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The Spinoza of Totnes? Brian Goodwin and the Deductive Science of ‘Life’

October 2 @ 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm


Abstract: Brian Goodwin’s work was consistently anti-reductionist, proudly anti-mechanistic, fiercely anti-Darwinian and relentlessly determined to re-focus the optic of scientific attention away from a gene-centred view of adaptive selectionism.

What Goodwin was positing in his many books and papers was nothing less than a new 21st century naturphilosophie, a new kind of deductive naturalism that put the mathematics of form, of ‘structure’ rather than ‘measurement’, at the centre of its concern in an attempt to re-focus our understanding of what exactly biological evolution is and can be after the Darwinian revolution.

In this talk I intend to explore this meta-biological paradigm that is both old and new, by looking not only at Goodwin’s work but also by casting a brief eye in the direction of some of the meta-biologies propounded by his contemporaries and one or two of his predecessors as collectively forming a biological ‘vision’ whose grammar and syntax were provided by utilising non-classical forms of qualitative rather than quantitative mathematical modelling and expression

The purest expression and the philosophical consummation of many of the meta-biological ideas propounded by Goodwin can actually be found in the extraordinary metaphysical vision of Benedict de Spinoza (1632-1677). Spinoza’s meta-biological metaphysic allows us to catch a fleeting glimpse of what a truly universal and deductively impeccable meta-biological naturalism would look like.

What I intend is to provide a flavour, an overview, of Spinoza’s ideas by interpreting him as primarily a meta-biological thinker and to look at Goodwin’s work in relation to Spinoza’s universally deductive and naturalistic paradigm, which will enable us to appreciate the radical innovativeness of Goodwin’s approach to the understanding of life.

This lecture is part of our Holistic Science Conference, taking place 1 -3 October at Dartington, organised by Schumacher College. We are opening up this keynote as a public event, so that people can join us here even if they are not attending the full conference. If you would like to register for the full conference, please click this link.

This conference is part of a broader programme of events and courses associated with the MSc in Holistic Science at Schumacher College. Find out more about the programme via this link, where you can also sign up for updates about the programme.


October 2
7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
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The Great Hall, Dartington
The Great Hall, Dartington
Totnes, Devon TQ9 6EL United Kingdom