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London: Macmillan, 1916. Pp. xlii+ 623. 1

The International Journal of Ethics, 28 (July 1918), 572

The essential parts of the book reveal themselves as Part I, Chapter II, and Part II, Chapter I. Here the creative imagination is disclosed. Imagination is the “primeval reality, itself unresolved, into which all else can be resolved” (7); and Mr. Fawcett persuades us toward this reality by examining the rôle of imagination in scientific hypothesis. An hypothesis advanced in explanation of natural phenomena is an “imaginal makeshift for sensible experience” (26). A physical hypothesis has meaning for us only if we can supply in imagination “all the so-called secondary qualities . . . which are present in experiencednature but absent from the conceptualor mechanical-substitute” [31]. Here “makeshift” appears to be used in the Bergsonian rather than the pragmatist sense. The imagining is a mental “substitute-fact”: it is “true” if it is sufficiently like the reality in nature. But if the imagining is to be like, it must be of similar nature, and we therefore conclude that ultimate reality is “imaginal.” But Mr. Fawcett adds “ presupposing, of course(italics mine), acceptance of the main contention of this essay” (27).

Here the author’s idealistic bias shows itself; and while he criticises the orthodox philosophy severely, and on the whole justly, I am not sure that he does not stick closer by it than he thinks. His absolutist tendency is most apparent in connection with the problem of evil. “Evils are real” (569); and some space is devoted to a protest against explaining them away. But evil belongs only to the time-process: “There can be no evil in the Cosmic Imagination considered apart from creative episodes” (584). Evil is born with a “change,” aptly described as the “Fall.” “The victimiser and the victims are the same reality . . . This is a tremendous truth” (587). Tremendous, but yet a household word. It is our old acquaintance, the Red Slayer, la plaie et le couteau! 2

If, however, one can accept imagination as a term of ultimate meaning, apart from contexts, then one can accept Mr. Fawcett’s essay as a highly important work; and those who do not so accept it must yet admit that the thesis is elaborated with great ingenuity and care, and that many penetrating criticisms and observations have been scattered by the way. We must be grateful to Mr. Fawcett also for his outspoken denial of personality to the cosmic imagination.

t. stearns eliot

Published By:   Faber & Faber logo    Johns Hopkins University Press