REVIEW OF BOOKS
"Universe." By Scudder Klyce. $2.00 plus postage. (Printed and published by S. Klyce, Winchester, Mass.)
The advertisement of this book as a verifiable solution of the "Riddle of the Universe" is not written with the same rigorous explicitness that characterizes the book itself.
What is the "Riddle of the Universe"? The great majority would unhesitatingly say that "riddle" should be plural as there are many riddles which intelligent human beings are attempting to solve with more or less success each day.
With hesitation the writer submits that the riddle which the author had in mind was the distinction which exists in its utmost plentitude in all knowledge; i.e., the distinction between the knowledge of an individual acquired from his experience and its valid expression as (common) knowledge.
All men acquire knowledge to a greater or less degree based on their experience. To make this knowledge available to others or to record it for their own future use, requires that they express it or record it in some manner. In so far as they approach absolutely exact and (insistent expression, their knowledge becomes universal; and in so far as they fail, others are confounded and confused with variations which they cannot correlate. To so express knowledge that another, familiar with your expression, will get your exact ideas, is one of the most, if not the most, difficult arts in the world.
To summarize the "Universe" of (325,000 words) in a short review is impossible. The best that can be done is to touch on a few features of common interest.
It is always of interest in the consideration of a book of this type to know why it was written. How was the attention of the author first drawn to his subject? Why did the author devote years of labor and study to writing such a book?
Here is the author's statement as given in an interview published in the Public Ledger of Philadelphia on 30 November:
"I started out on the study that led to the book because it angered me in school not to understand things. There were many things I wanted to know that no one would explain and so when I was writing the book I hoped it might explain some of those things that made me so indignant and impatient. Now I am interested in seeing what happens, whether any of the experts will go for me. There is a heavy responsibility in having no one to edit your work. Perhaps I have made errors. And certainly my unifications of knowledge cannot be final. But it will be interesting to see what my book does."
From this statement it appears that the author found that in acquiring knowledge he frequently could not understand its expression. And, since there was in certain fields of knowledge, uniform expression, the legitimate conclusion which the author reached and which appears to be in accordance with "common sense" was that the method of expression itself was faulty, and it was with this idea that the "Universe" was written.
A comparison of the author's experience, with previous experience along similar lines, would be interesting. "The Epistle to the Reader" in Locke's "Essay on the Human Understanding" reads as follows:
"Were it fit to trouble thee with the history of this Essay, I should tell thee, that five or six friends, meeting at my chamber, and discoursing on a subject very remote from this, found themselves quickly at a stand by the difficulties that rose on every side. After we had awhile puzzled ourselves, without coming any nearer a resolution of those doubts which perplexed us, it came into my thoughts, that we took a wrong course; and that, before we set ourselves upon inquiries of that nature, it was necessary to examine our own abilities, and see what objects our understandings were not fitted to deal with. This I proposed to the company, who all readily assented; and thereupon it was agreed, that this should be our first inquiry.
"The commonwealth of learning is not at this time without master builders, whose mighty designs in advancing that science will leave lasting monuments to the admiration of posterity: But every one must not hope to be a Boyle or a Sydenham; and in an age that produces such masters as the great Huygenius, and the incomparable Mr. Newton, with some other of that strain, it is ambition enough to be employed as an under-labourer in clearing the ground a little, and removing some of the rubbish that lies in the way to knowledge; which certainly had been very much more advanced in the world, if the endeavors of ingenious and industrious men had not been much cumbered with the learned but frivolous use of uncouth, affected, or unintelligible terms introduced into sciences, and there made an art of to that degree, that philosophy, which is nothing but the true knowledge of things, was thought unfit or uncapable to be brought into well-bred company and polite conversation.
"I know there are not words enough in any language to answer all the variety of ideas that enter into men's discourses and reasonings. But this hinders not but that when any one uses any terms, he may have in his mind a determined idea which he makes it the sign of, and to which he should keep it steadily annexed during that present discourse. Where he does not or cannot do this, he in vain pretends to clear or distinct ideas; it is plain his are not so; and therefore there can be expected nothing but obscurity and confusion, where such terms are made use of which have not such a precise determination."
It would be interesting to know who the five or six friends were who met with Locke and were responsible, in part, for his essay. We know that Locke was more or less intimate with Wren, Hooke, Boyle, Huygens, Desaguilers, and last but not least, Sir Isaac Newton himself. If such a company had difficulty in discussion it is apparent that the art of expression is most difficult.
