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Bartemeier, L.H. (1943). The Promise of Scientific Humanism: By Oliver L. Reiser. New York: Oskar Piest, 1940. 364 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 12:274-278.

(1943). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 12:274-278

The Promise of Scientific Humanism: By Oliver L. Reiser. New York: Oskar Piest, 1940. 364 pp.

Review by:
Leo H. Bartemeier

In this volume the Assistant Professor of Philosophy in the University of Pittsburgh attempts to explain why our civilization is about to collapse, and points out that what is needed to prevent this catastrophe will also lead to the formation of a new world culture. The author expresses the opinion that the illness which besets humanity is the result of the failure of philosophy. He presents the thesis that if our civilization is to continue and to progress, our established culture will have to be so thoroughly revised that our ways of thinking about ourselves and our relations to each other and to the world will be replaced by a new orientation.

Dr. Reiser is a philosopher whose evolutionary point of view regarding human intelligence constitutes the principal theme of this book. He believes that 'our present habits of mind and so called "laws of thought" are a product largely of social evolution', and he predicts 'that in the process of trying to secure a better theory of evolution we shall foster, in our own mental outlook on nature, an evolution that will result in better explanations of both man's theory of nature and man's theory of himself'.

Following his developmental thesis, he divides human intellectual evolution into three main historical periods. The earliest of these is the pre-Aristotelian period of primitive mentality (Levy-Bruhl) which is governed by the principle of participation. In this prelogical period there is no distinction between the self and the not-self and the axiom is: 'Everything is everything else'. The second period of intellectual evolution is the period of Aristotelian logic and science and it is on this level that the human mind is functioning at the present time. This is the level of sharp distinctions in which the axiom is: 'This is this, that is that, and this is not that'. The author points out that the logic of Aristotle is based on 'the fallacy of the absolute individuality of substance, the subject of predication' and that 'the present impasse between sterile intellectualism and irrational emotionalism, running through the whole of modern life and separating religion and politics from the life of reason, is the unfortunate social consequence of this elementalistic psychology and the cultural atomism which it helped to produce'.


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