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10 Books…Part VI

We continue on in my series reviewing the book, “10 Books that Screwed up The World and Five that Didn’t Help.” Parts I-V can be read here (link goes to livejournal [it’s just easier there]). We are finally at the actual 10 worst books, and if you think that it’s been bad so far it actually can get worse. So bad in fact, that we have to tackle the first of the ten in two parts.

The first book is The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx. We have to take this in two parts because of a claim that Wiker makes regarding the theory that Marx espouses and how that theory is eventually applied. When teaching Marx I have come across a typical objection to his ideas. That objection revolves around the application of the Socialist ideas. Students cite Stalin, Mao, Castro, the invasion of Afghanistan and Poland, sometimes even the Russian Revolution as reasons Marxism should be avoided. I have the same retort, that those people or situations are not actually Marxist but a twisting of the words of the man. Sometimes they are merely an excuse for someone like Stalin to fuel his paranoia and anger into committing mass murder.

To Wiker’s credit, even he admits this. He states that nothing in the Manifesto addresses the topics of Gulags, purges, or invasions. I thought I had reached an epoch in the book, but then it goes downhill in a strange way.

Wiker cites what he calls, the three greatest philosophers (Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle) who worried themselves with the effect of ideas on actions. While I don’t remember specifically Aristotle mentioning it, I have no problem here. I’m just wondering where this argument is going. After much exposition regarding this topic he then states that a person should be held responsible for their writings even if those writings are misinterpreted.

Rereading that last sentence I still can’t believe that anyone, especially Wiker (which we’ll see why in a second) could make that claim. There is of course the obvious objection that if I tell a person that X should be fired, and a third person over hears it and uses a flamethrower on X; can I really be considerred at fault? Or if someone reads Shakespeare and decides to kill all the lawyers do we really blame Bill?

That’s the ridiculousness of assigning blame to second party misinterpretation and third party action. The best objection though would be to attack Wiker’s belief using his own assertion. If any belief can be held responsible for it’s effects, even though that belief has been misused, mistreated, or completely twisted than I would ask Wiker exactly how many deaths is the Bible responsible for? Or for that matter, Jesus. If he’s going to assign the 100 million deaths of Communists Russia to Marx, while admitting that Marx never directly recommended or advocated them, then the same must be held to any belief in his world. It’s logical consistency.

Now I wouldn’t or don’t hold a religion responsible for the actions of a minority of it’s followers, nor would I let a student get away with doing so. Wiker apparently must, unless of course he’s espousing a double standard.

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Categories: book reviews, philosophy
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