Knowledge is a record of experience or experiments. As an individual is an accurate, exact observer and experimenter, his knowledge (un-expressed but recorded in his mind) is exact and accurate. When knowledge is expressed by individuals, using words and symbols, common to all and consistent with themselves, knowledge is universal. Faulty expression results in confusion. A real unification of knowledge is impossible without a rigorous, exact and common method of expression.
Mr. Klyce makes the theory of language or formal unification, Part I of this book.
We may be pardoned for quoting a few paragraphs which "express all the real argument of this book" as follows:
"Sec. 12. (c) So we start with merely the general form of statement, in an abbreviated form: 2 + 3= 5. In the first member of that, we have two parts, '2' and '3.' I.e., the first member implicitly asserts that there are two collections of things, which collections are at least verbally separate. The last member implicitly asserts that there are not two collections of things, but that there is one collection not verbally separate. In short, so far as form or language is concerned, the last member formally contradicts the first. Hence, in our typical sentence, we say a thing is so and then promptly, and as a part of the very same sentence, say it is not so.
"(d) Well; by all conventional views of logic or 'reason' our typical sentence is thus verbally or formally positively and completely illogical and irrational, as it says one thing and then at once says it is not true—as it flatly contradicts itself. But by ordinary commonsense—by direct observation or experience—we know that the typical sentence is correct or true. In fact, a proverbial symbol for obvious truth is the statement 2 + 2 =4; and I should have used that, except we needed to distinguish one 2 from the other 2, and it is hence rhetorically less awkward to use 2 + 3.
"(e) Therefore, we simply use observation or 'common-sense,' and conclude that orthodox logic or reasoning is wrong, because 2 + 3 = 5 is correct. Then we further conclude, as being the total essential of a valid logic, that in any sentence—i.e., completely stated and intelligible sentence—which is not a truism of the form A= A, we must have a formal or verbal 'contradiction,' in the respect that parts are asserted both to be parts and also to be combined into a whole which is not parts. In fact, we may readily see that to make such a 'contradiction' is the whole purpose and use of language:—to combine parts into a whole: to make names of parts coalesce into a formal unit that means the whole. That states the essential of language and the whole verbal trick. We apply that trick and thus unify knowledge, by adhering to the simple rule:—make sure that the valid—or 'rational,' or 'true'—sentence does contain such a formal contradiction; if it does not, and is not a truism, it is really nonsense.
Sec. 13. (a) That is the sum total of the essentials of valid logic, and it implicitly contains the solutions of all qualitative problems. The last three paragraphs express all the real argument of this book, and there is nothing in all of knowledge any more difficult to understand than those simple observations. The reader knows that logic already. He uses it daily, as 'commonsense,' without even having to 'think' about it. He is so expert at it that he would find difficulty in saying how he does it, just as he would find (perhaps much less) difficulty in stating precisely what motions he makes in putting on his clothing. Below in this book I merely point out the details of that familiar logic, and the reader verifies them by his own observation and discovers that he knows all answers to questions of principle."
To the reviewer a unit of knowledge is an idea. A unit of language is a word, or a symbol, or any combination of these units used in expressing an idea. Now when an individual wishes to visibly or orally express an idea in language he must use units of language, which per se must express common knowledge (common ideas). He may do it consciously with rigorous exactness or he may unconsciously consider the knowledge or environment of the recipient and omit certain parts (of a completely stated, intelligible idea) as being known to the recipient. However, the new idea is the One idea or, the one, made up of common ideas or parts, the Many, and the relationship between the parts.
Valid logic, or expression is to go from the known to the unknown From the parts or the many ideas (common knowledge) and their relationship (known or accepted) to the one idea (known to the teacher). This is the unification of knowledge.
The expression of knowledge in valid logic is a step by step process. At no time in the process must contact with the parts and relationships, i.e. (common knowledge) of the recipient or recipients be lost. If such contact is lost it will be found that "commonsense" is also lost or missing or unavailable. The result being that that expression of knowledge is unintelligible in so far as the recipient is concerned, i.e. (the expression is nonsense).
From this it follows that every new idea (completely expressed and intelligible) must consist of at least two factors (common ideas) and a relationship. The valid expression so constructed, expresses the new idea in understandable language to all individuals who are familiar with the factors (common idea) and the relationship. This is the understanding the reviewer has of what the author calls the sum total of the essentials of valid logic.
Only such persons as are familiar with the parts (i.e. common ideas or the many) and know from their experience of the relationship, can understand the new idea or one or meaning.
Faraday in a lecture on the "Conversion of Force" says:
"Doubtful as I ought to be of myself, I am certainly very glad to feel that my convictions are in accordance with Newton's conclusions. At the same time, those who occupy themselves with such matters ought not to depend altogether upon authority, but should find reason within themselves after careful thought and consideration, to use and abide by their own judgment. Newton himself while referring to those who were judging his views, speaks of such as are competent to form an opinion on such matters and makes a strong distinction between them and those who were incompetent in the case."
The "Universe" has three prefaces by men of wide reputation.
Mr. John Dewey has written a preface to the "Universe" and states in part:
"Mr. Klyce has taken commonsense in its radical and simplest form, the form of stating or making anything known. He has himself pointed out the reason why his thought is not always easy to follow. The most difficult thing in the world to learn to see is the obvious, the familiar, the universally taken for granted. Taken as a sketch of a certain way of discovering the meaning of knowledge in general and in its typical branches, Mr. Klyce's book is remarkable, noteworthy. If experts in various lines shall find his special results as fruitful, as illuminating, as his general treatment of knowledge and technical philosophy has been to me, the remark just made will turn out to be altogether too moderate."
David Starr Jordan says in part:
"Mr. Klyce makes no attempt to solve any scientific problem by pure reason, but he would have us make rational use of the knowledge we possess. As to fundamental coordination of all which exists, known or unknown, any consistent use of the word Universe implicitly asserts it. Man himself is able with fair success to make his way in the cosmos; obviously then he is not utterly alien. Not only does his continued existence prove him not alien, but furthermore, by taking thought, he can make headway against the forces of nature and thus in some degree shape his own career. A similar line of argument is shown to apply to every concrete thing of which we are cognizant. The burden of disproof of Mr. Klyce's thesis lies on him who, within the confines of the Universe, can conceive anything—matter, spirit, life, space, or times, which lies outside it."
Mr. Morris Llewellyn Cooke comments in part as follows:
"Of course a great industry will only result from the activities of great men. Most industrial leaders impress us as being literally worn out fighting against a flood of isolated facts and ideas. We need the unifying thought of this book. To be effective we need above all to make our lives simple. Men vary in their mental capacity, but it is undoubtedly true that some men with great capacities are not the match for men of ordinary abilities who "see life steadily and see it whole." I will be much surprised if to most men a reading of "Universe" will not make the struggle a far simpler matter than it usually seems to be.
"But a science that is unrelated is even more fearsome than an industry that is detached from life. Hence our obligation to the author for a master generalization in which science is made to seem but another manifestation of that Ultimate Reality to which the human spirit itself is kinsman."
"The Universe" demonstrates that "There is no exact science." At first such a statement strikes the reader as questionable and not demonstrable. However, after due consideration of the illustrations which the "Universe" supplies copiously from the reader's experience, such an offhand opinion can be revised. Any engineer or scientist who has been engaged in the practice of his profession very soon realizes that absolute exactness is unattainable. Experience is his great teacher. Approximations based on his experience give him a useable solution of his problems rather than a dependence upon theory which to the unexperienced, means absolute and exact science.
For instance, a diameter and a circumference of a circle are two factors (common ideas). The new idea is the measurement of their length. The relationship is their relative length.
If the diameter is taken as the unit (or any even number of units) of measurement it is apparent that the length of the circumference in terms of that unit cannot be exactly expressed numerically regardless of how many figures are added to our numerical relationship 3.1415+, and vice versa for the expression of the length of the diameter in terms of the length of the circumference.
Measurement of linear dimensions should certainly be an exact science if such is possible but it is not only practically impossible to obtain perfect accuracy but it is theoretically impossible. Although for all purposes approximations are used in valid science which are satisfactory. This is the distinction between an exact and valid science as I understand the author's idea that "there is no exact science."
The following quotation from the "Universe" expresses an idea which has been gradually dawning on the world since Bacon's time that:
"All real or absolute proof is actual observation or experience or experiment—seeing for ourselves. I cannot see for the reader; hence he has to get all the actual proof for himself, and make his own discoveries. If there is for him any discovery in this book, he makes it—not I. Hence, logic, which is the formal technique or trick of consistent expression cannot give any real proof. Logic gives expressional proof only and such proof is reduction of expression to truism."
Some of the particular things the book is advertised to do are the Following:
"Establishes a sound logic. The logic used by the ordinary man is right; that used by Aristotle and nearly all books is wrong.
"Removes the fundamental error from mathematics, and makes mathematics simple; proves Euclid's 'axiom' about parallels, and intelligibly solves the various problems of non-Euclidian and n-dimension space.
"Revises and unifies the equations of physics. Completes conventional 'theories' of physics—about a dozen, and makes a somewhat new one that is easier:—vortex whirls.
"Shows how gravity works. Shows what is wrong with Newton's law of gravity and why. Makes Einstein's theory actually intelligible—showing that it is one sort of possible language out of an infinite number of possible valid languages or logics. The book shows that every-day language (Euclid's and Newton's and Christ's) is valid, and the most economical and practical—and uses it.
"Shows intelligibly what electricity, light, matter, energy etc., are. Gives birth, life, death; of solar system.
"Shows how to get energy out of atoms, etc.
"That simple and easy physics is used in the last third of the book to solve qualitatively the more complicated human problems—those of age, growth, death, life, birth, sex, medicine, immortality, good and evil, freedom of will, religious experiences and ethics in general, money, taxes, business principles, value, etc.
"Proves that the Constitution- is right, and shows what democracy is, and proves that it is right and that all other forms of government and 'legal' law are wrong.
"Proves (verifiably, of course) the doctrines of Christ; disproves the essential ones of Paul and theologians."
Now at this stage the reader will probably ask himself the question, "Provided it does this, what is the immediate practical benefit to me or to the World?" The following anecdote is related of a visit by Gladstone when Prime Minister of England, to the laboratories of the Great Master of Physical Research, Michael Faraday. Faraday had been to some trouble in explaining or trying to explain to Gladstone one of his discoveries. Gladstone, as a practical man of affairs, immediately asked, "What is its use?" Faraday was apparently chagrined for a moment and then it is recorded that he stated, "Why Mr. Gladstone, what is the use of a new-born babe?" and after a slight pause he continued, "Maybe you can tax it in the future."
The practical technical worth of the book is that it unifies the knowledge and experience of practical theorists and theoretical practitioners. The theorists who won't recognize the value of practical experience and the so-called practical man who condemns all theory, should read the book. Men who have profited by theory, without becoming worshippers of theory and exact science, and who have had experience in producing results, will appreciate the unification of theory and practice by the author.
Men who tell us what ought to be rather than what can be; and those who pride themselves on knowing the exact solution of any problem will not approve the book.
The book will not appeal to worshipers of words. But to those who use ideas, to those who think—i.e. observe the relationships existing between events in their experience,—and to those who believe that this world is interesting and worth while even though it has no exact science, a careful reading of the "Universe" will not be without compensation, with a word of warning that the "Universe" is hard reading.
"The Next War." By Will Irwin. Price $1.50. (E. P. Button & Co.) This book is a brief but comprehensive review of the developments and after effects of the World's War, and prophesies what might happen in the next war should the nations of the world become involved in another great conflict.
In a general way, the author reviews the history of war from the earliest records to the present day, with its modern armaments and wholesale methods of slaughter. He explains that the use of poison gas by the Germans, in spite of international agreement, was a logical result of the developments of present day warfare, and predicts that in future wars, gas will be much more extensively employed.
New means of human destruction will make the horrors of the last war pale by comparison. Lewisite, a gas recently discovered in this country, has fifty-five times the "spread" of any other known gas, and is far more deadly. Tanks will be developed into great gas proof, land dreadnoughts. Air forces will be improved and enlarged, and the use of deadly germs seems probable.
These future weapons will not only be used against the actual fighting forces, but the civilian population will be fair game as well, for with "the nation in arms" and all of the resources of a country enlisted to carry on the war, no part of the population will be considered immune from attack.
The author discusses the economic aspects of the late war and the useless expenditures of money tor destructive purposes, in 1920, it was estimated that 93 per cent of the national revenue was used in paying up obligations contracted during the last and previous wars, and it is pointed out now much better this money might be employed in the development of our national resources and in other constructive ways. The harmful effect upon human kind through the killing off of the youth of a nation is also touched upon, whereby the old and unfit are left behind to perpetuate the race.
In the concluding chapters, the commanding position of the United States amongst the world powers is pointed out and the opportunity presented this country to use its influence towards world peace, limitation of armaments is believed to be one of the first steps to be followed by some sort of international agreement or association of nations whereby vexing questions might be settled without recourse to arms.
The author believes that peoples should be educated m the duties of nations to the world at large, and the submersion of selfish interests for the common weal. Some such action should be taken as soon as practicable or else the remembrances of the burdens and horrors of the past war will gradually fade, and the same old questions will arise again to endanger the peace of the world. The best safeguard against war, is a world wide realization that war does not pay.
The book is a small volume that can be read in an evening's sitting, the subject matter is presented in a clear and forceful manner, and its arguments are illuminating and conclusive. Dr. Frank Crane in commenting upon this book says "Unreservedly, I place it as the best book in the world right now for every man and woman in America to read, including' the President and the Senate."