Book Report 2013

Still not a lot of uninterrupted non-manic toddler time for writing, but she does enjoy some political non-fiction before bed. Among my favorites this year were the latest installments from Robert George and Mary Eberstadt, along with Jay Cost’s 2012 work on the Democratic party and Lewis Gould’s on the GOP, which Cost was good enough to commend to me over Twitter (which is the best place to reach me these days). John Lott’s on the poisonous nomination process is an important work. Ben Shapiro’s polemic as well as Harry Stein’s on the dog-eared race card (not on the list as I just finished this morning) portend a long hoped for waning of the politics of personal destruction.

But had I to select a single recommendation, it would be Ed Feser’s The Last Superstition, published in 2010. Written for a wide audience, Feser makes a strong case that the Enlightenment got ahead of itself in rejecting Aristotle’s final and formal causes before actually devising a workable alternative metaphysic. And as Huxley put it, “It is impossible to live without a metaphysic. The choice that is given us is not between some kind of metaphysic and no metaphysic; it is always between a good metaphysic and a bad metaphysic.” The Enlightenment gave us only bad metaphysics, and so frustrated contemporary thinkers would now have Huxley join Aristotle in history’s dustbin.

Past book reports can be found here:  2012; 2011; 2010; and 2009. You’ll forgive the lack of hyperlinks — they’re all on Amazon anyway.

  1. Liberal Fascism, Jonah Goldberg
  2. Dodd-Frank: What It Does and Why It’s Flawed
  3. Selections from the Scottish Philosophy of Common Sense
  4. The Irony of American History, Reinhold Niebuhr
  5. The American Founding, Daniel N. Robinson and Richard N. Williams
  6. The Voting Wars, Rick Hasen
  7. Bullies, Ben Shapiro
  8. Who’s Counting? John Fund, Hans von Spakovsky
  9. Citizenville, Gavin Newsom
  10. Homelessness in California, John Quigley et al.
  11. The U.S. Constitution: A Reader, Hillsdale College Politics Faculty
  12. Left Turn, Tim Groseclose
  13. Words That Work, Frank Luntz
  14. Spoiled Rotten, Jay Cost
  15. Grand Old Party, Lewis Gould
  16. Men on Strike, Helen Smith
  17. What Is Marriage: A Defense, Robert George, et al.
  18. How to Cut America’s Divorce Rate in Half, Mike McManus
  19. Conscience and Its Enemies, Robert George
  20. Slouching Towards Gomorrah, Robert Bork
  21. To Have and Uphold, Adam Liptak
  22. Homosexuality: A Biblical View, Greg Bahnsen
  23. Scalia Dissents, Antonin Scalia
  24. Bowling Alone, Robert Putnam
  25. The Last Superstition, Ed Feser
  26. God and Man at Yale, William F. Buckley, Jr.
  27. Dumbing Down the Courts, John Lott
  28. Democracy and Political Ignorance, Ilya Somin
  29. The Constitution and the New Deal, G. Edward White
  30. The Tyranny of Cliches, Jonah Goldberg
  31. Things That Matter, Charles Krauthammer
  32. Can Big Government Be Rolled Back? Michael Barone
  33. The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, Bill Bryson
  34. One Summer: America, 1927, Bill Bryson
  35. Adam and Eve After the Pill, Mary Eberstadt
  36. Why I Turned Right, Eberstadt, ed.
  37. The Black Book of the American Left, David Horowitz
  38. The Uncommon Reader, Alan Bennett
  39. Eat the Rich: A Treatise on Economics, P.J. O’Rourke
  40. How the West Really Lost God, Mary Eberstadt
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4 thoughts on “Book Report 2013

  1. Parsing out this paragraph: “Written for a wide audience, Feser makes a strong case that the Enlightenment got ahead of itself in rejecting Aristotle’s final and formal causes before actually devising a workable alternative metaphysic.” Okay, I follow so far. To be fair, a number of thinkers of that era tried to devise a workable alternative metaphysic and the results tended to go from a bit silly to very, very bad. “And as Huxley put it, “It is impossible to live without a metaphysic. The choice that is given us is not between some kind of metaphysic and no metaphysic; it is always between a good metaphysic and a bad metaphysic.” The Enlightenment gave us only bad metaphysics…” Up to here I follow what the three of you are saying, so probably the book would be interesting. I don’t really get this though, “and so frustrated contemporary thinkers would now have Huxley join Aristotle in history’s dustbin.” Who are we talking about? The New Atheists? Is there really anyone arguing that we just get rid of Huxley and Aristotle? Conversely, do the metaphysics people really want to embrace all of Huxley’s new agey mysticism and human potential stuff? Don’t get me wrong- I’m sure I’ll read the book, but I’m just surprised at the idea that there are many contemporary thinkers who want to throw out Aristotle for believing in final and formal causes or Huxley for being an quasi-mystical agnostic.

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    • My quibble is that it appears that since some folks think metaphysics since the enlightenment hasn’t been as satisfactory as they like, that we ought to go back to a supernatural based metaphysics. But bad naturalistic metaphysics cannot be a proof of the supernatural. If, in fact, all we have is the natural world, with no supernatural elements at all, then going back to pre-enlightenment metaphysics is a retrograde action.

      And since there’s no actual evidence for the supernatural…

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    • Feser doesn’t mention Huxley; I just appropriated the quote. but yes, the focus of Feser’s arguments are the New Atheists and their metaphysics of scienceism–a sort of metaphysic itself while denying and disparaging metaphysics.

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