Nathaniel Branden Reviews...
Posted 10 January 2006 - 03:30 PM
Compiled and edited by Roger E. Bissell
Folks, I think that this is a book "whose time has come." Like others, I have been profoundly influenced by the book reviews in The Objectivist Newsletter, The Objectivist, Academic Associates' Book News, Books for Libertarian, Libertarian Review, Reason, etc. I especially appreciate the works of Arthur Koestler, Mortimer Adler, and Henry B. Veatch having been brought to my attention. I can't imagine my outlook being the same without their ideas having been folded into my general Objectivist framework. In addition to the reviews themselves, I envision this book as having a foreward by myself, as well as a capstone essay by Nathaniel on the reviews, including second thoughts, additional comments, and perhaps some broader remarks about book reading for pleasure, education, and research. I'm sure Nathaniel has written more book reviews than these, but I have not perused any of the back issues of Reason, Libertarian Review, etc. to locate them. I'd appreciate help in rounding up additional reviews. When I see Nathaniel later this month, I'm going to present this idea to him, along with the idea for the "lexicon" and the "quotes" books. I'll let you know his reaction to the idea -- or he is welcome to chime in here on the list, of course!...REB
Table of Contents
“An analysis of the novels of Ayn Rand” (in Who is Ayn Rand? 1962) [Most of this material would probably not be included in the compilation.]Part I: "The Moral Revolution in Atlas Shrugged" (republished as a monograph by The Objectivist Center)
Part II: "Objectivism and Psychology" [this might be included, unless Nathaniel strenuously objects
Part III: "The Literary Method of Ayn Rand" (republished in The Literary Art of Ayn Rand, edited by Will Thomas, 2005, The Objectivist Center)
Planning for Freedom by Ludwig von Mises (September 1962, Objectivist Newsletter) [text added below on 9/05/06]
Reason and Analysis by Brand Blanshard (February 1963, ON) [text added below on 8/29/06]
Human Action by Ludwig von Mises (September 1963, ON) [text added below on 9/05/06]
“Alienation,” with extended comments on Man for Himself, The Art of Loving, The Sane Society, Escape from Freedom by Erich Fromm (July-September 1965, ON, republished in Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal). [This essay would probably not be included in the compilation.]
The Act of Creation by Arthur Koestler (Summer 1969, Academic Associates' Book News #1) [text added below on 6/12/06]
The World of the Formerly Married by Morton M. Hunt (Fall 1969, AABN #2) [text added below on 10/01/06]
The Action Approach by George Weinberg (Fall 1969, AABN #2) [text added below on 10/01/06]
The Ghost in the Machine by Arthur Koestler (Fall 1969, AABN #2) [text added below on 6/21/06]
Man and Aggression by M. F. Ashley Montagu (Holiday 1969, AABN #3) [text added below on 10/01/06]
The Great Psychologists: from Aristotle to Freud by Robert I. Watson (Holiday 1969, AABN #3) [text added below on 10/01/06]
The Difference of Man and the Difference It Makes by Mortimer J. Adler (Holiday 1969, AABN #3) [text added below on 8/03/06]
Man vs. the Welfare State by Henry Hazlitt (June 1970, AABN #4) [text added below on 10/01/06]
Human Sexual Inadequacy by William H. Masters and Virginia E. Johnson (June 1970, AABN #4)
The Sex Researchers by Edward M. Brecher (June 1970, AABN #4)
The Godfather by Mario Puzo (June 1970, AABN #4)
Omnipotent Government, Bureaucracy, Theory and History by Ludwig von Mises (June 1970, AABN #4) [text added below on 9/05/06]
The Love Fraud by Edith de Rham (October 1970, AABN #5)
Excerpt from foreword to Explorations in Hypnosis by Dave Elman (October 1970, AABN #5) [text added below on 9/12/06]
The Natural History of Love by Morton M. Hunt (October 1970, AABN #5)
Libertarianism by John Hospers (Spring 1971, AABN #6)
How You Can Profit from the Coming Devaluation by Harry Browne, Jr. (Spring 1971, AABN #6)
