Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Suicide Of Reason--A Book Of Note

Harris, Lee
The Suicide of Reason--Radical Islam's Threat To The Enlightenment
Basic Books (Perseus Book Group); New York, 2007.

Although I have provided below a book jacket review of this book I must note that is is NOT an "easy read"! In fact, it is hard to determine the basic foundation of this work as being from: History; Or, philosophy; Or, political philosophy or political science science; Or, anthropology; Or, sociology; Or, psychology; Or, social psychology; Or, something else---Perhaps an unusually integrated work using all of those, and perhaps more, disciplines.

If fault is to be found in this book it is in the following areas:
1. Mr. Harris appears to lean too much on French thinking, especially that of Condorcet (Unless, of course, that writer's theories provide Mr. Harris with the basic matrix for his own);
2. Mr. Harris took too many pages and words to get at the matter of Islam, where the earlier chapters should have referred to that ideology while discussing the developing theories;
3. It might have been best to have included a section on modern Turkey, which shifted towards a secular state, but may be reverting to an Islamic one; And,
4. Although an index is provided, there are few citations to allow the reader to cross-reference Mr. Harris' assertions and quotes.

HOWEVER, this book is well worth the reading by any practitioner of any of the disciplines noted above or any policy maker in government!

Far below is found some of my questions for the Mr. Harris, which I hope he will be kind enough to provide answers.

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"The Suicide of Reason shows how modern liberal societies, whose political theories are born of the Enlightenment, are unfamiliar with the nature of mass fanaticism. The West, so accustomed to thinking of history as an inevitable progress toward enlightenment, can only think of fanaticism as a social pathology, a failure to modernize, rather than as what it is: a variety of social order that is not only fully viable in the modern world but that possesses weapons to which the West is uniquely vulnerable. A governing philosophy based on reason, tolerance, consensus and deliberation cannot defend itself against a strategy of ruthless violence without being radically transformed - or worse, destroyed." "Extraordinarily original and thought-provoking, The Suicide of Reason explains the logic of fanatical movements from the Crusades through Nazism to radical Islam; describes how the Enlightenment overcame fanatical thinking in the West; shows why most Western attempts to address the problem are doomed to fail; and offers strategies by which liberal internationalism can defend itself without becoming a mirror of the tribal forces it is trying to defeat."--BOOK JACKET.


1. Have you read Mr. Eric Hoffer's The True Believer: Thoughts On The Nature Of Mass Movements? If yes, what are your thoughts about that work, especially as to yours? (If not, you really should read it!)
2. In your introduction you assert that the "... rational actor can build a home for himself, confident that he will not be driven from it by a marauding band of thugs. He knows that to defend his house he need not know how to fight off brutal killers---he need only call the police, and they will defend his home for him". Are you aware of the usual response time of police, especially in rural or ghetto areas, in comparison with the much, much, shorter time it takes home invaders to enter a home and kill, rape and rob? Should you reconsider your statement in this matter? [As a rational man, in such an invasion, I would calmly and coolly, improving accuracy by that attitude, shoot to death any such thugs knowing my liability for "wrongful death" is less than that for wounding.]
3. What is the meaning of or impact upon the "rational man", as you define him, of the term-and-concept "the common good"?
4. At Page-30 you note that "The fanaticism of the Jesuit Order was responsible for winning back Poland for the Roman Catholic Church, ...". As an avocational historian, of Polish decent, I would deeply appreciate being placed in receipt of the citation(s) basic to that statement so I might improve my knowledge of my father's homeland.
5. At Page-206 you limit the defeat of Islam to Spain (Iberia), Sicily and "certain parts of the Balkans"; Without noting the liberation of Greece and the success the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth had in repulsing Tartar-Turkish-Islamic intrusions on its Eastern borders (Before enabling the crushing of the Turks at the walls of Vienna). Why?
6. There may be another means by which the rational man can destroy Islamic fanaticism, which means is parallel to that of the reasoned defense of a household described above, TO WIT: Make the conversion of Mecca, Medina, Qmm and other select places into slightly radioactive, glass-bottomed, craters in a most cool and calculated manner as a preannounced reaction to any Islamic use of WMDs against the West. What say you?

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