January 1, 2017

Books of 2016

Filed under: Annual Book Log,Life — camcintosh @ 1:19 pm

Behold, the list of mostly non-work related books I (slowly) traversed in 2016:


  1. Allison Hoover Bartlett, The Man Who Loved Books Too Much (Riverhead Books, 2010).
  2. Arthur Brooks, The Conservative Heart (Broadside Books, 2015).
  3. Will and Ariel Durant, The Lessons of History (Simon and Schuster, 2010).
  4. Jonathan Edwards, The Nature of True Virtue (University of Michigan Press, 1960).
  5. Andrew Klavan, The Great Good Thing: A Secular Jew Comes to Faith in Christ (Thomas Nelson, 2016).
  6. John Lott, The War on Guns (Regnery, 2016).
  7. Michael Lynch, True to Life: Why Truth Matters (MT, 2005).
  8. Mike Martin, Self-Deception and Morality (Kansas, 1986).
  9. Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death (Penguin Books, 1985).
  10. Graham Priest, One: Being an Investigation into the Unity of Reality and of its Parts, including the Singular Object which is Nothingness (Oxford, 2014). Reviewed HERE.
  11. Nicholas Rescher, Philosophical Standardism: An Empirical Approach to Philosophical Methodology (Pittsburgh, 2000).
  12. Jeff Shaara, Civil War Battlefields (Ballantine, 2006).
  13. Thomas Sowell, Intellectuals and Race (Basic Books, 2013).
  14. Thomas Sowell, Wealth, Poverty, and Politics: An International Perspective (Basic Books, 2015).
  15. Benjamin Wiker, Ten Books that Screwed Up the World (Regnery, 2008).
  16. Benjamin Wiker, Ten Books Every Conservative Must Read (Regnery, 2010).


  1. Ransom Riggs, Tales of the Peculiar
  2. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Although overall better than 2015’s showing, the uptick in politics probably offsets any gains in philosophy. Maybe that is a reflection of the intensity of the election year. I hope to resume more regular and rewarding reading habits in 2017, a year which will, God willing, see the completion of the ol’ dissertation and moving back to the Southeastern heartland.

I’ve been pretty bad at keeping my book resolutions of previous years. At the close of 2013 I resolved to read more books in 2014 than I did in 2013. Failed. At the close of 2014, I resolved to temper the bibliophilia driving me to acquire books much faster than I can read or even shelve them. Failed. At the close of 2015 I resolved to keep the flame of love for lady philosophy from burning out. I suppose that resolution was met, but cold winds are still blowing. So no resolution this year. Resolutions are for losers, anyway (of which I am proof).



  1. How was The Lessons of History and True to Life?

    Comment by olorinistari — January 5, 2017 @ 10:31 am | Reply

  2. Lynch’s True to Life was great; it was an ideal book to use for my class on truth, lies, and deception (in fact, it is an ideal book for college students in general to read). It has some pretty typical comments about politics here and there, but otherwise worth the read. I want to read his more recent book In Praise of Reason soon.

    The Durantses’ Lessons of History was also good. I think they draw the wrong lessons here and there, but they draw a lot of correct ones. Here are some memorable quotes and takeaway insights I jotted down:

    “Inequality is not only natural and inborn, it grows with the complexity of civilization. Hereditary inequalities breed social and artificial inequalities; every invention or discovery is made or seized by the exceptional individual, and makes the strong stronger, the weak relatively weaker, than before. Economic development specializes functions, differentiates abilities, and makes men unequally valuable to their group. If we knew our fellow men thoroughly we could select thirty per cent of them whose combined ability would equal that of all the rest. Life and history do precisely that, with a sublime injustice reminiscent of Calvin’s God.” (20)

    “Nature smiles at the union of freedom and equality in our utopias. For freedom and equality are sworn and everlasting enemies, and when one prevails the other dies. Leave men free, and their natural inequalities will multiply almost geometrically, as in England and America in the nineteenth century under laissez-faire. To check the growth of inequality, liberty must be sacrificed, as in Russia after 1917. Even when repressed, inequality grows; only the man who is below the average in economic ability desires equality; those who are conscious of superior ability desire freedom; and in the end superior ability has its way. Utopias of equality are biologically doomed, and the best that the amiable philosopher can hope for is an approximate equality of legal justice and educational opportunity.” (20)

    Philosophy is getting a larger perspective. Marxism offers such a small picture of the nature of man that it is terrible philosophy.

