Illusions [Book Review]

Review of Metaphysics 22 (3):575-575 (1969)
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The Pegram Lectures at Brookhaven National Laboratory are designed to provide a forum to consider the question of the interaction among science, the humanities, and society at large. Just before Maurois was to deliver these lectures in 1967 he became fatally ill. However, the manuscript had been prepared and was delivered by Jacques Barzun. These lectures along with prefatory remarks by Barzun and E. Morot-Sir of the French Embassy comprise Illusions. There are three lectures by Maurois. The first begins by cataloguing various everyday illusions, mostly optical. It discusses dreams, the difference between illusion and hallucination, the role of interpretation of reality in the creation of illusion, and the distinction between who we are as opposed to whom we play. In short it reminds us that, for various reasons, we do not see the world as it is. The second lecture shows how science tries to correct our distorted pictures of reality. Science is largely successful in this effort, says Maurois, although inasmuch as men need to interpret what science discovers, the door is still open for illusion. Moreover, inasmuch as scientists are men, science is not above producing some illusions of its own. The third and perhaps the most contrived lecture explores the world of willful illusions: the fine arts. Here Maurois suggests some differences and similarities between art and science, and explores the technological interaction between the two. He concludes that illusion will always be with us and that in fact it is "the stuff of which our life is made."-S. O. H.



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