The Way Things Work: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Technology by Simon and Schuster (Spring 1971, AABN #6)
The University under Siege edited by Jacquelyn Estrada (Spring 1971, AABN #6)
Sex in History by G. Rattray Taylor (Fall 1971, AABN #7)
Four Minutes to Life by Ann Cutler (Fall 1971, AABN #7)
The Complete Guide to Hypnosis by Leslie M. LeCron (Fall 1971, AABN #7) [text added below on 9/12/06]
The New Racism by Lionel Lokos (Fall 1971, AABN #7)
Open Marriage by Nena O’Neill and George O’Neill (1971-72, AABN Mid-Season Bulletin)
The Way Things Work—Volume Two by Simon and Schuster (1971-72, AABN Mid-Season Bulletin)
Sexual Myths and Fallacies by James Leslie McCary (1971-72, AABN Mid-Season Bulletin)
Awareness: Exploring, Experimenting, Experiencing by John Stevens (1971-72, AABN Mid-Season Bulletin)
Teacher and Child: A Book for Parents and Teachers by Haim Ginott (April 1972, AABN #8 )
Envy by Helmut Schoeck (April 1972, AABN #8 )
Parent Effectiveness Training by Thomas Gordon (April 1972, AABN #8 )
Psychosomatics by Howard R. and Martha E. Lewis (1972, AABN Mid-Season Bulletin)
Hypnosis: Is It for You? by Lewis R. Wolberg, M.D. (1972, AABN Mid-Season Bulletin) [text added below on 9/12/06]
On Becoming a Person by Carl R. Rogers (1972, AABN Mid-Season Bulletin)
The Right to Be Different by Nicholas N. Kittrie (Fall 1972, AABN #9)
The Mind of Adolph Hitler by Walter C. Langer (Fall 1972, AABN #9)
Atheism: The Case against God by George H. Smith (February 1973, AABN #10) [text added below on 8/24/06]
Prisoners of Psychiatry by Bruce Ennis (February 1973, AABN #10)
Sex Talk by Myron Brenton (February 1973, AABN #10)
The Creative Experience edited by Stanley Rosner and Lawrence E. Abt (May 1973, AABN #11)
The Female Orgasm by Seymour Fisher (May 1973, AABN #11)
Therapist by Ellen Plasil (Summer, 1987, Free Inquiry)
Posted 10 January 2006 - 06:07 PM
Posted 11 June 2006 - 11:36 PM
So, stay tuned! There is a total of several dozen reviews that could potentially be posted here. The first review will be Nathaniel's review of Arthur Koestler's The Act of Creation, one of my all-time favorite books, to be followed next week by Nathaniel's review of Koestler's The Ghost in the Machine, another fascinating and provocative book.
Happy reading -- and feel free to comment!
Best to all,
Posted 12 June 2006 - 09:16 PM
reviewed by Nathaniel Branden
Arthur Koestler’s The Act of Creation “will at once take its place as a classic contribution to the science of the human mind,” writes Cyril Burt in his Foreword. This reviewer enthusiastically agrees.
This major work is a story of the conscious and unconscious processes involved in scientific and in artistic creation—and one of its fascinating aspects is the numerous parallels shown to exist between these two realms of activity. Perhaps the most stunningly original and provocative theory Koestler proposes is that of the continuity (and parallels) between the biological processes by which life advances from less complex to more complex stages on the one hand—and on the other hand, the integrations within the creative human mind by which new advances in science and art are generated.
Koestler’s approach is in total opposition to the automaton view of man that dominates so much of contemporary psychology. His arguments against conventional learning theory in general and behaviorism in particular, concerning their inadequacy to account for the process of thinking and creation, are particularly devastating.
In pursuing his analysis, Koestler draws on many disciplines: biology, experimental psychology, neurology, philosophy, logic—and his erudition in these fields is profoundly impressive. He is a beautiful stylist and a pleasure to read.
One does not have to agree with all of his views and conclusions—and I do not—in order to find this book of immense value. It is so rich in content, so provocative, so stimulating, that psychologists for many years to come can profitably pursue the leads Koestler has offered. For students of psychology and philosophy, it is mandatory reading.
