"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Thursday, June 16, 2005

That Famous/Infamous Human Events Book List

Human Events came up with a ten most harmful books list and then held a bonfire.

Okay, no bonfire, although you might think they had from some of the comments about the list.

What has raised the ire of many critics is the decision of the Human Events contributors to include books like Kinsey's work on sexuality and Betty Friedan's feministic manifesto on the list with more obvious choices like Mein Kampf, Quotations from Chairman Mao, and The Communist Manifesto.

I'm not sure the Human Events crowd was as devastatingly wrong as many believe. What the list really demonstrates is that after you name the worst books, there's a steep drop-off to the next group. Thus, the raised eyebrows at names like Kinsey and Friedan, who didn't contribute to superstates annihilating millions of people.

What interests me is Ralph Reiland at American Spectator being critical of Human Events for including work by Nietzsche and Comte.

According to Reiland, Nietzsche simply told us "the world isn't run by moral rules." I think we could take issue with that. He was somewhat enthusiastic about "the blonde beast" enforcing his will to power on the world and provided important grist for the later National Socialist project in Germany.

Reiland acts similarly puzzled about Comte, who "said man could figure things out better through science than theology." That's not exactly all Comte had to say. He was so enthusiastic about science he envisioned a religion based on science with temples, priests, etc. He also was a leading proponent of the secularization thesis which saw traditional religion crumbling before increasing enlightenment, which was pretty much a shibboleth of those scary superstates we mentioned before.

If Human Events was too harsh in its assessment of some of these books, Ralph Reiland is a bit too charitable.

4 comments:

James Elliott said...

Based on the criteria of "causing the mass deaths of millions," you'd think they would have thrown in the Old and New Testaments. For consistency's sake.

James Elliott said...

Ignore the above. Completely missed the 19th and 20th centuries bit in my attempt to be snarky.

Tlaloc said...

I found the list to be pathetic because of how far they had to twist their interpretations of the books, not to mention things like getting a title wrong. It was an exercize in pure "we hate these philosophies so lets insult the works they hold in high regard" rather than any knod of cogent analysis of actual defects of those philosophies.

James Elliott said...

Yes, I noticed that too. Their whole condemnation of Betty Freidan rested not on her status as a feminist but her past as a Communist.

On those grounds, they ought to burn Irving Kristol at the stake.

And I'm still trying to figure out how they justify placing "On Liberty" and "Democracy and Education" either on the list or as honorable mentions without impugning the authors instead of the work itseelf.