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10 Books That Screwed Up the World: And 5 Others That Didn't Help
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170 of 232 people found the following review helpful
on June 2, 2008
Benjamin Wiker, who has authored numerous books of late and manages to thesource website has written another book here dealing with books he alleges have, by the ideas posited by the authors of these text, had horrendous consequences. I have found almost all of the negative reviews absolutely hilarious. I mean, one reviewer rants about President Bush! Likewise, however, I have found most of the extremely positive reviews to be somewhat short sided. I hope my review brings more critical analyses, which I have found only in a couple of other reviews here.

I normally try and keep my reviews short. I mean after all, who wants to read my drivel; but this is one case that I may have to develop a large review. First, on to the negative side: Wiker includes a text in this book that quite puzzles me.

First is his inclusion of Rene Descartes "Discource on Methods" (1637). Wiker claims "He (Descartes) proved God's existence, but only by making it depend on our thinking Him into existence. By his good intentions--if indeed they really were good--he fathered every flavor of self-congratulatory solipsism . . . and made religion a creation of our own ego." He further charges Descartes for opening a new era of skepticism when in effect trying to find away around it. I am not sure this is a fair assessment. While Descartes' starting "point" can be criticized (which Wiker does), Descartes "method" also has some very strong points as well. The problem is when one uses skepticism as a pre-text to only buttress one's presuppositions (which happens often, I agree); however, it does not necessarily follow that one will use Descartes starting point incorrectly. Wiker here does not make his case and in the process he impugns Descartes motives as well. This is also curious since Descartes was a strong defender in the rational belief in God. He developed forms of the cosmological argument and ontological argument. He further demonstrated that truth is objective, knowable, and rational. I would agree that there is fault to find here, (his ontological argument makes an invalid transition from thought to reality), but to make it a runner-up to the most dangerous books is I suggest faulty. On other books, where I agree with him their results and logical outworkings have potential effects, I often found him dealing with side issues instead of the weightier ones.

Also, why I think Kinsey's book is a form of intellectual impersonation, I think the effects of this book have really been minuscule. I posit that the sexual immoral behavior so prevalent today gets as much from the foundations laid by Kinsey as they do from multiple other areas (other media and including again Nietzsche, Freud, etc, etc.). Wiker may be right here, but he does not provide enough research to my satisfaction that most of the intellectual establishment embraced Kinsey's ideas back then or now.

On the positive side, there is much in this book that is good. It first, when it is on target, reminds us that Ideas Have Consequences! Our society does not want to always believe that their idols of intellect have often proved disastrous and in addition, it was the logical outworking of the ideas set forth. Many who look for support for a world without individual responsibility look to the existentialist philosopher Nietzsche, whose Beyond Good and Evil (and other works), has set a many persons and much of modern society on a quest of indulgence - as he asserted "They (the overmen) determine the whether and the to what end of mankind." He even question principles of injure no man (or person) and he rejected the "soft" virtues of love and humility and accept the "hard" male virtues of harshness.

In addition, he rightly includes Darwin's Descent of Man. Wiker here provides Darwin's own words (in context no less, which many others who have sought to disgrace Darwin rarely do), but Wiker shows how Darwin's caveat to his "eugenics" statements does not negate the logical conclusions of his ideas and his ideas have been used for eugenics purposes in the Western world to ill effect (Nazis and eugenics in America). Those who want to decry that this is an unfair conclusion must completely disregard the evidence and logical outworking of ideas.

There is more that can be said. In some respects, I thought this book was right on target, in other respects, I was left wanting more research and analysis. I think that more of a backdrop should have been provided and less books discussed. This would have provided a more robust discussion on the top 10 books and would have made his presentation stronger.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on September 1, 2009
Being a lover of "lists" of just about anything, I devoured the Intercollegiate Studies Institute's "50 Worst Books of the Twentieth Century" and Human Events' "Ten Most Harmful Books of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries" during my unfortunate years at RMIT, in the process sending them to all my teachers and minders (whose opinions about them varied but were generally politely unappreciative).

