Robert Kreyche, The Betrayal of Wisdom, New York: Alba House, 1972, ISBN 0-8189-0248-5, pp. xii + 237, Cost not mentioned.
Our world is exhibiting a considerable amount of fragmentation. It is a tragic fact that man despite the tremendous expanse of his scientific and technological knowledge, is still in fundamental ignorance of the real needs of the human spirit and the type of knowledge that would integrate the values of his intellect, will and spirit. The postmodern culture which pervades our world is characterized by distrust towards ideas like finality, goal, soul and the like.
In this book the author aims at attempting to clear up the confusion caused by contemporary philosophy’s failure to provide a healing remedy for the ever-increasing skepticism, positivism and agnosticism affecting the mind of man. He presents a skillful analysis of the dethronement of human reason and the steps that are needed to reintegrate it with life. Philosophy has sadly, with the rise of analytic and similar schools, moved away from its original vocation, i.e. to help human beings shape their lives in keeping with the challenges of reality. He emphasizes the need of ‘integral realism’, an idea borrowed from Jacques Maritain. If I may summarize the essence of integral realism in a line, it would be: integration not only between philosophy and life, but between values and facts, theory and practice, the area of individual concern and the facts of social life.
The book has 13 well-chosen and well-presented chapters. The author displays his erudition and grounding in modern and contemporary philosophy, particularly American philosophy. American by birth, it is only natural that he writes about philosophy in his context and for his context. Therefore, in this regard it is not possible or even right to fault him. However, the book has two drawbacks, not in-itself but in the present context. First, the book was written in the early 1970′s and hence some of the “issues” and perhaps some of the counter arguments are not really relevant anymore. Second, the books’ target audience is American and hence people like me, from a different country, find little of what is discussed relevant, interesting and relatable. For example, the author frequently quotes John Dewey and William James, authors who are purely American and hence aren’t very well known in the context of India. Nevertheless, the chief topics that the author discusses in each chapter offer valuable food for reflection.
The book would work well as a primer in philosophy. Beginners will find the author’s language simple to read and understand and the issues easy to grasp. I would recommend this book to all those setting out on the adventure of philosophy. One has to keep in mind though, that the author wrote this book many years ago, addressing a malaise of that time with the knowledge he then had. Therefore, he doesn’t use concepts or ideas that emerged later like the ideas of postmodernism for example, although some of his proposed solutions were taken up and promoted by postmodernists. The book offers an interesting thesis and throws up many possibilities for further study and reflection. The author must be commended for his work and for his practical approach to philosophy. Despite being critical of the prevalent American pragmatism, one can notice its subtle influence. The author concludes the book by stating his purpose of writing it which was to motivate individuals to assume roles of intellectual leadership and provide reasonable responses to the challenges of human existence aggravated by the advancement of technology and fundamentalistic doctrines.