Partial List of Contents:
The Logic of Laughter—Laughter and Emotion—Varieties of Humour—Thinking Aside—The Evolution of Ideas—Science and Emotion—Verbal Creation—Illusion—Art and Progress—The Pathology of Thought—The Genetics of Behaviour—Imprinting and Imitation—Perception and Memory—Learning to Speak—Learning to Think—Habit and Originality—The Importance of Dreaming—Man and Machine—The Denial of Creativity—On Law and Order—On Truth and Beauty—The Unconscious before Freud—The Mechanization of Habits—Aggression and Identification—Man and Animal—Regeneration and Evolution—The Experience of Free Choice—Degrees of Self-Awareness
[This review first appeared in the Summer 1969 issue (#1) of Academic Associates' Book News and was posted to Objectivist Living with the reviewer's permission on Monday, June 12, 2006. Comments and questions are welcome.]
Posted 13 June 2006 - 07:32 PM
Koestler's Act of Creation has been an important influence on my own views of art and music, as can be seen from perusing my three JARS essays, "Music and Perceptual Cognition," "Art as Microcosm: the Real Meaning of the Objectivist Concept of Art," and "Langer and Camus: Unexpected Post-Kantian Affinities with Rand's Aesthetics." The second-mentioned is posted here on O-L in the Aesthetics folder, but here are links to all three articles as posted on my own website:
I also made extensive use of Koestler in a term paper in graduate school in 1970. Here is a link to that essay:
It's also interesting to compare Koestler's theory of humor with Rand's. I leave this as an exercise for the ambitious reader. :-)
Best to all,
Posted 13 June 2006 - 09:58 PM
As I said on the thread for Barbara, what a wonderful idea. Bravo! These book reviews are small but important pieces of literature that should be available online.
It is funny for me that you started with The Act of Creation. After I received my conversion blast on reading Atlas Shrugged, then everything else by Rand (and then Branden) that I could find, I decided to branch out philosophy-wise and read other authors. The first book I got was The Act of Creation. I loved it back then. I need to purchase another copy now as my old one is long gone. I want to reread it.
(For some reason I just remembered the joke he analyzed. It was cute but not very funny. If I remember correctly, a peasant remarkably resembled a prince, so the snotty prince asked if his mother had worked in the castle. He responded that his mother had not, but his father did. Heh.)
I am particularly gratified to see that Nathaniel has the same view of The Act of Creation that I do. Also you and Marsha. I remember being gratified like this when I read PAR for the first time and saw it mentioned there.
Posted 14 June 2006 - 09:41 PM
Don't let it go to your head!
Posted 21 June 2006 - 08:34 PM
reviewed by Nathaniel Branden
In desiring enthusiastically to recommend The Ghost in the Machine, I encountered a paradox at the outset. I cannot accept the final conclusions to which the book leads. But I was fascinated and enlightened by the route Arthur Koestler takes to reach those conclusions—I was enthralled by the journey, if not by the author's destination—and it is because of the intellectual benefits to be derived from accompanying Koestler on this journey that I urge the thoughtful reading of this book.
The purpose of The Ghost in the Machine is to provide a scientific explanation for the impulse to destruction (including self-destruction) that has haunted man since his beginnings, Koestler's thesis is that, in the process of evolution, nature, in effect, made a "mistake"—that there is an inbuilt inadequacy of neurological integration between the emotional and rational centers of man’s brain, which results in an inherent propensity for irrational, destructive behavior.
To support this thesis, Koestler undertakes a detailed analysis of the nature of mind, thought and learning, as well as the nature of evolution. It is with this analysis that the book is predominantly concerned—and that constitutes its great value.
Part I of the book is chiefly concerned with psychology: with the nature of thought and learning, with a devastating critique of behavioristic accounts of creativity, and with a fascinating discussion of originality in nature and in human thought.
Koestler then turns, in Part II, to an analysis of the nature of biological evolution, to a critique of the Darwinian theory of evolution by chance mutations, and to the proposal of a far more rationally intelligible way of accounting for the evolution of living systems—including a brilliant explanation of the emergence of new species and new biologically adaptive mechanisms. It is this section of the book that I personally found most illuminating, and I think that most readers will share my reaction.
(I might mention that Koestler’s own account of evolution, which is so immensely persuasive, creates difficulties for his conclusion concerning nature’s alleged evolutionary mistake in creating, in man, neurologically dichotomized centers of reason and emotion.)
