Notes on some recently read books

The school year has begun, so of course this blog has gone dormant. Sorry!

I do want to mention/recommend a few books I read as summer break was ending:

Michael J. Sandel, The Tyranny of Merit: What’s Become of the Common Good?
(Amazon; Bookshop)

I’m sure there are a million reviews of this book available already, so all I’m going to say is this: as a high school teacher who has a front row seat to the Hunger Games that is college admissions, I wish each of my students and their families would read this book. Sandel exposes the flaws of the meritocratic worldview: not only that it’s not real (the hardest workers don’t receive the best rewards) but also that it harms even the “winners”.

Jason Ananda Josephson Storm, Metamodernism: The Future of Theory (Amazon; Bookshop)

Storm is brave. He attempts to do something constructive in an era that is dominated by deconstruction. The main focus of the book is this (to oversimplify): how does the humanities move past postmodernism without denying postmodernity’s critiques and returning to modernistic thinking. This book could be a game changer when it comes to epistemology and it offers a new constructive approach to several topics that are desperately needed in the humanities since we’ve poisoned ourselves for a generation by telling everyone why our fields of study are flawed and not really real. For example, modernity sought a concrete definition of religion. Postmodernity helped us realize this is quixotic and that there’s no “form” of religion (to draw Plato and then Wittgenstein into the discussion). But something important still needs to be said about things like “religion,” even if it lacks concreteness. Storm offers a way forward.

Christine M. Korsgaard, Fellow Creatures: Our Obligations to Other Animals (Amazon; Bookshop)

On Ash Sunday 2020, I became a vegetarian. I’ve been looking for a philosopher to give me words to help me think about this change because it’s not dietary as much as ethical as relates to how we treat animals and the environmental impact of animal consumption. Korsgaard’s attempt to ground animal ethics in a Kantian framework has a lot to offer. Her writing has begun to reshape my understanding of “the good,” how humans relate to other animals in our differences and similarities to other creatures; and why we humans shouldn’t think of ourselves as superior to other creatures. Yet, Korsgaard notes that what makes us different also makes us responsible and while she concludes things like vegetarianism is ethically ideal and that factory farming is deeply immoral, so also draws the readers into ongoing conversations about topics like breeding animals away from being predatory; whether we should have pets; whether we should leave all animals to be wild, among other topics. It’s the type of book I plan on reading again in the future.


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