Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
From Rationalism to Irrationality. By C. Gregg Singer. Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1979, 479 pp., $14.50.
The theme of this book on the history of ideas is stated in the subtitle: “The Decline of the Western Mind from the Renaissance to the Present.” Singer’s thesis is that the irra-tionalism inherent in classical Greek and Roman thought was incorporated into humanist thought at the time of the Renaissance and has continued to characterize Western thought to the present day. Thus the irrationalism of the twentieth century is the logical and necessary consequence of all this and not the radical break with the past as is often thought. The first two chapters give a brief survey of classical, medieval, Renaissance and Reformation thought. The rest of the book is a detailed exposition of the major thinkers from the Enlightenment (beginning with Descartes) up to the present day. He shows that the history is continuous, each man being seen in the context of what has gone before and in the light of new challenges being faced.
Although much of the book deals with the major philosophers, Singer also examines the major thinkers in various disciplines of study. The two chapters on Darwin and the impact of Darwinism are very enlightening. He argues that evolutionary thought has made such a tremendous impact not because it has been proven scientifically but because it presents a new world and life view that is naturalistic. His exposition of John Dewey’s philosophy and its impact on education in North America is a good example of how ideas affect practice.
Modern liberalism with its stress on human autonomy and freedom has shaped the social sciences in their recent rise to prominence. Another major argument of Singer is that ironically it is this liberalism that is pushing Western society toward totalitarianism. Its basic assumption is that man is inherently good, so it presses for increasing government involvement in all areas of life to force man to be good and to prevent him from engaging in evil acts. On the one hand it preaches the relativity of morals and law, and on the other hand it wants more and more government involvement in all areas of life.
The last chapter gives an outline of how Christian theism can provide an intellectual remedy for the modern sickness unto death. Singer is pointing Christian thinkers in the right direction as they (hopefully) apply the principles of Christianity to their respective areas of study. The value of this chapter is in showing that it can (and must) be done, and that it is intellectually defensible to do so (even though it may be very unpopular today).
This book is a valuable work of scholarship for thinking evangelicals. Many Christians and humanists have been concerned about the obvious decline of W...
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