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Chassell, J. (1943). Man on his Nature: By Sir Charles Sherrington. The Gifford Lectures, Edinburgh, 1937–1938. New York: The Macmillan Co.; Cambridge: The University Press, 1941. 413 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 12:112-114.
(1943). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 12:112-114
Man on his Nature: By Sir Charles Sherrington. The Gifford Lectures, Edinburgh, 1937–1938. New York: The Macmillan Co.; Cambridge: The University Press, 1941. 413 pp.
Review by: Joseph Chassell
This book by the eminent, Nobel-prize-winning physiologist is recommended especially to those who delight to wrestle with the traditional dilemmas of philosophy and theology, using the traditional holds.
For some, it will have moments of fascination because of the wealth of physiological lore, aptly introduced and beautifully unified in a natural-scientific view of life. For others, there will be joy in finding references to Fernel, the brilliant sixteenth century Aristotelian physician-philosopher who reconciled his Christian faith by assuming that the mind or spirit utilized the body as its habitation and mechanism. Fernel's views on natural theology—the proper subject of the Gifford Lectures—are consistently cited as point of comparison or departure for Sherrington's views, sometimes in the form of a Platonic dialogue across four centuries.
The classical erudition and historical sweep exhibited in these pages are pleasantly imposing. In fact, with the integration of rigorous science, historical perspective, and philosophical acumen, this should be a significant book. This reviewer does not find it so. Nothing new has been added.
The difficulty lies in the author's almost total innocence of scientific disciplines which might have helped him. A child of the nineteenth century, he ponders through whole chapters on the mind-body problem. Again and again he asks: whence comes the mind? Where is it located? Is it correlated completely with brain activity? At what point in evolution does mind appear? Is it itself an agent in evolution?
It is a mystery. 'No attributes of "energy" seem findable in the process of mind.
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