Philosophy and Literature in Times of Crisis: Challenging our Infatuation with Numbers


9781623569792The recent economic crisis came about, in part, because it was believed that markets and people behave in rational, unambiguous and predictable ways. The collapse of the markets was just one symptom of what Michael Mack calls our problematic “infatuation with numbers.” In his new book, Mack proposes that disciplines such as science, medicine, and economics have become too enamoured of numbers and quantifiable data in trying to explain the world around us. Instead, Mack argues for the value of literature in reminding us about the subjective and unquantifiable nature of human experience, and in helping us to think about some of the complex social and ethical issues of our day.

Highlighting literature and philosophy’s potential impact on economics, health care, bioethics, public policy and theology, Philosophy and Literature in Times of Crisis analyses the heuristic value of fiction.

It alerts us to how we risk succumbing to the deceptions of fiction in our everyday lives, because fictional representations constantly feign to be of the real and claim a reality of their own. Philosophy and literature disclose how the substantive sphere of social, economic and medical practice is sometimes driven and shaped by the affect-ridden and subjective.

Authors covered include Augustine, Shakespeare, Spinoza, Deleuze, Kafka, Plath, Roth, Sebald, Littell

Analysing a wide range of literature, Michael Mack rethinks ethical attitudes towards the long or eternal life. In so doing he shows how philosophy and literature turn representation against itself to expose the hollowness of theologically grand concepts that govern our secular approach towards ethics, economics and medicine. Philosophy and literature help us resist our current infatuation with numbers and the numerical and contribute towards a future politics that is at once singular and diverse.

Commenting on Philosophy and Literature in Times of Crisis, Avital Ronnell noted that “The book explores rhetorical as well as conceptual operations capable of taking out some of our abiding–and culturally pernicious–attachment disorders.” Paul Mendes-Flohr commended it as “a stunningly brilliant analysis of our increasingly digitalized culture that celebrates the quantifiable conceptions of the good life.”

Philosophy and Literature in Times of Crisis: Challenging our Infatuation with Numbers is published by Bloomsbury, priced from around £13 for a Kindle edition. You can hear Michael Mack discuss his work in this short podcast.

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One response to “Philosophy and Literature in Times of Crisis: Challenging our Infatuation with Numbers

  1. Pingback: New Podcast: How Literature Challenges Our Infatuation with Numbers | READ | Research in English at Durham·

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