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Shorter Reviews357 day deem the human race an unsuccessful experiment and strive for some offspring better than man; yet Lawrence's antipathy to Shaw's "fleshless, bloodless and cold" characters, and the utter contrast in texture and implication between the best works of these two writers, should make us realize what a suspiciously pliable belief it is. In Back to Methuselah, the goal of the Life-Force is "the vortex freed from matter . . . the whirlpool in pure intelligence." Whitman argues that this is just one possibility, and should not be regarded as Shaw's firm belief. For who can know what the Force's goal is? It seems to me that if the goal of a supposedly teleological process cannot be known by man, the process is remarkably hard to distinguish from a non-teleological one: the postulant of Creative Evolution resembles the worshipper of a vacuous God. And in any case, the "whirlpool in pure intelligence" postulated by Shaw does focus one's deepest misgivings about the mercurially rationalistic texture of his work. Professor Whitman might perhaps have given greater consideration to the ways in which doctrines may be modified and even subverted by the forms of their literary expression. In successful early works like Mrs Warren's Profession and Arms and the Man there are splendidly subversive socialistic ideas and there is also a slick stylization of diction and characterization, a sacrifice of the texture of plausible life for the sake of comically incisive interaction: the effect is sometimes that the conventions of the "well-made play" are being deepened and enlivened by the radical doctrines expressed, and sometimes that the doctrines are being acceptably trivialized by their adaptation to the comedy of wit and paradox. (Shaw may have learnt as much from W. S. Gilbert and Oscar Wilde as from Hegel.) Man and Superman offers a particularly cogent example of literary Janiformity. Tanner represents the artist-type with new ideas, the Life-Force becoming articulate, while Ann represents the Life-Force's urge to procreate. They struggle; Ann prevails—perhaps the offspring will be a Superman. So far, so familiar: good support for Mr. Whitman's thesis. Here we have the Hegelian dialectic mixed with Lamarckian or Baxian or Butlerian evolutionism, a dash of Strindberg, a counterpoint to Mozart's Don Giovanni, and a reversal of romantic cliché—for here, as in Shakespeare's All's Well, the woman pursues the man. But the imagery with which Ann is invested is that of the destructive predator, not the fecund creatrix: she is repeatedly likened to a boa constrictor (she even wears a symbolic boa), a lioness, a spider, a vampire. The final effect is that a work which ostensibly celebrates Creative Evolution reveals an underlying fear of the biological and particularly the sexual; and thus we encounter what is perhaps the central paradox of Shaw's writings. University of SussexCedric Watts Imagination, by Mary Warnock; pp. 213. London & Berkeley : University of California Press, 1976, $13.95. Mary Warnock believes that ordinary perception involves, in a lesser degree, an ability which is, at a higher degree, artistic genius. If so, ordinary experience 358Philosophy and Literature is continuous with artistic insight. She finds a source of such a view in David Hume, who held that imagination fills in the gaps in perceptual experience. The gaps include such things as the backsides of things and the identity of a present object with a previously perceived one. Warnock purges Hume's oudook of its error of treating images as faint impressions. With that blemish on the face of his theory, Hume's contentions never seem plausible. She notes that when we ask whether images are just like perceptions, only fainter, we inevitably arrive at a rejection of the comparison. Nevertheless, Warnock holds that imagination does perform an essential role in perception if we consider the notion of "seeing as," and she builds up to this position by tracing the history of a certain view about imagination. That history runs from Hume through Kant to Wordsworth and Coleridge. Warnock sees the stream of it still there in the work of Merleau-Ponty, Wittgenstein, Jaspers, and Sartre. Chapters one and two are devoted...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 357-359
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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