Lynch offers an insightful, timely message that may be too intellectually articulated to appeal to those it could best serve.



A philosophy professor tackles our society’s increasingly arrogant embrace of convictions that are often misguided and not reasonably supported.

In this relevant new book, Lynch (Director, Humanities Institute/Univ. of Connecticut: The Internet of Us: Knowing More and Understanding Less in the Age of Big Data, 2016, etc.) expands on the issue he addressed previously: how our reasoning skills are being undermined by the vast yet unprocessed amount of information found on the internet. He shows how the internet and social media are damaging our ability to process facts, particularly in relation to politics, instilling rigid views that often quickly escalate into an unwavering rejection of those who may have alternate views. Ultimately, we come to believe we can no longer learn from one another. As an example of how social media can stir up outrage—rather than reasonable thinking—Lynch considers Facebook’s response emoticons to news events or claims of fact and suggests a more useful commenting structure: “justified by the evidence,” “not justified by the evidence,” and “need more information.” The author readily supports his argument by referencing philosophical ideas culled from the works of Montaigne, Bertrand Russell, Hannah Arendt, and Socrates. Lynch ultimately remains objective in assessing arguments on both sides of the political landscape, asserting that the right and left can each learn from the other. His bottom-line resolution is to accept with humility what we do know. “To strive after truth and humility means that we must always be ready to consider new evidence and new experiences, and that we cannot rest content in our convictions,” he writes. “Part of being intellectually humble is treating truth, not just agreement, as a goal of inquiry.” Though the author’s argument is cogent, his academic approach, while not overly opaque, may miss a wider audience of readers—on all areas of the political spectrum—who could most benefit from his message.

Lynch offers an insightful, timely message that may be too intellectually articulated to appeal to those it could best serve.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63149-361-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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