The Social World, Reexamined: A Conversation with Brian Epstein

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Open Agenda Publishing, Oct 1, 2020 - Philosophy

This book is based on an in-depth filmed conversation between Howard Burton and Brian Epstein, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Tufts University. Brian Epstein’s career as a management consultant piqued his interest and his later research into the reasons why our current models of economics, politics and other areas of social science so often go terribly wrong. The conversation explores how we can dramatically improve our current economic and political models by reexamining our assumptions about the nature of the social world.

This carefully-edited book includes an introduction, The Real World, and questions for discussion at the end of each chapter:

I. Wondering About the World - A philosophical journey

II. Empirical Influences - From management consultancy to metaphysics

III. Unquestioned Assumptions - The cult of the individual

IV. Beyond Emergence - A Supreme Value

V. Ontological Examinations - Grounding and anchoring

VI. Better Models - Beyond agent-based thinking

VII. Modelling Concerns - Fear of mushiness

VIII. Getting Specific - Modelling corruption

IX. No, We Can’t - The impact of a small political gene pool

X. Responses and Reactions - The good, the bad, and the ugly

XI. The Value of Breadth - Appreciating the humanities

XII. Learning Our Lessons? - Or perhaps not

XIII. Applied Philosophy - The “social turn”

About Ideas Roadshow Conversations Series: 

This book is part of an expanding series of 100+ Ideas Roadshow conversations, each one presenting a wealth of candid insights from a leading expert in a relaxed and informal setting to give non-specialists a uniquely accessible window into frontline research and scholarship that wouldn't otherwise be encountered through standard lectures and textbooks. For other books in this series visit our website (


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A Note on the Text
The Conversation
Wondering About the World
Empirical Influences
Unquestioned Assumptions
Beyond Emergence
Ontological Examinations
Modelling Concerns
Getting Specific
No We Cant
Responses and Reactions
The Value of Breadth
Learning Our Lessons?
Applied Philosophy

Better Models

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About the author (2020)

Howard Burton, the founder and creator of Ideas Roadshow and Ideas on Film, holds a PhD in theoretical physics and an MA in philosophy. He was the Founding Executive Director of Canada’s Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics (PI) from 1999-2007. During his time at PI, he also developed an extensive outreach programme for teachers, students and the general public. His experiences at developing the research and outreach mandates of the institute were described in the book, First Principles: Building Perimeter Institute, featuring a foreword by Nobel Laureate Roger Penrose.

Ideas Roadshow is an award-winning initiative, recipient of the London Book Fair International Excellence Award in 2018. Howard has hosted and filmed in-depth conversations with more than 100 of the world’s brightest thinkers, including 3 Nobel Laureates, across the arts, sciences, sports and games.

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