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In Praise of Prejudice: The Necessity of Preconceived Ideas Hardcover – August 10, 2007

ISBN-13: 978-1594032028 ISBN-10: 1594032025 Edition: First Edition

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 129 pages
  • Publisher: Encounter Books; First Edition edition (August 10, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594032025
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594032028
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.8 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #454,056 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Today Theodore Dalrymple is a psychiatrist and prison doctor who treats heroin addicts. He writes a column for the Spectator, and contributes frequently to the Daily Telegraph. He also wrote Our Culture, What's Left of It and Life at the Bottom (Ivan R. Dee).

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Customer Reviews

It really needs one more draft to fix the sluggishness.
James B. Johnson
Dr. Dalrymple argues convincingly that a life without preconception is an impossibility; just as is truth without presupposition.
Bernard Chapin
You can't understand the modern Western mind without understanding the ideas expressed in these books.
Steven Conatser

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

173 of 180 people found the following review helpful By Stanley H. Nemeth on October 6, 2007
Format: Hardcover
"I know I'm prejudiced in this matter," Mark Twain once announced, quickly adding, "But I'd be ashamed of myself if I weren't." In a similar vein, Theodore Dalrymple in this clever series of short essays looks at the curious reprobative force directed in our time against such words as "prejudice," "discrimination," and "judgmental." Through his knowledge of cultural history and his excellent rhetorical skills of concession and rebuttal, Dalrymple makes wholly clear his own disassociation from any of the mean-spirited, invidious behaviors these words, used negatively, quite rightly condemn. At the same time, he shows how our wholesale abandonment of any positive connotations for such words is a failure in analysis, a classic case of throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

Looking at the "thoughts" of contemporary men in the street, he sees, sadly, the unintended, distorted consequences of Descartes' and John Stuart Mill's thinking, as it has filtered down to the masses. It would appear from their defiant bumper stickers and proffered rationalizations for bad behavior that contemporary men have become largely their own carvers. Shrewdly and wittily, Dalrymple asks whether thinking out everything for ourselves each day, while rejecting the past and all authority - such modern men's apparent social "philosophy" - is, in fact, a societal ideal of any real worth, or just a ground for social deterioration. Should every person take nothing on authority to the point of daily reinventing the wheel? Should the mind of an adult be just a perpetual tabula rasa? Dalrymple thinks, in our commendable zeal not to be unduly narrow or overlook any new evidence, we may have forgotten the difference between being genuinely open-minded and being merely empty-headed.
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128 of 133 people found the following review helpful By Florence Starzynski on October 5, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In the late 1950s in high school it was for me the easily accessable "The True Believer" by Eric Hoffer. Today in my late 60' it's Theodore Dalrymple's "In Praise of Prejudice - the Necessity of Preconceived Ideas." Seldom have I seen so much wisdom in so few pages. Any three page chapter condenses the wisdom of a bookshelf of more wordy and tedious works.

And such great sentences. After a short introduction to a ten line extract from Rene Descartes, Dalrymple opens the next chapter with this marvelious sentence: "We may inquire why it is that there are now so many Descartes in the world, when in the seventeenth century there was only one." The explanation of this sentence and its consequences proceeds. The last sentence of this two page chapter goes: "Then all the resources of philosophy are available to them [skeptics] in a flash, and are used to undermine the moral authority of custom, law, and the wisdom of ages."

The book requires careful reading and attention as each sentence must be intellectually unpacked but it is worth it. So much insight and so much wisdom for so few dollars.
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73 of 76 people found the following review helpful By Dash Manchette VINE VOICE on November 1, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Theodore Dalrymple is probably the best essayist since George Orwell. He is always a treat to read and rarely disappoints. In IN PRAISE OF PREJUDICE, Dalrymple uses his keen wit and insight, combines it with his characteristic ability to illuminate with some of the best writing around, and focuses these on an issue long in need of some plain common sense - the issue of prejudice.

In modern America (and probably many other parts of the Western world), the term prejudice has become so ridiculously linked with a negative connotation that it takes courage simply to write a book with this title. Yet as Dalrymple demonstrates, prejudice is not only warranted in our daily lives, it is necessary. Our world is so large and complex that anyone attempting to live his life by only believing those things which he himself has proven to be true, without influence of others, i.e. without prejudice, would be too crippled to perform even the most rudimentary functions in our society.

IN PRAISE OF PREJUDICE is broken down into small chapters exploring the necessity of prejudice, the inability to truly rid oneself of it (as removing one prejudice would simply lead to a new one) and the folly of even attempting to do so. Dalrymple makes an excellent point that removing one prejudice does not, ipso facto, lead to some better outcome. Often, indeed usually, the results of abandoning prejudices lead to a worsening of some situation or another. After all, there is a good reason why prejudices in favor of our own families, against sexual promiscuity and so forth, developed in the first place.

Given this, it is, Dalrymple convincingly argues, nothing short of cruel to fail to instill various prejudices in people from an early age.
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36 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Steven Conatser on October 24, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Who in today's world would dare admit to being prejudiced? Not many. In the modern mind, to be prejudiced is to be racist, narrow-minded and backward. We are all supposed to be free-thinkers, to question everything we have been taught, to own our mind as completely as one would a home of his own construction. But this is simply not possible. No person can question everything and rethink, from first principles, all of their beliefs. Prejudice (the acceptance of inherited ideas as truth without questioning them) is a fact of human life (for both good and bad) and always will be. Why, then, do modern people insist on believing in an idea that, because it is impossible, requires intellectual dishonesty?

Dalrymple points out the real reason behind the modern popularity of the idea of the totally free-thinking individual: we don't want any restrictions on our actions but rather complete license to do whatever we please. The modern embrace of the pure rationalism championed by the likes of Descartes and Mill is simply an excuse for a philosophical disputatiousness that rejects all authority regarding moral behavior, whether that authority is religion, history or social convention. Custom and etiquette are diminished, and society thus loses important regulators of anti-social behavior, whether it's illegitimacy or littering. Without self-policing of one's behavior, the law is the only force that can mediate the resulting rights conflicts, and thus it should not be surprising that the government's power grows to the point of authoritarianism.
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