Although I knew of Benjamin Wiker from his earlier Architects of the Culture of Death (in the process ironically pronouncing his name as "wicca" instead of "wigh-ker"), the reason I caught onto "10 Books That Screwed Up the World: And 5 Others That Didn't Help" was its strange cover, which recalled old State Library of Victoria copies of the old Wisdens I love so much. I immediately desired to look and find out what books were being attacked by Wiker for having done a great deal of damage, and what I found showed a man very much in agreement with the views of other right-wing organisations I had been reading and critiquing.

More recently with my finding of a video of Wiker discussing the book, I discovered some important and subtle points that made me want to have a really good look at what Wiker says here. Given the inaccessibility of print copies in Australia, I have had to use other means to read the book.

What one should say in favour of Wiker is that he undoubtedly is a skilled writer. In terms of ability to explain his viewpoints with language that ordinary people can easily read. He also writes very firmly, even sharply, about how these books have influenced things the Catholic Church considers evil. A clear case can be seen in the way, with many fewer words, he can produce a more convincing case against Alfred Kinsey's research than Judith Reisman. He also shows how clearly most of these ideas are linked to one another. Most importantly of all, Wiker consistently shows the generally unknown truth that the ideas Mill, Darwin and those they influenced like Hitler, Margaret Sanger and Peter Singer are closely related to little-known Greek philosophers Epicurus (third century BC) and Lucretius (1st century BC). The effect of this on the thinking of anybody with a serious interest in philosophy should be considerable. Most people, even conservatives, write with the impression that atheism as developed by the likes of Hobbes, Marx, Nietzsche, Schopenhauer etc. etc. was a completely new idea, but Wiker, through his thoroughness, gives at the very least considerable doubt to such a claim. Wiker also gives clues as to who really forms the backbone of European, Canadian and New Zealand society today with his description of Hobbes in particular - it agree very well with what Arthur Brooks shows about the selfishness of these cultures.

On the other side of the ledger, I really do doubt that Wiker has actually found the most genuine chaff amongst the large number of atheist philosophers. For a start, anybody with serious knowledge of present-day culture world will know that the trends towards atheism have gone much further in Europe, Canada and New Zealand than in the United States. (In the case of Europe, they also began much earlier). This fact should make widepread knowledge in Europe, and perhaps Canada, New Zealand and the developed nations of Asia, a vital criterion for an author being considered for "10 Books That Screwed Up the World: And 5 Others That Didn't Help".

However, Wiker includes at least three authors whose impact has been much less in Europe and New Zealand than in the generally less secularised United States. For all his ability to expose Alfred Kinsey, to blame him for the sexual revolution is wrong given that Pat Buchanan - by my judgment a less able writer - is able to show that such authors like Gyorgy Lukacs and Alfred Hoche were in the 1910s doing exactly the same things as "Sexual Behaviour in the Human Male" did in the 1950s. Whilst those two authors may not have written nearly as much as Kinsey, Wiker's thoroughness in researching the roots of atheism combined with even basic knowledge of how secularised Europe is ought to tell him he has to research the roots of the sexual revolution before Kinsey. Wiker shows an honestly strange unwillingness to do this, as if he cannot imagine the sexual revolution had essential pre-Kinsey roots. Moreover, if the sexual revolution's pre-Kinsey roots were in books he has already condemned Wiker ought to spend some time explaining himself, but he does not.

Whilst the inclusion of Kinsey without adequate evidence he constitutes the deepest root of the sexual revolution is my major issue, the same logic can even more be applied to Betty Friedan, whose essential ideas, as Wiker himself even shows in "Architects of the Culture of Death", were put forward in Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex fourteen years before "The Feminine Mystique". As for "Coming of Age in Samoa", whilst Wiker points out its roots in Rousseau, he jumps beyond Jules Michelet, whose La Sorciere led to a view of the witch-hunts I imagine Wiker would consider misleading and paved the way for a romantic and feminist view of primitive people before Mead was even born. There is also the omission of anything by post-Nietzsche European atheist philosophers such as Antonio Gramsci's "Prison Notebooks", Bertrand Russell, Martin Heidegger or Jean-Paul Sartre. If cultural differences today are any guide, at least some Continental philosophers must be more to blame for the spread of atheism than Mead, Friedan and possibly even Margaret Sanger.

