- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Cambridge University Press; First Edition edition (August 18, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0521830184
- ISBN-13: 978-0521830188
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 9 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,260,832 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Faking It Hardcover – August 18, 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
A law professor and literary scholar who plumbed other depths of moral unpleasantness in The Mystery of Courage and The Anatomy of Disgust, Miller here turns in an intelligent, articulate, somewhat convention-bound essay on the inevitable falseness of civilized behavior and the vanity of human nature that it conceals and reflects. With a blend of Jesuitical enthusiasm and Judaic ruefulness, he takes on the familiar demon of keeping up appearances. Starting with hypocrisy, which emulates and contaminates virtue, Miller considers the posturing inherent in such mechanisms of civility as religious ritual, seduction, apology and praise. After a due quota of vice spotting, Miller warms up to his central theme, the self-consciousness that compromises not only action but identity. The emphasis shifts from behavior to emotion: alienation, hatred, shame, anxiety, what Miller aptly calls the "vexations" behind routine fakeries like professionalism and cosmetics and high-stakes games like courtship and passing. The final section examines the processes by which we become the masks we assume. The book's chief philosophical strength is its light but serious treatment of germane texts: moments in the Gospels, passages from Hamlet and Tristram Shandy, a telling joke of Freud's. On the other hand, its most compelling feature is the inexorable pull of its author's Jewish identity, which he ultimately finds "at the core" of just the mode of self-consciousness that he is exploring. The book as a whole makes a fine introduction to that voice, and to the "ancient tradition of moral writing" that integrates serious thinking with everyday contexts.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
"William Ian Miller...scratches the itch of authenticity and relieves the ache of morality with delicious determination in Faking It."
--The Boston Globe
"Faking It is a fascinating book that explores, among other things, the anxiety, tension, and self-doubt that we all experience as we try to play certain social roles. Faking It is written in a clear and accessible way and would be of interest to anyone curious about deception, insincerity, authenticity, and human nature."
--Philosophy in Review
"...learned and deliciously discursive..." anyone curious about deception, insincerity, authenticity, and human nature."
"Faking It is essentially an intellectual thrill ride, complete with scholarly twists and comic spins -- certainly worth the price of admission." anyone curious about deception, insincerity, authenticity, and human nature."
--California Literary Review
Advance praise: "Wonderfully wry, satirical, comical, and of course extremely widely read, he's apparently all-knowing about every low personal dodge by which we maneuver to appear better in the eyes of others than we really are--in love, in church, in bed, in the classroom... None of our common low bluffing and double-bluffing, our devoted passing ourselves off as what we're not, our making of false claims and laying of false trails about ourselves, none of our perpetual and practiced scams and schemes and dodges for gaining some personal advantage, escape Miller's unrelenting scrutiny. This is ethical-personal investigating for everyday consideration and of the most biddable and readable kind. One turns the page in a mounting agony of embarrassed recognition - exposed, found out, guilty as charged on every count. What a glorious delight of a book for the ethical self-
--Valentine Cunningham, Oxford University
"In this refreshing book, Miller ... entertains us with stories of adults who overestimate their sexual prowess and children who find out that saying "please" doesn't buy them what they were told it would. In short, he finds us all engaged in fakery much of the time.... Highly recommended for academic and large public libraries."
"Intelligent, articulate...its most compelling feature is the inexorable pull of its author's Jewish identity...the book as a whole makes a fine introduction to that voice, and to the 'ancient tradition of moral writing' that integrates serious thinking with everyday contexts."
"William Ian Miller's "Faking It" (Cambridge University Press) is a brilliant, insightful and very funny study of the tendency to lay claim to more power. knowledge and authority than you really have."
"Miller...has written an erudite, accessible and relentlessly lively book."
--San Diego Union Tribune
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I strongly recommend this book!
His presentation starts with religious fakery, especially the self-righteous hypocrisy addressed in Jesus's invitation to cast the first stone. Miller also uses gospel for examples condemning legalistic obedience to ritual observance of the Sabbath, when it conflicts with common humanity in healing woman blind for eighteen years. Then, Miller asks whether it would really have cost so much to wait one more day after all those years, to avoid working on the holy day, or whether the blind woman was bait in a philosophical trap for the Pharisees. Then, in ch.6, Miller see-saws again on religious formalism, showing how it can both be mindless involvement for the nominally observant with their thoughts elsewhere, and also a neatly paved and familiar path to guide the truly devout. He addresses similar splits between what we in fact feel vs. what we wish to be thought to feel, using examples from the business world, Jane Austen, exposure to "culture," and many other familiar experiences.
Too often, though, I found that his discussion missed critical points. For example, he addresses sublime experiences in the natural or man-made world - and the need to be seen experiencing the sublime. Part of his example, though, falls short of a general experience. Yes, some people fret over the esthetics and mechanics of acquiring the perfect photographic record of the moment. At least as many people, I suspect, want something just good enough to jog their memory of the experience, and some few take positive pleasure in merging the camera and context into a creative expression. In many places, he succumbs to a fallacy that weakens many other philosophers' work as well. Although he quotes F. Scott Fitzgerald's statement that "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function," Miller rarely acknowledges that people in fact do it. Someone can be truly devout and still visibly attentive to rituals that have nothing to do with his devotion. A parent can be sincere in disciplining a child, at the same time that she synthesizes a metered level of severity that could be greater or less than she actually feels. A lover can care passionately about the beloved's happiness, but still throw in a few gestures of visible caring to shore up the less visible but more profund ones. Miller's black and white extremes demonstrate the points he wishes to make, but more time spent on the shades of gray would make his discussion more relevant to daily life.
I found only one real error in his presentation, but it's one that I feel must be addressed. Miller addresses Rogaine, implants, Botox, and even Viagra (at least in some of its uses) as medical support for fakery - for being seen in a way that one is natively not. I can go along with that, as long as we're dealing in broad and imprecise generalities. His error lies in lumping antidepressant users in the category making of "life easier, if not as interesting, if they use chemical aids to help them mellow out." Miller must know that clinical depression can be a crippling, even fatal disease, but trivializes "depressed people [as] down in the dumps pessimists, people given to ready annoyance...," and antidepressants as a niceness issue. Would he also characterize antibiotics as tools for faking others into thinking your immune system was stronger than it is, or an epileptic's seizure medication as some kind of social supplement? Prof. Miller: suicidal depression is not "interesting"; being too ill to keep a roof over your head is not a mere "annoyance."
That blunder undermined much of the good elsewhere in the book, at least for me. He mentions the convenience of "faking" one's dozens of roles in daily life, making it possible to go to the store, doctor, and post office without having to reinvent each transaction de novo each time, but I think he under-values these kinds of faking it. He oversimplifies the conscious dualities of life, and never examines the point at which balance shades into Orwellian double-think. Miller's discussion is wide-ranging and well-researched, as far as it goes. Perhaps his next effort will take it as far as it needs to go.