In a brilliantly controversial polemic, Johnson (Law/Univ. of Calif., Berkeley) fires an intellectual broadside against what he sees as the marginalization of theism in public life and explores its implications for society and religion. According to Johnson, the established philosophy of the US is now what he calls ``Naturalism,'' a highly reductionist view that the world exhibits no intelligent design and that, except in the minds of believers, God does not really exist. Johnson holds that this establishment is essentially religious, in the sense that its metaphysical mindset not only permeates the world of science but also guides society in its ultimate values and decisions. He highlights the irony that this view is actually less tolerant than its predecessor since, in a new form of excommunication (intellectual marginalization), theistic dissenters are a priori considered irrational and extremist. As for the legal system, he claims, the shift away from objective natural law toward legal rights and interests has led to muddled and purely pragmatic judgments. For example, although abortion is legal, a mugger who caused a miscarriage was found guilty of murder in a 1994 California Supreme Court decision. Johnson argues that such decisions are not based on principle (such as the state's interest in protecting life) but, in this case, simply on the personal ``interest'' of the mother; since she did not choose to exercise her right of privacy by having an abortion, the fetus's killing was considered murder. Johnson's analysis is based on an in-depth study of the work of Stephen Hawking, Francis Crick, Stephen Jay Gould, and Richard Rorty, among others. He describes his own position as ``theistic realism,'' concluding with a call for all parties to engage fearlessly in rational dialogue and for American Christians to abandon their tendency to separate faith from reason. Well argued and astute, this critical work makes an exciting contribution to contemporary scientific and cultural debate.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-8308-1610-0

Page Count: 238

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1995

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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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