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This review is taken from PN Review 32, Volume 9 Number 6, July - August 1983.

HULME'S TWO WORLDS Michael Roberts, T. E. Hulme (Carcanet) £9.95

During such brief moments of contemplation as modern man permits himself, when his mind is not running dutifully along the grooves laid out for him by the merchants of organised distraction, he may occasionally reflect upon notions of value. But if he does so, it is-unlikely that he will justify his notions, as T. E. Hulme did, in absolute and objective terms. Hulme was dismayed by the fact that qualities which were once held to be good in themselves, such as courage, loyalty and truthfulness, had come to be regarded as good only in so far as they served the natural ends of personal felicity and human survival. But we moderns feel compelled to render down our values, after the manner of empirical reasoning, into (in Hulme's words) 'more elementary (generally sensual) elements', in the process making them more palatable and, as it were, easier for the natural man to swallow.

Much of Michael Roberts's book is devoted to re-examining what Hulme understood by 'absolute' or 'religious' values. Roberts found him 'tantalisingly vague' on this point; and no wonder, since on Hulme's own admission these values could not be located anywhere in the world. Following Bergson, Hulme acknowledged the flux and uncertainty of our natural selves, even going so far as to declare that 'all general statements about truth, etc., are in the end only amplifications of man's appetites.' This is tantamount to saying that absolute values can have no cognitive support whatsoever, which suggests that Hulme's ...


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