From Part III on, Koestler discusses the pathological processes whereby man the individual organism is capable of submerging himself psychologically into a larger social or religious or ideological system—losing his individuality, his critical judgment and his proper contact with reality in so doing—and, as a consequence, exhibiting a degree of cruelty, hostility and destructiveness much beyond anything found in the behavior of an individual acting solely on his own behalf (rather than on behalf of the larger “system” or “cause” into which he has been absorbed). Koestler’s description of this process is magnificent—even though there are aspects and details of his account with which I vigorously disagree.
Indeed, at various points along the way, and long before one comes to Koestler’s neurological explanation of “Original Sin,” I found many views I would challenge. This is not a book to be embraced without reservations. But to the thoughtful, critical reader, it offers the most exciting kind of intellectual stimulation. His book is a treasure house of provocative and illuminating concepts and theories.
[This review first appeared in the Fall 1969 issue (#2) of Academic Associates' Book News and was posted to Objectivist Living with the reviewer's permission on Wednesday, June 21, 2006. Comments and questions are welcome.]
Posted 21 June 2006 - 08:46 PM
In case anyone cares about such things, it's a good idea for me to point out that the first two reviews were posted out of sequence, since they are by the same author.
Although it means deviating from slavish replication of every last key stroke in the original published versions of Barbara's and Nathaniel's reviews, I have taken the liberty of correcting spelling and grammatical errors (those rubbed in my face by Microsoft Word's spell checker, anyway!) Also, in the interest of consistency, I have replaced quote marks and boldface with italics, in the few instances italics was not used in the original.
But enough of the dry, technical stuff. I hope you all find these reviews as interesting and savory as I did 35 years ago -- and still do! There are many more reviews to come in the weeks ahead, so stay tuned.
Posted 23 June 2006 - 11:48 AM
Visit My Blog!
"There is no way that writers can be tamed and rendered civilized or even cured. the only solution known to science is to provide the patient with an isolation room, where he can endure the acute stages in private and where food can be poked in to him with a stick." -- Robert A. Heinlein
Posted 26 June 2006 - 11:06 PM
I also located Barbara's movie review in the October 1974 Books for Libertarians that Chris Grieb referred me to, as well as another book review by Barbara in the October 1975 Books for Libertarians. Once I finish inputting all these remaining items, I will email Nathaniel and Barbara their respective files, so that they can nix any items they'd rather not have posted here.
So, stay tuned!
P.S. -- While tracking these items down, I also found a review by Roy A. Childs of Nathaniel's lecture course, Basic Principles of Objectivism, as well as a review by Jeff Riggenbach of Barbara's lecture course, Principles of Efficient Thinking. I would like to post those, too -- not in this folder, of course, but on the respective lecture folders here on Branden Corner. I don't know who is in charge of Roy Childs' estate, now that Joan Kennedy Taylor has passed away, so suggestions on whom to ask for permission to post this review would be appreciated. As for Jeff Riggenbach's review, I will ask him directly.
Posted 27 June 2006 - 12:47 AM
You have my deepest gratitude for this project. When I started devoting my time to this site, this kind of work was precisely what I had in mind. I know many Objectivists are also extremely grateful to be able to access this material.
Posted 03 August 2006 - 09:11 PM
reviewed by Nathaniel Branden
How does man differ from all other living organisms? What is his distinctive nature? What evidence—scientific or philosophical or both—is available to help provide an answer to this problem?
In this fascinating book, Mortimer J. Adler examines in detail the various ways in which man differs from everything else in the universe. He examines the theories of philosophers, ancient and modern, as they bear on this issue; he systematically reviews the accounts of man’s evolution by biologists and paleoanthropologists; then he turns to the studies of animal and human behavior by comparative and behavioral psychologists. At the end of his examination, he builds what I regard as a conclusive and unanswerable case to support the conclusion that man is uniquely the reasoning animal, the one species on earth possessing the power of conceptual thought.
I must add, regretfully, that I am in profound disagreement with Dr. Adler’s view of the nature of concepts, as well as with several other positions he takes in this lucid and scholarly work. This is a book to be read very critically indeed. But in an age when there is such a concerted effort, coming from so many directions, to deny the distinction between man and lower animals, his case for “the difference of man” comes as a welcome source of invaluable intellectual ammunition.
