The Faces of Reason: An Essay on Philosophy and Culture in English Canada, 1850-1950

By Leslie Armour; Elizabeth Trott | Go to book overview

NINE
REASON, RELIGION, AND THE IDEA OF NATURE

George Blewett and James Ten Broeke

GEORGE BLEWETT WAS born in 1873--a year after Watson began to teach at Queen's. He died in 1912 in his thirty-ninth year. Though he was a quarter-century younger than Watson, he seems much more remote from us and his remoteness is accentuated by the elaborate Victorian prose of the essays in The Study of Nature and the Vision God.1 The simpler, somehow more modern, prose of his second book, The Christian View of the World,2 brings him nearer to us, but even the titles of his books seem to isolate him from the contemporary philosopher and have left him too often buried in the musty shelves of second-hand apologetic theology.

All of this is a cruel trick of whatever fates govern popular and philosophic taste. For, in many ways, Blewett speaks more clearly and with more relevance to contemporary problems than any of the other participants in nineteenth- and twentieth-century idealist philosophy. In the current dilemma of our relations with nature--relations corrupted, on the one side, by those who believe in the myth of eternal technological progress and, on the other, by those who subscribe to the mythology of an eternally wise and beneficent nature which must be left untouched by man--he has much to say that is vitally important. Whether one accepts or rejects his theory, one must concede that one cannot review it with care without adding a significant measure of clarification to the problem. Again, whether one attributes the apparent decline of rational theology to a failure of nerve and imagination or to the development of an understanding of the world which makes all theology irrelevant or uninteresting, it remains true that Blewett's picture of the relation of nature, man, and God is refreshing and ought to open a host of issues which demand philosophical exploration.

____________________
1
George John Blewett, The Study of Nature and the Vision of God ( Toronto: William Briggs, 1907). Hereafter referred to as Nature and God.
2
George John Blewett, The Christian View of the World ( New York: Yale University Press, 1912). Hereafter referred to as Christian View.

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