Pragmatism and the American Mind: Essays and Reviews in Philosophy and Intellectual History

By Morton White | Go to book overview

THE IMPACT OF SCIENCE ON PHILOSOPHY

13. Darwin, Marx, and Materialism1

Professor Jacques Barzun's purpose in Darwin, Marx, Wagner: Critique of a Heritage is to give "a critical account of mechanistic materialism in science, art, and social science" from the days of its great apostles down to ours. The dust jacket informs us in a more striking way of Mr. Barzun's comprehensive review of the three great isms that "threaten the individual and his solution to the problems of life". That the promises of the jacket are not simply the over-enthusiastic outbursts of the publisher becomes very clear as the author fights the reader's way through Darwin, Marx, and Wagner. All of them, he claims, separated man and his soul, all of them believed that "things were the only reality -- indestructible matter in motion", and all of them helped people think that "feeling, beauty, and moral values were . . . illusions for which the world of fact gave no warrant". This is the thesis of the book, but it is far from the only kind of utterance that appears in it. Presumably in support of this thesis,

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1
This first appeared as a review of Jacques Barzun Darwin, Marx, Wagner: Critique of a Heritage ( Boston, Little, Brown and Company, 1941) in Partisan Review, Volume VIII ( 1941), pp. 431-35, copyright 1941 by Morton White. It is reprinted with a few changes.

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