Inquiry into Inquiries: Essays in Social Theory

By Arthur F. Bentley; Sidney Ratner | Go to book overview

Introduction

BY SIDNEY RATNER

The essays brought together in this volume examine basic problems in the natural and social sciences and in the theory of knowing and the known. Many of the essays have come to be regarded as classics since their first appearance in technical journals, but are difficult for the general reader to obtain. About a third of this volume consists of essays never before published. Thus within the compass of one volume, the reader can discover for himself the continuity and growth in Dr. Bentley's inquiries from "Knowledge and Society" ( 1910) to the present. The cumulative impact of these essays rivals that of such works as John Dewey's Philosophy and Civilization and William James Essays in Radical Empiricism.

Dissenting opinions will be forthcoming from the champions of the views that Bentley seeks to disestablish. But his opponents will have to study this volume carefully if there is to be any effective point-counterpoint discussion. Bentley is an opponent worthy of any reader's best steel. He has gone down to bedrock in examining the evidence on disputed issues, he knows what he doesn't take stock in, and he advances his alternative proposals only after the most scrupulous and incisive consideration of their warranted assertibility.

Arthur F. Bentley has spent most of his life in scientific inquiry, and at the age of eighty-three displays an active interest in scientific progress and world affairs equal to that of men decades younger. He was born in Freeport, Illinois, on October 16, 1870, the son of a small-town banker, a man of unusual ability and intellectual candor. Bentley received his early education in the schools of the Midwest ( Freeport, Illinois, and Grand Island, Nebraska). After going for little more than a year to York College, Nebraska, and the University of Denver, he interrupted his college education for reasons of health and worked for several years in his father's bank. At the age of twenty he entered Johns Hopkins University, attracted by the reputation of Richard T. Ely, and with economics as his major interest. Although Ely left Hopkins for Wisconsin, Bentley stayed

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