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This review is taken from PN Review 10, Volume 6 Number 2, November - December 1979.

RATIONAL INSIGHTS David Holbrook, Education, Nihilism and Survival (Darton, Longman and Todd) £3.00

David Holbrook is a spirited polemicist whose passionate struggle against what he sees as the dark forces of intellectual and moral nihilism has made him many enemies in Britain's intellectual establishment. The theme of Education, Nihilism and Survival is central to this struggle and, given the importance he attaches to it, it is a pity that the author has not taken more care to integrate his arguments and aim his critical arrows in a more discriminating way. "Under the label 'Humanities' ", Holbrook argues, "many young people are being taught an implicit nihilism." This nihilism, exemplified in the work of Sartre, Beckett and a host of lesser culture heroes, is diagnosed as a consequence of the moral bankruptcy of a scientistic world view "which makes it seem that the universe is only matter in motion and is therefore one in which man's moral being has no place." Against this view, and its long-term consequences, ranging according to the Holbrook thesis from pornography to terrorism, is set a philosophical anthropology centred on the rational vindication, by a somewhat heterogeneous group of psychologists and philosophers, of human values based in love and altruism. "We must", Holbrook insists, "restore the recognition of values to the study of man which means opening up the subjective realm, not least those areas which are beyond access to the merely rational. Human actions cannot be explained without reference to the exercise of moral judgements and attention to meaning."

But anybody who is in broad ...


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