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This article is taken from PN Review 81, Volume 18 Number 1, September - October 1991.

Newton, Raymond Tallis and the Three Cultures Grevel Lindop

'OPPOSITION', according to Blake, 'is true friendship'. Raymond Tallis's recent essays in P·N·R should have won him many friends. He has given many of us a salutary shock - not least (perhaps most) those of us who, engaged in literary studies, like to think of ourselves as having a strong interest in the 'sciences'. It is chastening, and useful, to be reminded of one's ignorance and complacency, and prodded into taking corrective action.

Yet there is another kind of shock too, a shock of disappointment at seeing matters of importance discussed with, in some areas, a reliance on deceptive half-truths; more still, at seeing old ground fought over without the attempt at a little digging below the surface, a little archaeology to find out what the battle is really about.

The purpose of this essay is twofold: first, to suggest that (to put it bluntly) Professor Tallis has got the Romantics (and especially Wordsworth) quite wrong - could hardly, in fact, have got them wronger. Most of them could be amongst his strongest allies; instead, he portrays them as the enemies of science. Secondly, to offer some thoughts on the causes of the absurd and culturally crippling dichotomy between 'arts' and 'sciences' which we have inherited; and to suggest that the whole 'Two Cultures' debate (which began long before Leavis and Snow were heard of and goes back well over a century) is really about something quite different - that there is a third term ...

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