UNFINISHED MAN by Raymond Van Over


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In substance, this is a crossbreed between the old Wonder-of-ESP surveys and the newer Beauty-of-Drugs puffs. In approach, it maintains a decently skeptical tone and makes a conscientious effort to sketch in philosophical issues and psychological theories. But this effort backfires: once Van Over agrees to treat consciousness itself as a problem rather than a given, his timid advocacy of paranormal psychic facts and potential psychedelic values begs the questions he has posed. He raises profound problems -- behaviorism and reductionism versus concepts of man as a unique animal; the dogma of sense-perception as the touchstone of truth; the source of art, language, religion, philosophy, aspiration -- and then abandons them for anecdotes about mediums, extrasensory perceptors and the like. The drug culture, Van Over warns, can ""degenerate into a form of psychic hedonism,"" but he gives us no standards by which to condemn ""hedonism."" In the end he contrasts ""the season of the body"" with ""the season of the mind"" -- all his subtle quotes from philosophers and psychologists who deny the dichotomy are for naught, and he disappoints both readers hoping for a stout drug-mysticism apologia and those demanding a follow-up to his hints about human cognition, attention, and creative potential.

Pub Date: May 23rd, 1972
Publisher: World