Consilience: The Unity Of Knowledge

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One – Consilience

One of the most pertinent and seminal works written on the relationship between the fields of science and literature within the modern age is irrefutably that of E.O Wilson’s Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge. Whilst being a biologist, with a speciality in myrmecology, his discussion of methods to unite the sciences, social sciences, and humanities – to describe the synthesis of knowledge across all fields has been hugely influential in literary criticism and theory. Wilson in Consilience argues for “the unification of all knowledge” reaching further in his project of unification than other earlier attempts to align the social sciences and biology under one unified understanding of knowledge. It is interesting to note
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This can be seen through laws, religions, and established social taboos. A further related belief upheld within the text Consilience is that culture is “created by the communal mind and each mind in turn is the product of the genetically structured human brain.” This concept influences ideas of consilience, with Wilson presupposing that “science will be the definite determiner and marker to which all disciplines must conform.” Whilst there is and has always been an argument that culture is tasked with controlling the population of a society. That each unique culture throughout the world is predetermined to follow a set path, and system due to genetic evolution is both unconfirmable and highly implausible. This can be seen in the widely variant nature of differing culture systems that exist throughout the world, and their associated symbolisms and approaches to societal expectations. If this were indeed the case surely each variant culture existing both historically and contemporary would all have at the very least the same base symbolistic stance, the same starting point. This is inherently wrong of course and has been proven by the immensity of diversity researched in cultural and historical studies. It can also be disproved within one of Wilson’s own examples. Of the snake, who he admits can be “conjured variously as predators, menacing demons, guardians […] and gods” , depending on a society and its individual culture. As such it is clear that while the notion of consilience, and the broad aim of Wilson might possibly be a feasible synthetic evolution between fields of study, there are also clear and relevant flaws to his theory of unity. These flaws must be considered when both engaging in the creative act of the arts within the mode of consilience, such as poetry, and further in scholarly dissection of such

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