Humankind: Masters over Nature?

Joseph Wright science progress

Mastery of Nature: Promises and Prospects


JMC faculty partner Bernhardt L. Trout and JMC fellow  Svetozar Y. Minkov are the editors recently published book, Master of Nature: Promises and Prospects. The book features writings from several JMC fellows, including Harvey Mansfield (Harvard), Robert Bartlett (Boston College), Daniel Doneson (MIT), Michael Gillespie (Duke), Ralph Lerner (University of Chicago), Diana Schaub (Loyola), Devin Stauffer (University of Texas), Lise van Boxel (St. John’s College), Stuart Warner (Roosevelt), and Jerry Weinberger (Michigan State).


About the book


Mastery of Nature bookcoverIn the early modern period, thinkers began to suggest that philosophy abjure the ideal of dispassionate contemplation of the natural world in favor of a more practically minded project that aimed to make human beings masters and possessors of nature. Humanity would seize control of its own fate and overthrow the rule by hostile natural or imaginary forces. The gradual spread of liberal democratic government, the Enlightenment, and the rise of technological modernity are to a considerable extent the fruits of this early modern shift in intellectual concern and focus. But these long-term trends have also brought unintended consequences in their wake as the dynamic forces of social reason, historical progress, and the continued recalcitrance of the natural world have combined to disillusion humans of the possibility—even the desirability—of their mastery over nature.

The essays in Mastery of Nature constitute an extensive analysis of the fundamental aspects of the human grasp of nature. What is the foundation and motive of the modern project in the first place? What kind of a world did its early advocates hope to bring about? Contributors not only examine the foundational theories espoused by early modern thinkers such as Machiavelli, Bacon, Descartes, and Hobbes but also explore the criticisms and corrections that appeared in the works of Rousseau, Kant, Nietzsche, and Heidegger. Ranging from ancient Greek thought to contemporary quantum mechanics, Mastery of Nature investigates to what extent nature can be conquered to further human ends and to what extent such mastery is compatible with human flourishing.

Contributors: Robert C. Bartlett, Mark Blitz, Daniel A. Doneson, Michael A. Gillespie, Ralph Lerner, Paul Ludwig, Harvey C. Mansfield, Arthur Melzer, Svetozar Y. Minkov, Christopher Nadon, Diana J. Schaub, Adam Schulman, Devin Stauffer, Bernhardt L. Trout, Lise van Boxel, Richard Velkley, Stuart D. Warner, Jerry Weinberger.

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Svetozar Y. Minkov is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Roosevelt University. Professor Minkov has taught Introduction to Philosophy, Ethics, Phenomenology, Philosophy of Technology, Philosophy of Nature, and Philosophy of Law. He has also taught at Kenyon College, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Chicago. He is the author of Francis Bacon’s “Inquiry Touching the Human Good” (Rowman), co-translator with Gabriel Bartlett of Strauss’s Hobbes’s Critique of Religion (University of Chicago Press), author and editor of Enlightening Revolutions: Essays in Honor of Ralph Lerner (Rowman), as well as of Man and His Enemies: Essays on Carl Schmitt (Bialystok University Press). Professor Minkov has written most recently on Plato’s Laws, Strauss’ Thoughts on Machiavelli, and Bacon’s On the Wisdom of the Ancients. He is just coming out with Strauss on Science:Thoughts on the Relation between Natural Science and Political Philosophy.

Learn more about Svetozar Minkov >>



Bernhardt TroutBernhardt L. Trout is the Raymond F. Baddour, ScD, (1949) Professor of Chemical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he was an undergraduate before earning his Ph.D. from UC Berkeley in 1996. Bernhardt is Director, Novartis-MIT Center for Continuous Manufacturing and Co-Chair, Singapore-MIT Alliance, Chemical and Pharmaceutical Engineering, as well as the head of the MIT Molecular Engineering group. He was also the winner of the Ford Motor Company Young Investigator Award (2001), the NSF CAREER Award (2000), and the holder of the Henry L. and Grace Doherty Professorship for 2001-2003. He also directs the Concourse program of alternative and liberal studies at MIT.

Learn more about Bernhardt Trout >>




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