Page 6, 9th June 1972

9th June 1972
Page 6
Page 6, 9th June 1972 — Philosophy and People
Close

Report an error

Noticed an error on this page?
If you've noticed an error in this article please click here to report it.

Tags

Locations: Cambridge, Edinburgh, Oxford

Share


Related articles

Chad Varaii, Founder Of The Samaritans : The True Wilderness

Page 5 from 31st December 1965

Knowledge: Process Not Fact Maybe

Page 8 from 16th March 1973

Penguins' Silver Jubilee

Page 3 from 30th September 1960

Religious Books By Fr, S. G. A. Luff

Page 6 from 14th August 1970

B M I N W Ith B• Religious Round-up Letters Summer 1926...

Page 6 from 23rd May 1986

Philosophy and People

Towards Deep Subjectivity by Roger Poole (Allen Lane The Penguin Press, £2 '.r+ net) The Cult of The Fact by Liam Hudson (Jonathan Cape. £2.95 net) Reason and Emotion by John Macmurray (Faber & Faber, paper covered. £1.10 net) THERE was a time when "the Establishment" meant the Church of England. Today it has a wider connotation. covering institutionalised religion in general, the political set-up (whether in Western or Communist countries). and the economictechnological structures, beneath whose huge pylons we petty men walk and peep about to find ourselves dishonourable graves. Mr. Poole adds one further extension: the scientific orthodoxy which seeks to reduce all reality to the level of mechanistically determined space-time events, with its jackal the philosophical positivism which has reigned too long at Oxford and elsewhere.

Mr. Poole however does not speak of "establishment," but of "objectivity," the false because too narrow objectivity which takes account only of public "fact" and discounts. exiles and excommunicates the human person with his ethical concern. 'Towards Deep Subjectivity" is an awkward title. and the book takes some "getting into." Its vocabulary may seem strange, and its power is

not immediately developed. But Mr. Poole is capable of passionate and incisive invective, and has much reading. much insight, deep reflection, and full commitment to give stuff and substance to his criticisms.

His proposed remedy is not terrorism. for which he has less sympathy than for the preconceptual sign language of the hippies, the early student protesters, a ad Dubcek's socialism with a new face. He develops his own proposals in the concluding chapters of his book, under the name of "subjective method."

I believe he has something important to say. I think that he is at the beginning, not the end, of his investigation of his favoured method. I accept his view that the human problem. difficult on any showing, has been rendered much more difficult, and our dangers tremendously enhanced. by "objectivism"; in short that, to quote his concluding sentence, "everything remains, to be done. and time is \ growing short."

Mr. Poole is obviously a voracious and perceptive reader. I wish he would read Bernard Lonergan's Method in Theology (refusing to be put off by a title for which he may have as little sympathy as I have for that of his own book), with particular attention to what Lonergan has to say about perspectivism, dialectic. and conversion. In very many ways. Mr. Poole's deep concerns converge upon some of those that Lonergan recognises. There could be some useful cross-fertilisation.

Mr. Hudson's book is brilliant, and brilliantly funny. In part it is something of an intellectual autobiography (its author read philosophy and psychology at Oxford, moved to the Cambridge Psychological Laboratory, and now holds the Chair of Educational Sciences at Edinburgh); in part it is an attack, like Mr. Poole's. on the "orthodoxy" of the English philosophical tradi tion and also of experimental or empirical (behaviouristic, he is inclined to call it when roused) psychology. In some respects, it is the story of a non-religious "conversion." It adds a point to Mr. Poole's polemics: the vaunted "objectivity" of the modern scientific orthodoxy is not really objective, since the motivations of a science together with its presuppositions are to be sought outside the internal logic of the science itself.

He has important things to say, things which can be applied 'riotous mutandis to the Church, about institutionalised science. "Basic conflicts of in tellectual tradition are not matters of detailed interpretation or nuance"; challenge the legitimacy of an in stitutionalised academic discipline. "and the issue polarises at once into the most elemental categories of which man is capable: us and them, clean and dirty. right and wrong." One may observe such polarisation among Catholics at the present day, and it is just such polarisation in the ecumenical field that we are trying to overcome.

Mr. Hudson holds that the age of "absolute authority" in the academic world is coming to an end. He sees this as part of the general change in the world in attitudes to authority: "the last ten years have seen a radical transformation in attitudes to authority and to authoritative knowledge. In the social and behavioural sciences especially, the young are demanding an equality ,of status with their teachers that a decade ago was unthinkable."

What remedy is there for our academic, and wider, troubles today? Mr. Hudson might seem to think that the move from absolutism to relativism is a good thing. I am less than convinced that it is enough. I think we need, for the very meaning of knowledge and for the meaning of life, to find an "absolute" somewhere. and again I refer to Lonergan, whose treatment of judgment and whose "transcendental method" seem to me to give us what we want.

Meanwhile, it is fascinating to see how both Mr. Poole and Mr. Hudson are turning away from "objectivity" and behaviourism to the subject and his experience. Mr. Hudson notes the danger that empirical psychology may "serve to fillet Man of his experiential core"; and at that concluding moment of his book he speaks of St. Teresa of Avila and Bernini's "sculpted tableau." of that saint and her angel. in the event of her "mystical" experience of being

wounded by the "great golden spear." It is, he says, "faith in the possibility of religious ecstasy that renders religious ecstasy possible"; and it would seem that he would regard a humanity in which such ecstasy was no longer possible as an impoverished thing.

I have probably made the book seem too solemn and tough. Well, much of it is necessarily serious. Read the wonderful chapter on "indoctrination," for instance,

remembering that indoctrination is one of the charges made against religious schools, and noting how Hudson discovers it in universities like Oxford and Cambridge, and disciplines like philosophy and psychology. But, I repeat, the book is brilliantly funny. The humour is often implicit within the serious exposition, but anyone who wants to sample it may turn to pp. 137 and 138, the description of the author's brother. in Africa to film a hunting tribe, culminating in his finding himself face to face with an angry rhinoceros and "now, almost literally, on the horns of a dilemma."

Mr. Macmurray's book is a paper-back, first issued in that form in 1962, and originally published in 1935. It is worth re-reading, in the light of the two books just discussed. Its vocabulary is its own, and needs to be watched. For instance, "religion," Mr. Macmurray's highest value, is not quite what you or I would mean by the word, though there is an overlap. The book is rewarding to a critical reader. not prepared to accept everything because Mr. Macmurray says it. For an extensive critique of his thought (not, however. of this book) turn to pp. 230-238 of Dom Illtyd Trethowan's Absolute Value. When Mr. Macmurray speaks of "emotion" he is often concerned with what we should call "value," and his location of science and art within the religious totality is important.




blog comments powered by Disqus