Thursday, January 19, 2012

Reflections: Ideas Have Consequences

Adam C. Zern shares his thoughts on Richard M. Weaver's Ideas Have Consequences:

"I find books in several different ways.  One way I like to find books is by reading what others have referenced.  I have bought and read several books because they were referenced in a speech or talk.  I have bought and read others because they were referenced in another book, and I checked the sources.  Richard M. Weaver's book was referenced twice, multiple times in each case, in two books that I enjoyed: Thomas Sowell's A Conflict of Visions and George Roche's A World Without Heroes.  I loved what seemed to be the thrust of Weaver's book, and I decided to give it a try.

To begin with, the theme of Ideas Have Consequences is absolutely what I was looking for in a book.  I love books that deal with big ideas and the big consequences those ideas can have in society.  I was really looking forward to reading Weaver's book, but unfortunately I can't recommend it with much confidence.  The book is esoteric, in every sense of the word.  Sometimes I found the book simply incoherent.  That's not to say that the book is actually incoherently written; rather, I just couldn't keep up with what the author was saying.  He seems to assume a great deal of what the reader should already know, including aspects of art history, and if you aren't familiar with those nuances then you'll be left behind.  The author didn't seem to care much.

Having said that, the book isn't all bad.  There are moments of genuine brilliance and keen insight.  Some of his viewpoints would be seen as downright archaic today, but his reasoning is fascinating and at times challenging.  I definitely didn't agree with everything he had to say - his thoughts on industrialization seemed to be somewhat myopic - but he did have some good things to say.

I wanted to love this book, but I just couldn't.  I couldn't love it because I couldn't understand much of it.  I would skip this book.  There are other books that deal with big ideas and their big consequences that are intellectual and profound but are actually readable."

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