VII.—NEW BOOKS

A. E. TAYLOR
1910 Mind  
Natural and Social Moralt. By CARVETH READ, M.A. London : A. & C. Black. Pp. xxv, 314. PROF. CABVBTH BEAD'S new book is precisely of the type which is apt to be most baffling to the reviewer. It is full of discussions of interesting questions, and thickly Btrewn with striking observations and reflexions, but it has either no easily presentable mam argument, or one which the present writer has found himself unable to grasp. The main impressions he has carried away with him from careful perusal
more » ... m careful perusal of the book are three, that the author is inclined to a pessimistic and slightly cynical judgment on the moral theory and practice of his countrymen, that he sets great store by Eugenics as suggesting possibilities of systematic moral improvement, and that he, like Aristotle, regards Philosophy itself as the chief food. If there is any further internal connexion between these positions, have failed to discover it Indeed I am frequently at a loss to discern any connecting thread between the topics dealt with in the Bcope of a singie chapter, such e.g. as that on the Influence of tlu: State on AloraU. Much of Prof. Read's work gives one the impression of having been designed in the first instance as short essays on isolated topics and then put together into longer chapters with little attempt to produce a whole having "beginning, middle, and end". Thus, to take the chapter I have already referred to, I find there a variety of rather satirical sketches dealing with such questions as the alleged immorality of diplomatists, the evil effects of the party system in politics, the abuses of despotism, and the like, but no serious attempt to exhibit any connected view of the relation of governmental institutions to private morality. Possibly this lack of clearness about ultimate principles, which I think the attentive reader will allow to pervade the book as a whole, may be connected with the writer's horror of "metaphysics". For, after all, you cannot treat morals philosophically without a central conception of the good which is rather less of a come-by-chance than the identification of it with Philosophy is made to appear in the present work, and any conception of the good is bound, from the necessities of the case, to be metaphysical. It may be that it is just because Prof. Read is so afraid of metaphysics that he seems first of all to pick up the view that Philosophy is the chief good from no one quite knows where, and to give it as little more than an expression of personal predilection, and then to drop the whole conception out of the rest of the book. One would expect that the whole of a philosophical theory of conduct would be permeated by the author's convictions about the good, but, in point of fact, all but the first forty or fifty pages of the present book would remain unaffected by the complete rescission of the view set forth at the beginning that the good is Philosophy. Of the other metaphysical convictions exprease i in the book I do not propose to say much. The doctrines that Nature is not a realm of purposes and that all science, including moral science, is knowledge of causal laws, are treated as already established in the aul hor's at
doi:10.1093/mind/xix.1.422 fatcat:lgwo5srvpbfo7fido34phhnmzq