A Cultural History of Causality: Science, Murder Novels, and by Stephen Kern

By Stephen Kern

This pioneering paintings is the 1st to track how our figuring out of the motives of human habit has replaced noticeably over the process ecu and American cultural background due to the fact that 1830. targeting the act of homicide, as documented vividly by way of greater than 100 novels together with Crime and Punishment, An American Tragedy, The Trial, and Lolita, Stephen Kern devotes each one bankruptcy of A Cultural historical past of Causality to reading a particular causal issue or rationale for murder--ancestry, adolescence, language, sexuality, emotion, brain, society, and beliefs. as well as drawing on specific novels, every one bankruptcy considers the sciences (genetics, endocrinology, body structure, neuroscience) and structures of inspiration (psychoanalysis, linguistics, sociology, forensic psychiatry, and existential philosophy) such a lot germane to every causal issue or motive.

Kern identifies 5 shifts in puzzling over causality, shifts towards expanding specificity, multiplicity, complexity, chance, and uncertainty. He argues that the extra researchers discovered in regards to the explanations of human habit, the extra they learned how even more there has been to grasp and the way little they knew approximately what they proposal they knew. The e-book closes by means of contemplating the progressive effect of quantum thought, which, notwithstanding it encouraged novelists merely marginally, shattered the version of causal knowing that had ruled Western suggestion because the 17th century.

Others have addressed altering principles approximately causality in particular parts, yet nobody has tackled a large cultural heritage of this idea as does Stephen Kern during this engagingly written and lucidly argued book.

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Extra info for A Cultural History of Causality: Science, Murder Novels, and Systems of Thought

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Darwin offered a striking example: “It may be difficult,” he wrote, “but we ought to admire the savage instinctive hatred of the queen-bee, which urges her instantly to destroy the young queens her daughters as soon as born . . ”15 Hugo invoked animal atavism in Les Misérables (1862) to explain the behavior of his thief Jean Valjean: “it was not the man who had stolen; it was the animal which, from habit and instinct, had brutally set its foot on the coin” (117). Atavistic murderous impulses wreak havoc over generations in Zola’s novels about the Rougon-Macquart family.

Without a clear understanding of sexual reproduction, Victorian experts speculated wildly about how during pregnancy the fetus can also be affected by its mother’s blood and sex organs as well as her food and drink. In 1868 William A. Hammond, a New York physician, cited more than a dozen writers who gave examples of pregnant women seeing something shocking and then imprinting a mark of that shock on their baby. One saw a leech on someone’s foot and then bore a child with the “mark of a leech” on the same spot.

Victorians emphasized the moment of impregnation, when a lifelong accumulation of physical and psychic experience of both parents was somehow channeled into offspring. Misunderstanding of the mechanism of that process was sometimes veiled by overblown Victorian rhetoric, such as O. S. ”48 Fowler’s frenetic prose replicates the sex act itself: Laced with italics and prolonged as though he could not bear to bring his sentence to an end, it strains to convey the exclusivity and totality of a marriage yielding an offspring that embodies the parents’ thoughts, morals, emotions, and physical traits all in proportion to the intensity and spirituality of their love, united under the witness and sanction of God.

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