restricted access A review of The Ultimate Belief, by A. Clutton-Brock
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436 ] A review of The Ultimate Belief, by A. Clutton-Brock London: Constable, 1916. Pp. viii + 107.1 The International Journal of Ethics, 27 (Oct 1916) 127 “Our whole society suffers from a lack of values” [106]. This is Mr. CluttonBrock ’s thesis. The strength of German society is based upon a definite system of values. “The German boy is given a reason why he should be good and why he should love knowledge. He is told that he must do everything to increase the glory and power of Germany. That is bad philosophy, but it is philosophy” (11). The book is therefore a plea for a system of values which shall be superior to the German–and for a system of education based upon these values. Mr. Clutton-Brock is a student of Croce, but his philosophical apparatus is unpretentious.2 The merit of the book does not lie in an original theory of value, but in acute comments upon education. Boys should be taught to respect the values of truth, beauty and goodness for their own sake. They often admire wrong-doing because it appears disinterested. “[S]ince theyarenottaughttodowhatisrightforitsownsake,theymaketheir escape by doing what is wrong for its own sake” (47). They should be so disciplined as to separate goodness from a code of rewards and punishments. “[T]his appeal to his self-interest (i.e. in reward and punishment) must not be confused with an appeal to his moral sense” [50].3 Similarly, boys should not merely be taught habits of veracity, they should be taught intellectual honesty–the love of truth for its own sake. They should learn why knowledge is valuable, apart from purely practical success, the pursuit of which may fail to excite the more independent. And the third, the aesthetic activity, is no less important. For the boy whose childhood has been empty of beauty, the boy who has never learned the detached curiosity for beauty, the sexual instinct when it is aroused may mean the only possible escape from a prosaic world. Hence a danger which may be followed by a still greater disaster, the passage from a period of violent excitement into a maturity of commonplace. We must learn to love always, to exercise those disinterested passions of the spirit which are inexhaustible and permanently satisfying. [ 437 Review: The Ultimate Belief The philosophical foundation of the book is adequate to its purpose. Its tone is modest; its thought is not daring, but its commonsense is sound. T. Stearns Eliot / london, england. Notes 1. A. Clutton-Brock (1868-1924), an English writer on philosophical and cultural issues for the general reader, wrote The Ultimate Belief in the context of WWI, on which he had already published two books: Are We to Punish Germany, If We Can(1915) and More Thoughts on the War (1915). In the preface, he writes that “this war . . . has convinced me that we in England need to teach ourselves first, and then our children, a true and coherent philosophy, if we are to withstand that false and coherent philosophy which now possesses the mind of Germany and to which she owes her fanatical power” (vi). Clutton-Brock became one of TSE’s least appreciative reviewers. 2. Clutton-Brock concludes his “Introduction” by acknowledging that he has “learnt much . . . about aesthetics” from the Italian statesman and idealist Benedetto Croce (1866-1952), author of Estetica come scienza dell’espressione e linguistica generale (1902) and Breviario di estetica (1913). In response to a question about Croce’s influence on English critical taste, TSE said in a letter of 14 Nov 1963: “I, myself, have never looked at any of Croce’s voluminous work which, for some reason or other, has quite failed to appeal to me. . . . I seem to remember that Croce and other Italian philosophers were taken seriously . . . during the first world war when German philosophy was out of favour at Oxford and the Italians had to serve in their stead.” 3. TSE’s parenthetical. ...