Summer 1984 • Vol. VI No. 3 Book Reviews |

The Word and the World

Standing By Words: Essays by Wendell Berry. San Francisco: North Point Press, 1983. 214 pages. $10.50. The idea that the world is more an organism than a machine is so well established now that it would hardly seem to need the kind of defense that Wendell Berry has been providing it for so long. But of course it does: there are still areas of practical endeavor within natural systems—medicine and agriculture to cite two crucial instances—on which this great generative idea of modern times has had virtually no effect. And Berry is surely right in seeing behind this anomaly a kind of technological hubris—a refusal to recognize the dangerously limited nature of our knowledge. A truly organic view seems always to entail a mental orientation toward holism, toward synthesis rather than analysis: the world is more than the parts into which we can analyze it, and therefore we had better tread carefully. This sort of humility is simply not available to the orthodox technologies of o

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