A new collection of essays from Grayling (Philosophy/New Coll. of the Humanities, London; The God Argument: The Case Against Religion and for Humanism, 2014, etc.), whose distinguished record of accomplishments in the humanities and public service is recognized internationally.
The author organizes this thought-provoking collection of essays—most of them a concise three to four pages—into two sections. The first, “Destructions and Deconstructions,” deals with the problems of the contemporary world, including guns, religion, education, climate change, human rights issues, and global financial crisis. The second, “Constructions and Creations,” which is more philosophically programmatic in its orientation, takes up such themes as the public intellectual, the relationship between science and democracy (“the growth of science and the growth of liberal democracy were not merely contemporaneous, but causally connected”), and “Making the World a Better Place.” Grayling will no doubt offend conservative American readers with “The Prophetess,” a discussion of the “tough and tyrannical” Ayn Rand. “The microcosm of the Randian cult,” he writes, “was a reprise of every historical example of actual or would-be revolutions that have devoured their own.” Grayling will also provoke religious fundamentalists with “The Advantages of Atheist Political Leaders,” in which he writes, “atheist leaders are not going to think they are getting messages from Beyond telling them to go to war. They will not cloak themselves in supernaturalistic justifications, as Prime Minister Tony Blair and President George W. Bush came perilously close to doing when later talking about the decision to invade Iraq in 2002.” However, he’ll likely find plenty of support for his examinations of Chinese and Russian irredentism. Grayling takes a philosophical and ethical approach to human action, which can be at odds with the importance Americans accord to ideological beliefs. Nonetheless, the contrasts he draws between religious and scientific worldviews and practices, as well as his discussions of the role of the public intellectual, are undoubtedly stimulating.
A spirited collection of provocative pathways.