Although Benjamin Wiker, following on directly from Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, shows in his interview how the simplicity of the ideas in these books greatly helped them "screw up" the world, he does not do this in the book or even discuss whether or not it was possible to have avoided their spread. This is a major mistake by too many writers on the Right, one generally avoided only by Austrian School economists and then only concerning depressions.

Overall, "10 Books That Screwed Up the World: And 5 Others That Didn't Help" is a well-written book for what it does discuss and the purpose thereof. However, it does not give enough evidence it discusses the right books or explain what could have been done in a past age to prevent their spread.
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19 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on September 25, 2008
While I agree with many of the author's complaints about the baneful influences of various books, he so overdoes matters that should the book itself be taken very seriously by many, it might have comparably harmful influence. The problem is the author is as careless and shallow in his examinations as authors he writes about can be said to be.

One can start with his failing to make linguistic issues certain, like beginning German nouns with capitals, e.g. in "Übermensch" or "Kampf", the last of which is in its context closer to "fight" or "battle" than his "struggle".

Next, one can wonder why he included J.S. Mill among "Ten Big Screw-Ups" but left Rousseau among "5 Others That Didn't Help". Rousseau's pernicious influence can be likened to that of Marx and Darwin. In The Social Contract the first sentence in his first chapter states: "Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains." Marx picked this up in the conclusion of the Manifesto of the Communist Party: "The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains." Rousseau is consequently behind both the Reign of Terror and the Bolshevik revolution, whose Dialectical Materialism alongside other disasters also owes to Darwin.

J.S. Mill's philosophy is instead related to the very "pursuit of happiness" in The Declaration of Independence, and the "bill of rights" in the Constitution. These appear to comport with the introductory quote by author Wiker (p.74) of Mill, who states as desirable "an existence exempt as far as possible from pain, and as rich as possible in enjoyments...", this being protected by government. But author Wiker vehemently objects, characterizing another quote (p.83), one saying "All the grand sources...of human suffering are in a great degree...conquerable by human care and effort", as "words of a dangerous madman".

Author Wiker objects (p.78) to by him found Epicurean equations "Good = Pleasure" and "Evil = Pain", calling them "moral misreasoning", saying (p.79) that accordingly "morality's foundation is not God but pleasure and pain". He speaks as a Christian, and he may well find his justification in Scripture, but of concern is how people arrange their lives in this world, lacking dependability on everyone's religious convictions. And the precepts by which an envisioned democracy functions through its laws are very similar to ones in the concerned religions; guarding against murder, theft and so forth. Author Wiker's "misreasoning" can correspondingly apply to himself.

It can notably apply to his treatment of Descartes complained about already by other reviewers here. Poor Descartes seems to take the rap from all sides lately; most of it comes from sources opposed to the author reviewed, namely from materialists, upset by Cartesian dualism of mind and matter, and insisting that all reality is of matter. Strangely, our author contrariwise complains that Descartes through his dualism himself asserts materialism. This is obviously false, and apparently author Wiker's underlying dissatisfaction is that Descartes' philosophy is not grounded in Christianity. He thus amazingly contends logical failures of one of the greatest minds in history; that it is rather our author whose logic falters is easily demonstrable.

He discusses Descartes' famous "I think, therefore I am" (Discourse on Method and Meditations on First Philosophy), saying (p.23) it "contains one of the most pernicious confusions possible, so destructive that we might very well call it the first sin. We catch the error if", leading to "René, isn't it really the other way around? In order to think, I first have to exist...". But Ben, this isn't the other way around at all; it is the same statement differently phrased. Logically the statement is "(my thinking) implies (my existence)", applying in both cases. Again, the author says (p.24) that Descartes "admits" that "in order to think, one must exist"; again the same implication differently phrased.

