A vehement philosophical manifesto that uses metaphysical theory to justify right-wing policy proposals.
O’Reilly (Authority, Creativity and the Third Imperium: Why God’s Knowledge of Himself, Outside Himself Is Important, 2015, etc.), a travel-book editor and ex-seminarian with a degree in existential phenomenology and psychology, brings together Aristotelian philosophy, unorthodox theology, and even quantum mechanics and string theory to craft an intellectual and moral basis for American politics and policy. The core of the book is an extremely difficult, often incomprehensible analysis of the nature of God, time, and the human soul, full of endless rehashes of mystical conundrums: “How can we understand the mechanism whereby the Eternal can enter or manipulate time without any change occurring in the eternal’s nature?” The book eventually offers a more coherent approach to mundane morality, arguing cogently that people should develop clear ethical systems built on rational principles of right action rather than just doing whatever feels good—as, he contends, our modern culture teaches. The specifics of this moral reclamation project center on familiar preoccupations of the religious right; for example, O’Reilly denounces homosexuality as a “moral disability” and asserts that “excessive or unrepentant masturbation” is a gateway to gayness. He compares doctors who perform late-term abortions to “demons,” adding that “the only thing you can do with a demon is lock it up or shoot it”; he also calls for more executions to deter crime and reduce prison expenditures. The loose-limbed text ranges haphazardly across the millennia, examining thinkers from Plato to St. Thomas Aquinas, John Adams, Sigmund Freud, and rapper/actor Ice-T. His general encouragement of a thoughtful, morally serious approach to life is edifying, and his commentary is sometimes incisive. Unfortunately, the book’s fixation on murky philosophical and theological abstractions often makes the prose nearly impossible to follow: “Imagine infinite energy, force and consciousness knowing itself as other than itself….It has to know itself within limits; in order to do that it self-creates time and space but the force with which it creates limits is infinite in relation to its own nature.” Even worse, for all of this book’s cosmic dilations on first principles, the moral vision that it derives from them seems petty and crabbed.
A sometimes-insightful, sometimes–mean-spirited and abstruse meditation on ethics.