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The Unity of Nature

Nature volume 29, pages 474476 | Download Citation



THIS book is in our judgment a dreary failure. Although in the mere matter of style it is a well written popular exposition of what we may call the comfortable way of looking at things, in all matters of deeper importance it is utterly barren. Throughout its five or six hundred pages there is no single original observation in science, nor any single original thought in anything that deserves to be called philosophy. Moreover, if regarded only as an exposition, the first chapters are tedious on account of the redundant manner in which elementary science is explained, while the later chapters, in which the author's views on various philosophical questions are unfolded, display a feebleness of thought and argument which renders them even more tedious than the earlier ones. In short, the successive essays strongly remind us of a series of Scottish sermons. There is everywhere a narrow consistency in the doctrine, which is presented in a rhetorical precision of style; but the discussion never seems to get below the surface, while even surface difficulties are either unperceived or intentionally avoided. On this account the discussion itself tends to illustrate the principle of “unity” with which it is concerned; it begins, continues, and ends in a monotone. No matter how fearfully out of tune this may be with any of the notes struck by the greatest men of our time, the Duke of Argyll, like a Highland piper, is deaf to every other music, and drowns all else in the one continuous drone of his own particular instrument.

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