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From Certainty to Uncertainty: The Story of Science and Ideas in the Twentieth Century

F. David Peat

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Joseph Henry Press, Washington 2002
ISBN 0-309-07641-2(hard)

34.95$ CA

Note this book is now available in the UK.

The book traces the history of ideas from expressions of certainty in the year 1900 through the advent of quantum uncertainty and the replacement of nature's "building blocks" by notions of process. In philosophy it examines the failure of Bertrand Russell's dream of Logical Atomism with the advent of Wittgenstein's Tractatus and his later philosophy of language. It looks at the failure of Hilbert's program to place all of mathematics on a strict logical basis and Godel's Incompleteness theorem. The book also explores the end of representation in art, the rise of environmentalism and the false comfort given by such approaches as Risk Analysis.

It concludes that in an age in which the "expert" is increasingly fallible responsibility now falls on individual citizens for the values, meanings and ethics of our society.


1. Quantum Uncertainty

2. On Incompleteness

3. From Object to Process

4. Language

5. The End of Representation

6. From Clockwork to Chaos

7. Re-envisioning the Planet

8. Pausing the Cosmos




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