Newton, Maxwell, Marx:
Spirit, Freedom, and the Scientific Vision
by Thomas K. Simpson
6" x 9", 312 pages.
Publication Date: May 2012
For pricing and ordering information, see the ordering section below.
Newton, Maxwell, Marx — familiar to all of us, but all have been distorted by caricatures: Newton, as the first true reductionist, inventor of mathematical physics; Maxwell, as he whose equations of the electromagnetic field represent the high water mark of Newtonian determinism; Marx, as author of a thoroughly discredited totalitarian economic system, now merely a historical curiosity. But in these pages, we meet these three as we have never seen them before, as champions of a scientific vision that leads to intellectual freedom and human emancipation. We see Newton, the last of the alchemists, creating a visionary physics that was intended as a direct refutation of the dead mechanism of Cartesian philosophy. We see Maxwell striving to free the human intellect from the dogmatism of the "Newtonian" physics of his day, the champion of a new democratic science as exemplified by the work of Michael Faraday, a largely unschooled commoner. We are astonished to meet Marx, the ultimate libertarian, envisioning "a society in which the full and free development of every individual forms the ruling principle," a society that could be attained through a rational understanding deliberately constructed to emulate Newton's approach to physics.
Simpson invites us to read Newton's Principia, Maxwell's Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism, and Marx's Capital, with an open mind, ready to rethink what we thought we already knew. We may end up agreeing or disagreeing on one point or another, but we are unlikely ever to see these iconic figures in the same way again. In the end, Simpson points us toward a vision of science, common to these three thinkers, as a powerful means of attaining human freedom— material, intellectual, and even spiritual.
- Shows how these three thinkers shared a hope for the liberating power of science, as they envisioned it.
- Three distinct, fascinating essays, with connecting remarks.
- Includes bibliography and index.
No one but Tom Simpson would think, and argue, that Newton, Marx, and Maxwell have common concerns and in that sense make a whole. But so, persuasively, he does here. Each of his subjects is seen as having a telos in his particular vision of things that reflects the others. Simpson shows how that is so in these brilliant and beautifully written essays.
— John Van Doren
Past Executive Editor, The Great Ideas Today
Below is a link to a PDF version of Simpson's "Announcement" of this book.
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