The author's effort here is to criticize Descartes' skepticism, quoting him by way of introduction (p.17): "I reject as absolutely false everything in which I could imagine the least doubt...". What is left out is the subsequent (p.20) "so as to see whether...anything in my set of beliefs remains that is entirely indubitable". Descartes' idea was that since so much of received knowledge is false, he'll try to see what will remain true after tentatively peeling off possible falsehoods. Our author rejects this as a "good recipe for insanity", that "we could doubt even the solidity of the ground we stand on", etc. But Descartes offers ample explanation, such as the unreality of dreams that impress us as reality. Most of all, he introduced epistemology, the important concept of how through our minds we get to know reality, a concept elaborated by the British empiricists in pointing out how perceptions can or cannot be relied on.

Author Wiker doesn't comprehend this, as by (p.23) calling it "simply ridiculous to single out thinking as the act by which I know I am existing" and saying (p.26) "reality is the appropriate test of our everyday beliefs and scientific theories". But by "thinking" Descartes meant mental activity, cognition, in general, as the door to reality, and correspondingly our author's "test" of reality depends question-beggingly on the form in which appropriate perceptions enter our mind.

The author further protests Descartes' attempts at proving God by reason, an issue also addressed by previous reviewers. He evidently holds biblical revelation more authentic; this may be his prerogative, but he is unjustified in criticizing other ways as failing logically, in the like absence of demonstration of the truth of a religious belief.

Although I sympathize with the author's sentiments in general, his excessive or unwarranted attacks of some of the authors he deals with makes his stories less than persuasive.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on January 27, 2010
"Seize each one by its malignant heart and expose it to the light of day." No mincing words for Benjamin Wiker in his self-set task to demolish atheism and demonstrate our universal need for God. To his credit, he explores and argues well for the inherent nonsensicalness of many of the proffered arguments - particularly when viewed through the lens of experience and time (something I would argue is part of philosophical wisdom). Unfortunately, one gets the strong sense that underlying the "rational" arguments is a great desire to enlighten the poor benighted agnostics and atheists in the world who clearly have missed seeing God in the whole picture. The obvious solution to kingdoms of heaven on earth is kingdoms of heaven elsewhere even if where exactly that kingdom of heaven elsewhere is is never stated.

If only the problem of evil were so simple - it is with some wistfulness that I read this book and found it thoroughly entertaining and sometimes quite thought provoking - but in the end unsatisfying because of its apparent motivating agenda - not to teach that "bad ideas have bad consequences" but rather that the main good idea out there is God. Shoddy thinking whether a "Christian" or an atheist, agnostic or humanist is never desireable - and all forms of argument and thought can be used to engage in our benighted predilection for justifying horrendous behavior.
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15 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on September 4, 2010
It is important to realize what Mr. Riker's book is and what it is not. It is first of all a "philosophy popularizer" - a readable text making the occasionally opaque and difficult prose of original authors accessible in some level to many readers. But what it is not is a detailed, scholarly work of the same title and filling several volumes. I believe such a work could, in theory, be written. It is undeniable that authors such as Marx and Rousseau have had disciples who commit crimes of nefarious magnitude. Pol Pot was educated in Paris and became a disciple of Rousseau, whose writings on the state of nature became his inspiration which culminated in the Khmer Rouge. As Wiker notes, self-professing Marxists (Lenin, Stalin, Mao) are responsible for great and unhuman crimes. It is thus reasonable and even mandatory to engage with these authors and raise the question that it might just be in something they say.

Further, Wiker's response to the evil he finds in these works is to encourage their readings. I have read and will continue to read Machiavelli and Rousseau, for instance. Their books are works of surpassing genius and craft answers to the perennial human questions. Their importance is undisputed and Wiker does not dispute it. But he is concerned with practical application; because young men studying politics have a view to action instead of knowledge, it is vitally important what they read and that they be devoted to the beautiful things. It is one thing for men of sober judgment to read The Prince or the Discourse or the Will to Power and discuss them in a spirit of academic debate. But when they are young men wishing to reform and change or save the world, applications of Nietzche, Rousseau, and Machiavelli may turn ugly. It may be that careful, diligent readings of these men may prove them to be somewhat different than what Wiker claims they are, but this requires long, close study, which the young, in their efforts to effect political change, have neither the time nor inclination to pursue. In a word, philosophy is dangerous, and particularly for young students of politics. It is this thesis which Wiker pursues in his book.

