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10 Books…Part XXVII: The Last Entry

Approximately a year ago I saw the book sitting on a display table at the Barnes and Noble that I picked up temporary holiday work. I grabbed the book as something to read on my break thinking it would be the opposite of what it turned out to be. The first chapter of course, was Machiavelli, and I thought I would read that one chapter think it to be wrong and then put the book back opting for something else.

What struck me the most about the book was how wrong it was. By “wrong” I mean incorrect, the author disagreed with Machiavelli’s conclusions which I feel is wrong, but he also had some errors. Those errors puzzled me, because the guy was claiming to have a PhD, and a legitimate PhD concerning the subject of Philosophy. Simply put, as a former adjunct professor myself, he shouldn’t have made the errors. How wrong the book was, became my motivation for reading the second chapter on Rene Descartes.

Descartes was an odd choice when I saw it in the table of contents. I had no illusions that Machiavelli would be in the book, same with Marx and Lenin. Depending on what political point of view the book was written from you could easily make the list in your head. However, left or right, Democrat or Republican, Whig or Torey, I couldn’t think that anyone would have a political disagreement with Descartes…or for that matter a religious one. Everyone claims Descartes, he laid down the scientific method, proved the relationship between geometry and algebra, and we name the science of map reading after him. That aside the book actually made me defend Descartes. I don’t like the frenchman, he’s overplayed and if I never read his work again I will be happy.

As a teacher though I can’t just let this guy’s book sit there uncriticized. I had to read it, I had to push through the twisted corrupted interpretations by an alleged doctor of Philosophy. Borrowing from the “birthers” I need to see this degree before I will accept it. You can’t prove that god exists and be an atheist. Those things are ontological opposites and writing that is an inherent contradiction. In the break room as I furiously scribbled notes into my black notebook someone asked what the name of the book was that I was enjoying so animatedly, I said that I wasn’t enjoying it but it was deliciously wrong and incorrect that I couldn’t stop reading it.

Mostly because it was well written: “The object of love, the utopian goal, continually receded just beyond the obstacles that called for destruction, thereby fueling the passions for both hate and love.”
His final point is that these books are bad because they created a desire for something that was to be achieved at all costs, and those costs were detrimental to the progress of human civilization. It is a great sentiment that he falls victim to as well. In his vision of the perfect world that abides by his morals he has effectively twisted a good number of the ideas and purposes of the authors in question.

While he believes that these books called for the elimination of society he is actually seeking the elimination of understanding. Amazon.com’s user reviews are full of people praising the book as attacking the canon of liberal academics while the books detractors take a view a hilariously over the top attack on religion itself. There is some point to the detractions as all of the prime books in the world’s major religions have caused much more death than even Hitler’s book, as they were used to justify some of the more horrendous acts in the history of the world.

The book requires you to accept certain things, and that without those things you cannot be expected to agree with it, that Christianity is the true religion, there are universal morals, and that the bible is true*. In the end, this book is a propaganda piece designed to discourage people from reading these 16 works but giving them the idea that they know what’s in them. That perhaps, is the greatest crime.

*I can’t say “literally” there is nothing to back up that sentiment though it wouldn’t surprise me if he did believe it as much as it doesn’t surprise me that he may not.

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Categories: book reviews, philosophy
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