The title to this book comes from a letter Blake wrote to his patron Thomas Butts, dated 22 November 1802, that finishes “May God us keep From Single vision & Newton’s sleep”, which is an exploration into the history and philosophy of scientific ideas and the role poiēsis and imagination play in our understanding of science and of progress.

It has been argued that the poet William Blake who said, “the true method of knowledge is experiment”, held the view that human imagination was primary because he saw that “what is now proved was once only imagin’d”. It is therefore argued in some quarters that Blake’s central theme is the confrontation of science with imagination because, although he was highly respectful of Isaac Newton the scientist, he was critical of the “Single Vision” and the replacement of a fourfold vision by the sovereignty of reason that resulted in a mechanical universe. Today, influential scientists looking at consciousness dismiss imagination regarding it at best as a mere epiphenomenon, a ghost in the machine, or at worst non-existent and to be denied. In this book Keith Davies, who sees C.P. Snow’s debate on the separation of the arts and sciences as alive and well, traces the schism back to Plato but more importantly to the seventeenth century and David Hume’s removal of imagination in the conjunction between our observation of causes and their effects. This, Davies argues, had a profound effect on Adam Smith and led to natural capital being disenfranchised from economics and it is in part to blame for our current environmental crisis.

By exploring the views of William Blake and other poets in the context of twentieth century philosophers Jacob Bronowski, Martin Heidegger, Karl Popper, and Hannah Arendt, amongst others, these series of essays take an eclectic approach drawing on examples from biology, history, literature, philosophy and economics. The book is a rallying cry for the reestablishment of imagination as a central attribute of science that may help to resolve some of our most pressing ecological problems as seen in the context of science and technology studies and what is loosely developing into the discipline of environmental humanities.
Original languageEnglish
Commissioning bodyRoutledge
Publication statusIn preparation - 2023

Publication series

NameHistory of Science, Medicine and Technology


  • History of Ideas
  • Philosophy of Science
  • Philosophy of Biology
  • Environmental Humanities


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