The most unfortunate part of the book is its style. I am a student of philosophy and wished for a more elevated, scholarly discussion - less emotively charged writing and exclamations, for example. On the other hand, this was not written for specialists but for laymen. The best part of the book is the connecting Wiker repeatedly draws towards eugenics. Whether or not the eugenics thesis is true (and I think it is), when the young politician remakes society on such principles, the results will be predictable. Emphasizing Hitler's anti-Semitism as an instance of his devotion of eugenics is particularly helpful.

To conclude; this book is a provocative look at some of the classics in political theory, ethics, and social thought over the past 500 years. It should stimulate one into buying and reading (a good bibliography is included in the notes section) all the books cited here and remembering a profound truth: It is not appropriate for the young person to be a student of politics.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 7, 2014
Book I got through Abe - the book starts with very good proposition : Books should not be burnt but they should be read. Even when we experience difficulty to understand . The author does relate authors with their upbringing and personal experience what has got bearing on the point of view what they push -express to readers. Book can be taken as written polemic - I look on point author's analyse as in his brain is what he represent - and it is around 10% of brain cell potential . Everyone one has got aprox. same capacity but everyone is using not identical combination of those cells what have got variable memory charge . Some people say that we have got neurons-memes what actually live from our existence. The god is something what has a form of our brain . Those who have god they have it , those who has not supress it -they play on It. What author has mixed up is religion and something what is god for all of us. Every religion corrupts when it assume an authority towards some others systematically for its own end - for it America was made by individuals not by sects - so judeo Christianity now is in the same league as Moonism, Mormons or Yehowa witnessing, Episcopals - accessory to the after state as the last hybrid form grammar exercise without content - identity fake. There are many homebrew cults all over this planet ,what only in USA has more than 3 thousand faces. Authenticity of religion is the community - modern Christianity is mostly not authentic attempt for creating community in urbanised desert. American community is conflict with others muslims,Latinos, asians and USSR. To see religion from biological side - there is interpretation of religion difference for Males and for females . What is unifying them is realisation of human spices through unholy matrimony . Its codification and authoritative guarantee to it through communal standard sanctioning its validity for unity of man and woman in the given society and their commitment to the open act regarding consummation of marriage and its standard enforcement. What religion is for male is possible to say; is to lay a Sheila, like or do not like that's male biology proclivity, from point of female it is more complex issue- what we share as male and female is Ovum sanctuary, its security of life as original sin what we all experience. As we are here not for fellatio or for 1/2 dozen of beers ,stock market dividend and FakeDbook good time with You tube - our human duty is that we have to go through It as known homosexual st. Paul said without avoiding a trial and after our passage to reflect on the cleanliness of ours on the other end. The issue is particular to every one , there are not stupid ones or idiots who could not participate in the process of Living in search of truth. Book is rising up point for discussion what we have to talk about. About individual personalities if it would not be Hitler, Freud or Moses, it would be someone else who would bite the issue- lemon- and regurgitate it for us. Mentioned formula to calculate the IQ is good - only what is in our time Mental Age coefficient or respective reference non multi-choice question to ask ? And who formulates it in regard of time and place ? As now the Eugenic model to screw up ordinary people by violence scaremongering and fancy legalismus for same sex marriages while neglecting general normative values among ordinary folks - manufacturing educated people without usable and sustainable intelligence of their own , millionaires whose millions have no value just invest them into the wars. Book is giving plenty of room to talk it about . I am surprised that he does not included Milton Friedman Free to choose and Samuelson- General impossibility theorem and aggregation of individual choices. Evolution of man as godfather Mengele said is taking path not through preferential channels. Those who control our mankind fate, they make the choice without consulting the rest, regarding good books and bad books they serve just for crowds to misled just look on The Old Testament.
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3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on September 18, 2009
I found the book very satisfying on a visceral level, and it took me back to my early, "liberal arts" college days, before I got down to business with my major. But while I generally resonated with the author's point of view, and thoroughly enjoyed his sardonic sense of humor, upon reflection, I would have to concede that some of it was a bit over the top. I suspect there might even be a baby or two floating around in Wiker's bath water. In any event, the book was certainly polarizing. Look at the evenly divided one and five star reviews.

