THE WHYS OF A PHILOSOPHICAL SCRIVENER by Martin Gardner

THE WHYS OF A PHILOSOPHICAL SCRIVENER

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A slovenly summary of my preferences"" is Gardner's modest but not quite fair description of this vigorous, appealing apologia for his convictions about politics, art, philosophy, and above all religion. This last may surprise readers who know Gardner only as a spirited popularizer of math and science (or even as the author of The Annotated Alice); he devotes the bulk of this book, however, to expounding his own reasonable-if-unprovable brand of nondenominational theism--as he reflects on faith, prayer, the problem of evil, and immortality (a legitimate hope, he thinks, however hard to imagine). Gardner frames all but two of his 22 chapters negatively: starting with ""Why I Am Not a Solipsist,"" he proceeds to survey and reject a broad spectrum of positions--pragmatism, aesthetic and ethical relativism, determinism, anarchism, Marxism, polytheism, pantheism, and atheism. While controverting these and other dogmatic stances, Gardner pleads, a bit more tentatively, for such things as ""democratic socialism"" (à la J. K. Galbraith), moderate epistemological realism (Aristotelean-Tarskian), traditional humanist values (freedom, self-development, etc.), and of course theism. Gardner fights shy of practically all Jewish or Christian theologies and theodicies--too saturated with myth, overbelief, and moral barbarism (e.g., Hell). His religious sensibility has a few blind spots (he dismisses the God of the Pentateuch as a hideous monster), but his stress on wonder at the mystery of existence makes a good deal of sense, as does his quietly argued case for the possibility of a divine order in the universe. Clear, thought-provoking, full of apt quotations--a noteworthy contemporary credo.

Pub Date: July 15th, 1983
ISBN: 0312206828
Publisher: Morrow