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Wisdom, J.O. (1939). Philosophy and the Physicists: By L. Susan Stebbing. (Methuen & Co. Ltd., London, 1937. Pp. xvi + 295. Price 7 s. 6 d.). Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 20:204-211.

(1939). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 20:204-211

Philosophy and the Physicists: By L. Susan Stebbing. (Methuen & Co. Ltd., London, 1937. Pp. xvi + 295. Price 7 s. 6 d.)

Review by:
J. O. Wisdom

According to Professor Broad, the nonsense written by philosophers on scientific matters is exceeded only by the nonsense written by scientists on philosophy.

Professor Stebbing's book is an attack on the popular work of Sir Arthur Eddington and Sir James Jeans as it appears in their many recent volumes; her material is, however, chiefly drawn from Eddington's The Nature of the Physical World and Jeans's The Mysterious Universe. This means that her contribution is largely negative; her single aim was to expose the superstructure of philosophy weakly built up on a highly doubtful interpretation of a single principle of physics the significance of which is still obscure—she had no intention of criticizing or attacking the immensely valuable scientific work of two illustrious physicists. Professor Stebbing's work is very thoroughly and competently done, so much so as to make one wish to know how Sir Arthur Eddington and Sir James Jeans respond to it. In spite of its merits, however, her book is unlikely to interest readers that have not read either Eddington or Jeans, since she makes so much direct reference to their views, and it would be difficult to appreciate her work apart from the writings that evoked it. Professor Stebbing writes clearly and her style in the present book is more flowing than in previous works. Her argument should be readily intelligible to the ordinary reader, except possibly when she writes in the medium of the modern logico-analytical philosophy—her exposition, for instance, of the Uncertainty Principle (pp. 180–181) is clearer than Eddington's (N. of P. W., pp. 220–221, 223–225).

The interest attaching to Professor Stebbing's themes is unequal and her treatment uneven.

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