Month: February 2013

Thomas More : Utopia

I’m pretty certain that, apart from Aldous Huxley’s Island, this was the first utopian novel I’d ever read, and that in spite of the fact that, according to Wikipedia, “More than 400 utopian works were published prior to the year 1900 in the English language alone, with more than a thousand others during the twentieth century.” They didn’t provide any statistics on dystopian literature, but when I read down the page devoted to it I came across lots of books I’ve read, including very well known works such as Brave New World and 1984. I’ve always been under the impression that dystopias are much more popular than utopias (just as people find bad news more interesting than good), so it would be interesting to know how many of those have been published! (more…)

Julian Huxley : What Dare I Think?

A very interesting read. In this book Huxley expounds his personal philosophy, which goes by the name of ‘scientific humanism’, with particular emphasis in the first part of the book on what he sees as the necessity of eugenics, not only to combat the otherwise inevitable degeneration of the human race now that natural selection has ceased to play any serious role, but to actually improve the human race in future generations. In the latter part of the book he talks about the possibility of a new religion, one which wouldn’t conflict with but rather complement science and rationalism. His philosophy is perhaps best summed up in the following passage:

Scientific humanism is a protest against supernaturalism: the human spirit, now in its individual, now in its corporate aspects, is the source of all values and the highest reality we know. It is a protest against one-sidedness and fixity: the human spirit has many sides and cannot be ruled by any single rule; nor can it be restrained from making new discoveries in the adventure of its evolution. It insists that the same scientific procedure can be applied to human life as has been applied with such success to lifeless matter and to animals and plants – scientific survey, study and analysis, followed by increasing practical control. It insists on human values as the norms for our aims, but insists equally that they cannot adjust themselves in right perspective and emphasis except as part of the picture of the world provided by science. It realizes that human desires and aspirations are the motive power of life, but insists that no long-range or comprehensive aim of humanity can ever be realized except with the aid of the pedestrian and dispassionate methods, the systematic planning, the experimental testing which can be provided only by science. (p.173,6)