In this series of blog posts, entitled “Blogging American Unreason”, I will be taking a relatively in-depth look at “The Age of American Unreason” by Susan Jacoby, published in 2008 by Pantheon Books, New York.
It is important to understand that you will be exposed not only to the ideas and opinions expressed by Jacoby in her book, but also to my own ideas and opinions and in particular my reactions to those of Jacoby.
However, it is also important to understand that I too describe myself as secularist and rationalist, so don’t be surprised to find out that I’m probably already biased toward her way of looking at things.
However bis, it is also important to understand that I have no relationship whatsoever with Jacoby or Pantheon books. I’ve decided to share my thoughts here only because I think it will be interesting for me and you. So, don’t surprised either if I criticize things that I find questionable, insufficient, wrong, etc.
Although this exercise will result in a good amount of information on the contents of Jacoby’s book, it is no substitute for reading the book itself. It should be easy to find in your local bookstore or you can purchase it on the web. I bought my copy from Amazon.com
You’re encouraged to leave your thoughts as I go along, especially if you too are reading or have read the book.
Since we’re in the prelude, and a prelude is a lot like an introduction…
Jacoby’s introduction in two sentences:
While paying tribute to Richard Hofstadter’s “Anti-Intellectualism in American Life” (1963), Jacoby’s introduction to her book takes a non-linear look at America’s history concerning rationalism and anti-rationalism, from the countries founding during the 18th century age of Enlightenment to today, noting in particular the ebb and flow of its relationship with intellectuals. She concludes with the observation that the current intellectual crisis is different from this history of acceptance and refusal of intellectualism and rationalism in that, in addition to a severe failure in scientific and critical learning, there is today a lack of interest—not only in the general public but also among intellectuals themselves—in searching out and considering views that are not their own (touché) and that furthermore this state of intellectual and cultural apathy is encouraged by certain politicians and economic forces that thrive on a passive population.