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The New Statesman, 11 (13 July 1918) 296-97

The philosophical market does not at the present time manifest much liveliness. It is, indeed, very dull, if we compare it with the active first decade or first twelve years of the century. Then appeared the most important writings of Mr. Russell and M. Bergson, the vogue of William James was at its height, and the New Realists in America were dusting the arena under the imperial and slightly amused gaze of Mr. Santayana. 2 With the exception of a book or two by Professor Dewey, Mr. Russell’s late volume of reprinted essays, and possibly Professor Holt’s Freudian Wish, there have been no notable productions during the last few years; 3 especially in the States, Realists and Pragmatists are engrossed in social and political questions– League of Nations, International Ethics, etc. The three books listed above, however, are all pure philosophy, of three different types. The third is a very competent work of scholarship, a valuable aid to the study of John Locke; the two others are essays in constructive philosophy, and what might be called, in the language of painters, first-rate school-work. It is no disparagement of these books of Professor Mackenzie and Professor Parker to say that their chief interest is in the reflection on current tendencies which they provoke, rather than in any very original intuitions or methods. Mr. Parker, who is Professor at the University of Michigan, belongs evidently to the younger generation. He has, that is to say, been a pupil of the New Realists at Harvard at the moment when their philosophy still wore the morning dew, and the degree of purity in which he transmits their impulse may be taken as a measure of its potency. In America, this New Realism has counted, and probably will have counted for a good deal in the history of general ideas; for in America, as in Germany, the mental agitations of philosophers in universities largely supply the place of the less official activity of intellectual London or Paris. That a school of philosophy so much like materialism should prosper is important in America; that it should have cast out the older theological Idealism is miraculous. The Realists have won their victory simply by concentrating on scientific methods, leaving the implications as to theology still implicit. They have not wholly extirpated theology from philosophy; they have disturbed it and left it to take root again as best it can. 4

Professor Parker, like the original Realists, has experienced the influence of Santayana and James; perhaps the former even more than the latter. His book is free from both the merits and defects typical of Messrs. Perry, Holt and the other Realists. 5 It is pleasanter reading. It is a book which non-philosophers can read with interest and even approval. The writer has come by philosophy to conclusions which most thinking people have absorbed from the atmosphere.

Thus the dependence of the mind on the body has been shown to be complete. The body is the soul’s expression, its indispensable tool, without which it is not. [95]

We perceive our need of ideas, our incapacity to dispense with them. [206]

The time is past for men to ask of either philosophy or religion a guarantee of the satisfaction of any of their mundane personal interests. [299]

Viewed dispassionately, the life of man is no different, from the aspect of survival, than ( sic) that of a plant. [301]

However lofty be nature’s aims . . . still, they are not ours. [311]

The queen of the sciences has become very...

Published By:   Faber & Faber logo    Johns Hopkins University Press