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In Praise of Prejudice: The Necessity of Preconceived Ideas Hardcover – August 10, 2007
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book appears in the Encounter Books “Brief Encounters” series—29 small chapters (ca. 4 pp. each), a hit and run reflection on an important subject, done in an attractive,... Read morePublished 7 months ago by Richard B. Schwartz
Theodore Dalrymple is a brilliant scholar and I find his perspectives fascinating and informative.Published 9 months ago by Ty
I can't recommend this book enough. It squarely pinpoints what has gone wrong in our culture. In the name of liberation from oppressive social and religious systems long in... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Randy Travis
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 morePublished on March 7, 2014 by Stephen L. Clark
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 morePublished on July 19, 2012 by Paul Mastin
I have to say that Theodore Dalrymple and David Stove have become my two favorite authors in recent years. Read morePublished on November 8, 2011 by Geoff Puterbaugh