
description of the intrinsic properties of physical systems, an ontology
which exemplifies the Copernican deanthropomorphisation of nature.

In 'Errancies of the Human: French Philosophies of Nature and the
Overturning of the Copernican Revolution', *Alberto Gualandi *(philosopher,
author of *Deleuze* and *Le problème de la vérité scientifique dans la
philosophie française contemporain*) indicates the features common to
certain speculative philosophies of nature in 1960s France and problems
facing contemporary evolutionary biologists.

*Collapse V: The Copernican Imperative*
December 2008
Eds D. Veal, R. Mackay
450+pp tbc
Limited Edition 1000 Numbered Copies
ISBN 978-0-9553087-4-1

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