Department Faculty members Publications Research Projects
Department Faculty members Publications Research Projects


BUTE Department of Philosophy and History of Science

Margitay, Tihamér, ed. Knowing and Being: Perspectives on the Philosophy of Michael Polanyi.Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2010. Michael Polanyi is one of the most inspiring and original thinkers in the 20th century. He launched a new and independent philosophical tradition and fertilized many intellectual areas from cognitive psychology to management sciences. Polanyi’s systematic thoughts span over many areas of philosophy, yet his most fruitful ideas, the fundamentals of his system are contributions to epistemology and ontology. His theory of tacit knowledge, his critique of both the objectivist and the subjectivist views of knowledge, his concept of emergence, and his theory of spontaneous order and coordination—just to mention a few—are probably the most important and most well-known. Polanyi also gave us a new picture about science in which scientist’s personal participation guided by his cognitive and moral commitment, passions and trust, is an essential part of knowledge itself, in both its discovery and its validation. This volume focuses on these epistemological and ontological issues. Thirteen critical essays analyze, interpret and develop further Polanyi’s ideas in the two parts of the book: Knowing and Being. Most of these papers address Polanyian themes in a comparative way, in dialogue with other major traditions illuminating both sides and helping to re-evaluate Polanyi in broader philosophical context. The title of this book also refers to a seminal collection of papers of Michael Polanyi (edited by Marjorie Grene in 1969), Knowing and Being.

Láng, Benedek. Unlocked Books: Manuscripts of Learned Magic in the Medieval Libraries of Central Europe. University Park (PA): The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2008. During the Middle Ages, the Western world translated the incredible Arabic scientific corpus and imported it into Western culture: Arabic philosophy, optics, and physics, as well as alchemy, astrology, and talismanic magic. The line between the scientific and the magical was blurred. According to popular lore, magicians of the Middle Ages were trained in the art of magic in “magician schools” located in various metropolitan areas, such as Naples, Athens, and Toledo. It was common knowledge that magic was learned and that cities had schools designed to teach the dark arts. The Spanish city of Toledo, for example, was so renowned for its magic training schools that “the art of Toledo” was synonymous with “the art of magic.” Until Benedek Láng’s work on Unlocked Books, little had been known about the place of magic outside these major cities. A principal aim of Unlocked Books is to situate the role of central Europe as a center for the study of magic. Láng helps chart for us how the thinkers of that day—clerics, courtiers, and university masters—included in their libraries not only scientific and religious treatises but also texts related to the field of learned magic. These texts were all enlisted to solve life’s questions, whether they related to the outcome of an illness or the meaning of lines on one’s palm. Texts summoned angels or transmitted the recipe for a magic potion. Láng gathers magical texts that could have been used by practitioners in late fifteenth-century central Europe.

Zemplén, Gábor Á. The History of Vision, Colour and Light Theories - Introductions, Texts, Problems. Bern: Universität Bern, 2005.

This is not a standard history nor was it intended to be. On the one hand, several themes are chosen, and examined in detail. These include the nature of colour as expressed in a variety of phenomena, like colour mixing, the rainbow, and the prismatic spectrum. Spatial perception, as evidenced in the moon illusion and in vision following the restoration of sight, is also addressed. (...) The particular strength of the book is the coverage of pre- and post-Newtonian theories of colour. (...) Throughout this historical odyssey questions are posed for the reader to answer, hints are given regarding the likely resolution of them, and the texts provide the context in which they can be understood. The subtitle of the book, and Gabor Zemplen's stated intent, is that this should provide an introduction to “those who are interested in theories of light, colour, and vision”. Its appeal will engage a much wider audience than the students to whom it is specifically directed. The texts selected provide ready access to materials that are often widely scattered, and pursuing the references in the bibliography will provide rich rewards.


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