An ambitious attempt to reorganize Western society and place it on firmer philosophical foundations.
Debut author Dierolf’s aims are essentially boundless: to articulate the laws of nature that allow humankind to flourish and provide a full philosophical account of them. The new society that the author describes is based on the satisfaction of five basic human rights: the first two are a sufficiently stable existence, provided by loving parents, and the ability to speak, read, and write a language; the third and fourth draw on humans’ natural gregariousness and individuality, asserting, respectively, the right to membership in a larger group or organization (such as “Nations, cities, provinces, [or] churches”) and the right to cultivate an autonomous sense of self. The fifth right is the ability to join (or create) at least one group of friends. The path that Dierolf rhetorically travels to explain these rights, and to detail the kind of community that would spring from their faithful observance, is a winding one—so full of detours that it will be easy for readers to forget what his final destination is, if there ever was one. He covers a dizzying assemblage of ostensibly heterogeneous topics, including personhood and consciousness, the Quran, and Facebook. The book opens with a summary of sorts, largely comprised of a catalog of dozens of philosophical questions that the author purports to decisively solve. The book’s intention is to thoroughly rethink the basis of Western civilization, including its religious heritage, in a way that not only promises to revitalize Europe, but also potentially cause an Islamic reformation.
However, the thematic center of the study—the five basic rights—are treated almost tangentially: confidently announced but not rigorously established. Indeed, the author appears to forget them in his effort to clarify the whole of the cosmos. Although he informs readers at the outset that his prose is “quite readable and accessible,” he also claims that the “versatility and precision of the prevalent English language are too limited for the author” and then provides a set of complicated “instructions for reading.” He invents a technical vocabulary of his own, and, problematically, he repeatedly uses terms—such as “potenscience,” “meaning literally in English ‘potential (of) knowledge’ ”—that are often confusingly obscure. Often, the definitions that Dierolf supplies only muddy the waters due to relentlessly turbid prose: “ ‘Experience’ indicates a reduction of information into conflict, which is then (to be) enriched with meaning to, at best, facilitate a (hopefully authentic, more conscious) understanding. A ‘lasting’ experience that is remembered, is an experience of ‘importance.’ ” Dierolf’s ambitions in this book are seemingly limitless, and it’s impossible not to be impressed by his longing for a deep and systematic understanding of the human condition. He displays a will for theoretical comprehensiveness that has long gone out of fashion, and his embrace of a kaleidoscopically multidisciplinary approach is refreshing. Unfortunately, the book’s overall lack of rhetorical clarity doesn’t live up to its mammoth aspirations.
An untidy assemblage of underworked thoughts.