Our Book Shelf

Abstract

IN these volumes Mr. Bell brings an acute and ingenious mind to bear on matters of science and the philosophical questions to which the study of science leads. Unfortunately there are many indications that Mr. Bell has no thorough and adequate first-hand acquaintance with the branches of science concerning which he writes. And when the science is mere scissors-and-paste-work, the conclusions are not likely to have the value which attaches to those of even the humblest practical observer. The first volume deals chiefly with the writings and opinions of Mr. Herbert Spencer, Prof. Huxley, and others, and introduces incidentally some quaint notions concerning matters physical and metaphysical. In the second volume, apart from theological questions, with, which it is not our province to deal, the main thesis is that the fundamental cause of evolution is psychological. Every cell of the metazoan body is the seat of an intelligence or life which is capable of being conscious, and is therefore a person; and when a given life multiplies and divides, it gives rise to another life like itself without being diminished. Thus is constituted a cell-patriarchy. But a patriarchy involves a patriarch; and the patriarch is found in the parent-cell from which all others are produced. At the first division of the fertilized ovum there is constituted a parent-cell and a child-cell (Mr. Bell does not tell us how to determine which is which). The parent-cell may produce other child-cells, and the child-cell give birth to grandchild-cells, and so on; but throughout all cell-division the patriarch parent-cell remains. When invagination has taken place, we may be sure that the position of the parent-cell is at the mouth of the gastrula, for though it has subordinated its children to itself and to its service, that service has to be paid for. Later, however, we find it safely ensconced in the lamina terminalis of the brain, whence it directs the proceedings of its faithful servants and children. For the patriarchal parent-cell is the habitation of the Ego. the I, of the organism, while the child-cells are inhabited by subordinated egos. The protoplasm of a cell is a machine, and the inhabiting Ego its engineer. Reflex action is not merely reflex, but chiefly determined by the purposive action of the cell-ego, and so forth. We need not follow Mr. Bell further. Enough has been said to show the nature of his speculations, and to enable the biological or psychological reader in some measure to decide whether it will repay him to read Mr. Bell's pages for himself.

Whence comes Man; from “Nature” or from “God”?

By Arthur John Bell. (London: Wm. Isbister, 1888.)

Why does Man Exist?

By Arthur John Bell. (London: Wm. Isbister, 1890.)

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M., C. Our Book Shelf. Nature 43, 460–461 (1891) doi:10.1038/043460a0

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