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Reviews399 Donne's "willful materialism" (p. 70) as having inspired his poetic project of "carrying language into the body" (p. 84). Ricks, by contrast, shows how Donne's poems devaluebodilyexperience—particularly sex—and hence undercut themselves , for which Ricks takes Donne to task. Entertainingly contentious and scrupulouslyillustrated with reference to modern critics and to Donne's scientific contemporaries, Ricks's and Scarry's essays promote opposing theses equally persuasively. As each critic draws upon different works by Donne, each constructs a corpus out of which a different body of Donne emerges. The interplay of their arguments is exciting: it suggests that the materialist approach can breathe new life into the fainting body of critical pluralism. University of VermontRobyn R. Warhol The Element ofFire: Science, Art and the Human World, by Anthony O'Hear; xi& 178 pp. New York: Roudedge, 1988, $35.00. The Snow-Leavis "Two Cultures" debate of a quarter-century ago remains unresolved. In this short but densely packed book Anthony O'Hear usefully continues the argument. O'Hear's sympathies are strongly, and righdy, with Leavis's side ofthe debate, but he is not the sort of anti-scientific dogmatist that many of Leavis's disciples have become; he has a high regard for the achievements of science, and insists that the "Great Tradition includes such cultural achievements as Newtonian physics, the theory of evolution and quantum physics, just as much as Jane Austen, George Eliot and D. H. Lawrence. . . ." Professor O'Hear's philosophy of science is robusdy, and rightiy, realist. Science confronts a world not ofour making and at its best achieves an objective knowledge of reality transcending the limitations of a merely human perspective . Nevertheless, O'Hear argues that we must reject the pretension that scientists have to be able to give us a uniquely true and impersonal view of the world in which human beings and our values and concerns are displaced from the center of things as mere by-products of more fundamental processes. O'Hear argues persuasively that this view belongs to the ideology of science, and is neither a scientific view norjustified by any of the accepted theories of science. Moreover, taken seriously this view relegates imaginative and expressive practices in the arts to the status of unserious subjective indulgences, mere entertainment exploiting certain pleasurable neural link-ups. The fact is, he argues, the achievements of science rest on a nonscientific, pre-theoretical foundation in which ethical virtues and values such as integrity, honesty, humility, patience, 400Philosophy and Literature and a respect for truth are inextricably entwined with a multiplicity ofpractices through which we try to understand the world and find significance in life. Science is one product of these practices, but it is not the only one, nor is it privileged. The arts and collaborative critical study of the arts have an equally crucial role in achieving a well-formed and informed understanding of the world and in the formation of "the human world," the Lebenswelt of culture. It is with the deplorable contemporary condition of die arts and with the conditions and practices necessary for the restoration of artistic good health that Professor O'Hear is principally concerned. He is right to argue that any form of meaningful expression in the arts "presupposes a tradition of existing practice as the background to one's own efforts having expressive force." And he is surely right to exhort artists "to rediscover and by rediscovering revivify die artistic traditions to which we are heirs." Otherwise we shall continue to be sunk in the appalling ugliness and wretched excesses of contemporary art practices. But his diagnosis of our decadence is dubious. He thinks that "Modernism in the arts, conceived as an attempt to begin music, painting, and architecture again from scratch" has had the effect of depriving the arts of the seriousness that can come only from an artistic practice rooted in an artistic tradition that is itself rooted in the life of a long-established community. The trouble with this view is that it takes too seriously the stridency of die early modernist rejection of its own recent past and the hysteria in the Poundian insistence that artists must "make it new," and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 399-400
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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