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In Praise of Prejudice: The Necessity of Preconceived Ideas [Hardcover]

by Theodore Dalrymple
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 10, 2007 1594032025 978-1594032028 y First edition
Today, the word prejudice has come to seem synonymous with bigotry; therefore the only way a person can establish freedom from bigotry is by claiming to have wiped his mind free from prejudice. English psychiatrist and writer Theodore Dalrymple shows that freeing the mind from prejudice is not only impossible, but entails intellectual, moral and emotional dishonesty. The attempt to eradicate prejudice has several dire consequences for the individual and society as a whole.

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In Praise of Prejudice: The Necessity of Preconceived Ideas + Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass
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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).

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 129 pages
  • Publisher: Encounter Books; y 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: #513,808 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
167 of 173 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Open-Minded, Or Just Empty Headed?" October 6, 2007
"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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127 of 132 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So much wisdom, so few pages 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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72 of 75 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stalking the Wild Taboo November 1, 2007
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, as always October 24, 2007
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Vintage Dalrymple, but not quite as readable as his usual output
Vintage Dalrymple, but not quite as readable as his usual output. Would recommend his "LIfe at the Bottom" prior to reading this, as it would be helpful for becoming... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Stephen L. Clark
5.0 out of 5 stars Ideas and their consequences in culture
I know the title of this book is off-putting. Prejudice is a dirty word, immediately invoking images of segregated lunch counters and hooded Klansmen. Read more
Published 21 months ago by Paul A. Mastin
5.0 out of 5 stars Dalrymple turns philosopher
I have to say that Theodore Dalrymple and David Stove have become my two favorite authors in recent years. Read more
Published on November 8, 2011 by Geoff Puterbaugh
3.0 out of 5 stars prejudice or worldview?
This a strange little book in many ways. Dalrymple has some interesting insights about what he calls prejudices, but what might more correctly be called worldviews. Read more
Published on September 28, 2011 by Ronald
4.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent, thought provoking essays
I admire Theodore Dalrymple (alias Anthony Daniels, a onetime GP and world traveller). He has served for much of his life in the blighted underclass communities of Britain, which... Read more
Published on September 1, 2011 by Sirin
5.0 out of 5 stars In Praise of "In Praise..."
For those used to his writing and thinking from previous books or his City Journal essays/editorials, Theodore Dalrymple does not disappoint with this little volume. Read more
Published on November 23, 2010 by D Glover
1.0 out of 5 stars Pride and prejudice
The necessity of which preconceived ideas?
Human equality?
Liberty, fraternity?

Or Dalrymple's sad and self-revelatory choices of bigotry, reaction and... Read more
Published on July 2, 2009 by William Podmore
4.0 out of 5 stars On the Necessity of Starting Somewhere
Think of the qualities people most admire (or say they most admire). Judgmental, prejudiced, and conforming are three of the least likely to make the list. Read more
Published on June 22, 2009 by Kevin Currie-Knight
5.0 out of 5 stars Clear and succinct
I just finished reading In Praise of Prejudice and in my opinion, it was a lucid and concise explication of my own position in the same issue. Read more
Published on February 24, 2009 by Daniel Perron
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Reading
This is an essential book. It serves as a tonic that revives minds deadened by the stupidity that surrounds us. Read more
Published on February 20, 2009 by R. Stern
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