The key idea I took away from this book (I'm paraphrasing here) was that what the authors (widely divergent in time and subject matter) of these "great" books had in common was that they were not seeking truth, but rather seeking something to be true that justified their own behavior and desires. I believe the author of this book succeeds in adroitly lampooning some really bad ideas, if in the process he cavalierly dismisses whole volumes of important literature.

Getting back to my college days, it occurred to me that my opportunity to experience the great philosophers came too early in life, as it does for most people. I mused that it's really too bad I couldn't have postponed my study of philosophy until now, in my sixties, with life experiences and a fully developed BS meter!
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4 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on September 17, 2008
The author, Benjamin Wiker, isolates four books that he calls "Preliminary Screw Ups." These are The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli written in 1513, Discourse on Method by Rene Descartes in 1637, Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes in 1651 and Discourse on the Origin and Foundations of Inequality Among Men by Jean-Jacques Rousseau in 1755. In his belief, these books had substantial influence on later writers, and in effect, perpetrated a spread of the "deadly diseases" of the ideas by the written word of these authors/philosophers.

In total, there are actually fifteen books that he feels the world would have been better without, the first four wielding the most influence and the rest taking those ideas and expanding upon them and spreading them "like viruses." Dr. Wiker advises the reader to read these books well and form an understanding of the ideas put forth, thereby exposing their "malignancy."

Do not expect this book to be a quick and easy read. Selecting passages from the original texts to support his point, Dr Wiker's writing, at times, is as difficult to comprehend as the original text in question. There was one book however that Dr Wiker was denied permission to use quotes - Sexual Behavior in the Human Male by Alfred Kinsey in 1948. There are copious footnotes referencing the texts of all the books addressed, including that of Alfred Kinsey, and there is also an inclusive index.

Dr Wiker also enlightens us about the personal lives of several of the authors as an explanation for their ideas and philosophies. There does not seem to be any footnotes or references to verify this information.

The last chapter entitled, "A Conclusive Outline of Sanity," is a fairly concise summation of Dr Wiker's own beliefs and ideas concerning the effects of the books in question upon the world.

This book, 10 Books that Screwed up the World is a Book of the Month Club selection by the Conservative Book Club and would cause a very interesting and lively discussion for a reading group.

Dr Wiker has a PhD in theological ethics from Vanderbilt University, has taught at several leading universities and authored other books.

Armchair Interviews says: Very thought-provoking read.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on February 4, 2013
book is a good review of several books ' but the author comes from a very obvious christian perspective wich colors his choice of books
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4 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on May 23, 2009
I won't go into a lot of detail, as most of the reviews that fall into my general opinion discuss what's good and bad with this book.

I agree with a lot of Dr. Wiker's assessments, but I think where he especially errs is on these:

-Machiavelli. The United States is one of the most efficient practioners of Machiavellian politics the world has ever seen. It's because our "princes" are raging bastards that the rest of us, including the good Dr. Wiker, get to enjoy the freedom to be proper deists. Our leaders "do unto others before they do unto you", so that we citizens can "do unto others as we would have them do unto us".

-Nietzsche. Nietzsche said a lot of things, and many people are simply too stupid to understand what he was talking about. Dr. Wiker wants to villify FN because he asked to think about going "beyond good and evil". Note that FN did not say they don't exist. I spent 8 years as an Active Duty Marine. I have thoroughly memorzed Zarathustra "On Warriors", and I'm still chewing on "It is the Good War which halloweth a cause..."

In terms of logic, Wiker has some good dialectic rhetoric, but as a scholar he should be careful to avoid slippery slope segueways in his reasoning.
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