Mind Readers on Radio 4

A recent Start the Week on Radio 4 discussed not one but two issues that we’ve been talking about here on Butterflies and Wheels. Nancy Cartwright, a philosopher of science, here asserts the trendy notion that the discoveries of science are a product of negotiation and agreement among scientists, and that the idea of universality (of science as well as of any other kind of knowledge) is one we should all be very suspicious of. Fortunately, there is also a working scientist on the premises, who disputes her views. Also present is Germaine Greer, who voices one of my favourite exasperations, with the fashion for gossippy biographies of poets and writers that give short shrift to the mental life of such people in order to concentrate on the really important business of what they got up to in bed. Greer gives a fine old rant about the fact that poets only get biographies written about them because of their poetry so why ignore the poetry in favor of the sex life eh? Just exactly what I always wonder! Her particular focus is Byron, and her outrage that the annual biography of him sells like mad while no one reads the wonderful ‘Don Juan’. I couldn’t possibly agree more.

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