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Westermarck's Ethics (review)

From: Journal of the History of Philosophy
Volume 23, Number 2, April 1985
pp. 269-271 | 10.1353/hph.1985.0028

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BOOK REVIEWS 969 sense'." Yet, in the text cited, Hegel is clearly distinguishing common sense as "the sport of... abstractions," "setting itself against the truth," sought by philosophy. Enough, perhaps too much, has been said about Punter's skewed reading of Hegel, a reading prompted by an attempt to compensate for the overly theological emphasis in the work of Altizer, his predecessor and otherwise frequent inspiration for comparative studies of Blake and Hegel. Within its limitations, Punter has written an interesting book. Chapters three and four, in particular, richly confirm how the writings of Blake and Hegel can be mutually illuminating. When, in chapter three, Punter links Blake's "Albion" with Hegel's 'Geist', each historically conceived, the comparison does uncommon justice to their attempts to portray as simultaneously progressive, the individual and socio-political stages in the formation of "the Eternal family." Chapter four demonstrates how Blake and (to a much lesser extent) Hegel each tried to provide alternatives to the fragmentary abstractness of strictly analytical thinking, faculty psychology, and mere juxtapositions of mind and body. In a rare critical note, Punter cites the trouble experienced by Blake and Hegel in providing an ahernative view on mind and body. Yet even in these more engaging portions of his book, a highly dubious remark about Hegel mars Punter's argument. Noting Hegel's problem in discussing the body, Punter makes the claim: "In Hegel's case, the only 'sciences' fi'om which he could derive data on which to base his speculations were the now disreputable ones of phrenology and physiognomy" (208). Given Hegel's own discrediting of these "sciences" and his acquaintance with the biology and psychology of his day, Punter's remark is, to say the least, not easy to comprehend. DAN DAHLSTROM Catholic University of America Timothy Stroup. Westermarck's Ethics. Publications of the Research Institute of the Abo Akademi Foundation, vol. 76. Abo: Abo Akademi, x982. Pp. xv + 332. NP. Timothy Stroup distinguishes two approaches to the history of ideas. One treats its materials as clues to the past; the other seeks out pioneers who have contributed to intellectual progress. He then enunciates the position for which he argues through- out Westermarck's Ethics: "It is Edward Westermarck's achievement that his work re- pays study from either standpoint: his writings are of interest in their historical context and of value to contemporary philosophy. Yet, paradoxically, subsequent writers have seldom recognized either Westermarck's place in the development of moral theory or the philosophical merit of his work" (1). Accordingly, this book is divided into two parts entitled "Philosophical Biography" and "Ethical Theory." The first three chapters trace the intellectual development of Edward Wester- marck from his birth in 1862 until his death in 1939. Stroup has used unpublished as well as published sources magnificently to identify the philosophical problems that especially concerned Westermarck and to distinguish between persistent themes and modified thesis in his thinking. He has gone behind early publications to consult 270 JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY earlier drafts, and has supplemented these with personal letters and even the min- utes of the Philosophical Society in Helsingfors. For a philosopher, the chief value of this biography is to provide the thinking that underlies and helps one to interpret his mature works in ethical theory. For a historian of philosophy, these three chapters together with the fourth reconstruct the historical context of that thinking in a richly informative manner. The dominant philosophical figures and the intellectual climate in/~bo and Helsing- fors are described and the academic institutions within which philosophical thinking, teaching, and debate took place are specified in some detail. Stroup shows clearly how Westermarck reacted against the Germanic philosophy that dominated the Fin- land of his day and turned, instead, to British thinkers such as David Hume, Adam Smith, Charles Darwin, and James Frazer. Thus, in the process of reconstructing Westermarck's philosophical biography, these chapters reveal much about the intel- lectual and academic history of this period in Finland and even in Europe more broadly. Just as Part One of this book approaches Westermarck's ideas as clues to the past, so Part Two seeks in his ethical writings...



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