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Alfred Russel Wallace : Alfred Wallace : A. R. Wallace :
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Why Does Man Exist?1 (S490: 1894)

Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: An 1891 letter to A. J. Bell printed on page 272 of the January 1894 issue of Borderland. To link directly to this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S490.htm

     Nothing which we could say in regard to this book could be of half the value and importance of the following letter from Dr. Wallace, which we subjoin without further comment:--

Parkstone, Dorset.
November 12th, 1891.

Dear Mr. Bell,

     I have only just now found time to read your very remarkable book, "Why does Man Exist?" which you were so good as to send me--I think--a year ago. But I was then altering my house and garden here, and have since been very busy in various ways. Now, however, I have read it through with ever-increasing interest and admiration to the last page. I can hardly express to you how greatly I admire it. Its originality, its ingenuity, its profundity, its boldness, its logical force and completeness, place it, in my opinion, among the most remarkable books of this century. From my youth metaphysics had an attraction for me, but I was always disappointed to find what a little came of it all, and to find also how easy it was for one metaphysician to demonstrate the complete unsoundness of all the others. Then Herbert Spencer's "First Principles" entranced me; but neither that nor his "Ethics," though wonderfully subtle, are quite satisfactory.

     The physiologist has taught us many marvels, but none of them have satisfactorily explained even the facts of "reflex action." In your book I find, for the first time, all the marvellous phenomena of life and organisation connected by a single principle, that of the life-potential or actual consciousness of every cell--which, though not new, I have never before seen put in such a manner as almost to compel belief--though the fact seems so marvellous and at first sight incredible.

     But the crowning glory of your work is the manner in which you connect this wonderful theory with the grandest and most perplexing of religious and metaphysical problems--freedom of will, the existence of evil, and the nature, powers, and purposes of the Deity in the creation of man, and I should like to know what the theologians and metaphysicians have had to say to it. To me it seems to embody a philosophy beyond that of Herbert Spencer, and a conception of the universe beyond that of all the theologians and Theosophists.

     To write such a book must have been a great enjoyment to you, and I congratulate you on having, first, written a very remarkable philosophical work--"Whence comes Man?"--and then completed it by writing another work which very far surpasses it both in originality and profundity.

     I shall do all I can to induce such of my friends as are thinkers to read your book--and thanking you for having given me so much to think of, and for having to some extent lifted a portion of the veil that shrouds the universe in mystery,

Believe me,
Yours very faithfully,
Alfred R. Wallace.

Note Appearing in the Original Work

1. "Why does Man Exist?" By A. J. Bell. Published by W. Isbister & Co.

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