What Are Books For?

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Question: I am thinking of a famous written work. It's hard to read, and people mention it all the time -- usually when they are trying to make a "big picture" moral or political point. Many of these people have not actually read that book, much less understand it, but that doesn't stop them.

Answer: If you were thinking the Bible, you were wrong, but on the right track. I didn't say the book was long.


Image by Sixteen Miles Out, via Unsplash, license.
Kidding aside, I was thinking of the climate change report the UN puts out every few years, and on which global warming climate change climate crisis [whatever they're currently calling it] hysteria is loosely based.

I'm not going to discuss the minutiae of that report or try to debunk climate catastrophism here, but I will note the similarity between how climate catastrophists and many Christians think about books.

I do not recall which fellow traveller said this, but I recall words to this effect: One of the worst things about religion is that it makes pretending not to pretend respectable.

This covers lots of territory, but it is interesting to consider how it pertains to how one regards important books that might touch on morality: Does one read them for information and understanding -- be it by integration (of what is true) with -- and differentiation (of error) from -- the rest of one's knowledge?

Or does one approach such a book as at once unchangeable and malleable? Is it what one (especially another that one wants to shame into behaving a certain way) Does. Not. Challenge.? And does it at the same time also conveniently "support" an assertion that one is virtuous because (a) one professes to believe it, or (b) one superficially conforms to what it says, or (c) one believes it somehow proves that everyone (especially others) should behave a certain way?

Does one regard a passage as wisdom because it fits or beautifully encapsulates a coherent argument -- or does one cherry-pick what makes one feel good or might cause others to behave a certain way?

What the hell is the purpose of such a book, anyway? This is closely related to Ayn Rand's profound and fertile question, "Why does man need a code of values?"

Considered that way, very different essential approaches to books of moral import by egoists and altruists would make perfect sense. An egoist reads because he wants to benefit from knowledge; an altruist reads only as much as will make him feel a brief respite from guilt or find a new club with which to put someone else on the spot -- but no more, unless he is particularly power-hungry or wants prestige.

Regardless of the truth status of anything in the climate report, one can expect adherents to the climate change movement -- which is a religious crusade trying to disguise itself as scientific -- to treat it like the most despicable and sanctimonious sort of Christian treats the Bible.

One need only consider the enormous number of self-congratulatory bigwigs who jet around the world to meet each other in person to plan how to trap the unwashed masses in energy poverty.

Alternatively, notice how few seem to care when people who do read such reports mention that they do not predict doom and gloom for humanity. An egoist would be relieved. An altruist would hope nobody calls his bluff.

-- CAV

No comments: