To read "Adventures of Ideas" once will require some months of the careful reader's time (for it should be read in small doses) and to understand and digest it fully will probably take years, even a life-time, but the time will be well spent--such is the reviewer's estimate of the worth of this book. This is distinctly not just another book by just another Harvard professor. It is an event of some importance when Mr. Whitehead publishes a book.
Here is material which will be equally attractive to the seasoned Whitehead student and to the uninitiated. But the title "Adventures of Ideas" should not mislead any one into believing that it is a popularization of Professor Whitehead's ideas. It stands on exactly the same level with the two other members of the trilogy; yet it is not as abstract and difficult to understand as the others, because it deals largely with historical studies.
It is not, however, merely a history of some interesting ideas, but rather it is an integral part of the system of philosophy which is brought to an magnificent completion in this work. This, while on the surface the first section, called Sociological, of the book is a history of the gradual realisation in fact of the Platonic-Christian ideal of the dignity of the human soul, it is, underneath, a justification of Professor Whiteheadi's extreme rationalism, showing that the most abstract ideas, if they are of the right sort, do eventually have a strictly every-day usefulness. The second section, likewise, is a history of cosmologies, on the surface, but the purpose of this history is to demonstrate, first, the necessity of having a cosmology, and, second, that the shortcomings of past cosmologies can be remedied in the way in which Professor Whitehead's in the way in which Professor Whitehead's system remedies them.
The third section of this latest work and most of the fourth will be practically incomprehensible to the individual who has not had the good fortune to study this system, and after reading the first two sections he would do best to go back to "Science and the Modern World," read it, and then return to finish this book, and after this proceed to "Process and Reality," the most difficult of all. Those who have a grounding in philosophy will find the chapters on Objects and Subjects. Appearance and Reality and the derived interpretation of Truth and Beauty extremely stimulating.
But both the ordained and the lay max alike should turn to the last two chapters. "Adventures" and "Peace," and find the inspiring culmination of a whole new point of view which one of the truly great thinkers of our time has to offer. The present age of disillusion is the inevitable outcome of an orgy of so called "scientific" realism. Professor White head shows how narrow and shortsighted is this interpretation of the nature of things; he demonstrates how only a colossal blindness could load one to tenore the fact that Civilization is essentially a humanly-created achievement of harmony amidst the brute Force of Nature; he tells the amazing story of how abstract ideas become men's ideals and how men's ideals become realized in the material forms of the world. In short be offers ideals to a world which has so tragically despaired of them.