A leading philosopher seeks to recover “common sense” as a meeting place to reconcile science and philosophy
With her previous books on Alfred North Whitehead, Isabelle Stengers not only secured a reputation as one of the premier philosophers of our times but also inspired a rethinking of critical theory, political thought, and radical philosophy across a range of disciplines. Here, Stengers unveils what might well be seen as her definitive reading of Whitehead.
Making Sense in Common will be greeted eagerly by the growing group of scholars who use Stengers’s work on Whitehead as a model for how to think with conceptual precision through diverse domains of inquiry: environmentalism and ecology, animal studies, media and technology studies, the history and philosophy of science, feminism, and capitalism. On the other hand, the significance of this new book extends beyond Whitehead. Instead, it lies in Stengers’s recovery of the idea of “common sense” as a meeting place—a commons—where opposed ideas of science and humanistic inquiry can engage one another and help to move society forward. Her reconciliation of science and philosophy is especially urgent today—when climate disaster looms all around us, when the values of what we thought of as civilization and modernity are discredited, and when expertise of any kind is under attack.
Isabelle Stengers, professor of the philosophy of science at the Université libre de Bruxelles, has authored or coauthored more than twenty-five books, many of them published by University of Minnesota Press. She received the grand prize for philosophy from the Académie Française in 1993.
Thomas Lamarre is Gordon J. Laing Distinguished Service Professor of Cinema and Media Studies and East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago.
"With her lifelong intellectual companion, Alfred North Whitehead, Isabelle Stengers reactivates an old sort of thing, a necessary thing that is almost impossible to imagine in our corrupt times—namely, ‘common sense,’ ‘making sense in common.’ This vital book thinks deeply about a shareable problematic for holding serious thinkers and doers together to face something real and particular, here and now, not all the time everywhere. Making Sense in Common activates the speculative imagination that things really could be different so that they might actually become different."—Donna Haraway, author of Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene
"Common sense gets bad press. It is dismissed as a woefully unrigorous middle ground between the expert knowledge systems it disdains and alternative knowledges, like those of Indigenous peoples, whose existence it is loath to acknowledge. But what if we turned things around, moving from common sense to the sense of the common? This is the wager of Isabelle Stengers’s book: that the commonplace of common sense can give way to a problematic space for the negotiation of differences involving all, with a shared commitment to 'staying with the trouble.' In a major reversioning of her political thought, Making Sense in Common endeavors to reactivate common sense as a pragmatic opening onto a metamorphic universe of becoming-together in the face of the world's seemingly intractable problems."—Brian Massumi, author of Couplets: Travels in Speculative Pragmatism
"Under the cloak of Alfred North Whitehead’s philosophy, Isabelle Stengers unfurls a brilliant critique of the science of expertise and the devastating consequence it is having on our common ecological future. This is a must-read for anyone who cares about the politics of science and is looking for a new way of doing philosophy."—Elizabeth A. Povinelli, author of Between Gaia and Ground: Four Axioms of Existence and the Ancestral Catastrophe of Late Liberalism