    Morals and history. A little knowledge of history suggests relativism. A lot of knowledge of history recommends the opposite.

    “No individual mind, however brilliant, can ever safely sit in judgment of the traditions of mankind because the traditions are the result of the trial and error of thinking of hundreds of generations. So that every book of philosophy is an audacious, wild enterprise and uncalculated risk. It’s like a drop of water suddenly standing up on the crest of a wave and announcing that it is going to analyze the sea.”

    “To the unhappy, the suffering, the bereaved, the old, it has brought supernatural comforts valued by millions of souls as more precious than any natural aid. It has helped parents and teachers to discipline the young. It has conferred meaning and dignity upon the lowliest existence, and through its sacraments has made for stability by transforming human covenants into solemn relationships with God. It has kept the poor (said Napoleon) from murdering the rich. For since the natural inequality of men dooms many of us to poverty or defeat, some supernatural hope may be the sole alternative to despair. Destroy that hope, and class war is intensified. Heaven and utopia are buckets in a well: when one goes down the other goes up; when religion declines Communism grows.” (43)

    “I do not know what the heart of a rascal may be. I know what is in the heart of an honorable man, it is horrible.”

    Religion and puritanism dominate when the laws of the land are feeble because they must shoulder the burden of maintaining social order when the state cannot. So when the state grows, religion and morality declines.

    The men who can manage men manage the men who can only manage things, but the men who can manage money can manage all.

    CM: Durant convincingly argues that concentration of wealth resulting in great economic disparities is inevitable. This leads to a push for redistribution. As the economic disparity increases so too does social unrest. Redistribution occurs either by violent revolution or peaceful laws. This might be descriptively accurate, though evaluatively neutral. Durant does not say whether he thinks redistribution is morally permissible or problematic. For my part, I think redistribution is immoral. But it may be a necessary evil for the maintenance of social stability. Rather like placating the deadbeat child who threatens to burn the house he was raised in to the ground unless you give him a share of your hard-earned money. And I do not think the economic disparities in America are (yet) great enough to require three distribution. What we have is an inflated sense of entitlement, and a failure to understand the distinction between wealth and income.

    “Since men love freedom, and the freedom of individuals in society requires some regulation of conduct, The first condition of freedom is it’s limitation. Make it absolute, and it dies in chaos.” (68)

    “Is democracy responsible for the current debasement of art? The debasement, of course, is not unquestioned; it is a matter of subjective judgment; and those of us who shudder at its excesses – its meaningless blotches of color, its collages of debris [pop art?], its Babels of cacophony [rock music?] – are doubtless imprisoned in our past and dull to the courage of experiment. The producers of such nonsense are appealing not to the general public – which scorns them as lunatics, degenerates, or charlatans – but to gullible middle-class purchasers who are hypnotized by auctioneers and are thrilled by the new, however deformed.” (78)

    On defining what we mean by progress. “if it means an increase in happiness, it’s case is lost almost at first sight. Our capacity for fretting is endless, and no matter how many difficulties we surmount or how many ideals we realize, we shall always find an excuse for being magnificently miserable. There is a stealthy pleasure in rejecting mankind or the universe as unworthy of our approval.” (97)

    “If the Founding Fathers of the United States could return to America, or Fox and Bentham to England, or Voltaire and Diderot to France, would they not reproach us as ingrates for our blindness to our good fortune in living today and not yesterday …” (100)

    “None but a child will complain that our teachers have not yet eradicated the errors and superstitions of ten-thousand years. The great experiment has just begun, and it may yet be defeated by the high birth-rate of unwilling or indoctrinated ignorance. … Consider education not as the painful accumulation of facts and dates and reigns, not merely the necessary preparation of the individual to earn his keep in the world, but as the transmission of our mental, moral, technical, and aesthetic heritage as fully as possible to as many as possible, for the enlargement of man’s understanding, control, embellishment, and enjoyment of life.” (101)

    “To those of us who study history not merely as a warning reminder of man’s follies and crimes but also as a remembrance of generative souls, the past ceases to be a depressing chamber of horrors; it becomes a celestial city, a spacious country of the mind, wherein a thousand saints, statesmen, inventors, scientists, poets, artists, musicians, philosophers, and lovers still live and speak, teach and carve and sing.” (102)

    A wise man can learn from another man’s experiences. A fool cannot learn even from his own.

    “So we must relinquish the childish dream of unfettered freedom…”

    Comment by camcintosh — January 11, 2017 @ 4:19 pm | Reply

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