[This review first appeared in the Holiday 1969 issue (#3) of Academic Associates' Book News and was posted to Objectivist Living with the reviewer's permission on Thursday, August 3, 2006. Comments and questions are welcome.]
Posted 09 August 2006 - 10:51 PM
Review of Therapist:
Spare yourself the search, Roger and/or Jerry. I have the review, as reprinted in Liberty. I don't know which issue of Liberty, only the page numbers (pp. 50-51) -- my copy is a Xerox, and the person who sent me the Xerox neglected to specify the issue number and date.
There's a footnote which says:
This review originally appeared in the Summer, 1987 issue of Free Inquiry and is reprinted with permission.
The review is short, and I'll type it in. (I'm assuming that Nathaniel would have retained use permission, though I don't know if the review was copyrighted by him or by Free Inquiry -- and since he's given Roger permission to reprint his reviews, I expect that extends to this one. If Michael or Roger thinks there's any problem about copyright infringement, either of them can delete the post.)
I think the review isn't Nathaniel at his finest, with the little swipes at Allan Blumenthal. But here it is:
Therapist, by Ellen Plasil New York: St. Martin's/Marke, 1985, 224 pp., $13.95 hb., $3.95 pb.
The Dark Side of Objectivism
by Nathaniel Branden
Therapist is Ellen Plasil's account of her four and a half years of treatment by a prominent New York "Objectivist" psychiatrist. Her book is of special interest to me because of my past association with Ayn Rand and the Objectivist subculture.
The author was raised by Objectivist parents. Almost from the day she was born they abused her physically and mentally in an appalling number of ways, including sexually, and at the same time lectured her on "reason, "independence," and all the other routine cliches used by Ayn Rand's professed admirers without any true appreciation of their meaning.
In 1972, at twenty-one, Plasil found herself in an unhappy marriage and suffering from depression, so she moved to New York City in search of psychiatric treatment. She put herself in the hands of Dr. Lonnie Leonard, who had been recommended by Dr. Allen [sic] Blumenthal, a leading objectivist psychiatrist.
[I, ES, interject: By the time Ellen Plasil started "therapy" with Lonnie, Allan was no longer recommending clients to him -- he stopped doing that in early 1971; but Lonnie had a long wait period before he started seeing a client, and the recommendation had been made well before EP's move to New York.]
In the course of her treatment, Leonard informed her that he was the "healthiest" man he had ever known and that an important indicator of a woman's own "health" was whether or not she responded to him "romantically." From there it was only a short step to insisting that Plasil satisfy him sexually. But she was merely to satisfy him and thereby be fulfilled. It would be proof of her femininity. Using the authority of his position, Leonard intimidated, threatened, and abused her. He called her "scum," and, for all practical purposes, he raped her. In other words, he recreated the nightmare of her childhood, while telling her repeatedly that he was her only hope for salvation. (This is quite different from the more familiar story of a psychotherapist who becomes infatuated with his client and has an affair with her.) Plasil's dependency on Leonard made her submissive and compliant.
The author by this time had left her husband. Her social contacts in New York were limited almost entirely to fellow patients of Leonard, and they all apparently worshipped him. She moved in a world where a person's most insignificant actions and preferences were scrutinized to determine whether he or she was a "good objectivist." Tastes in art, novels, and films were evaluated from the standpoint of Ayn Rand's personal likes and dislikes. In Objectivist circles, Leonard enjoyed a God-like status. [ES interjects: among his clients, not amongst all Objectivist circles.] Plasil did not feel safe in discussing her growing anxiety and doubts. She would have been accused of treason.
Of course not all enthusiasts of Objectivism manifest this foolishness; the majority of them are independent, decent, clear-thinking human beings. But there is an irrational, cultish tendency in many intellectual movements, and Objectivism, alas, is no exception. Ayn Rand's personal obsession with loyalty did little to discourage this trend, even though she doubtless would have been horrified by Dr. Leonard's practices. Rand had often protested, "Protect me from my followers!"
Finally, after many months of struggling with the question of whether Leonard had a legitimate purpose for his bizarre behavior at the therapy sessions (for example, greeting her stark naked, video-taping her in a similar state, spread-eagled on the floor, and so on), Plasil telephoned Dr. Blumenthal. When she attempted to discuss her misgivings with him, he said he could not talk to her while she was Leonard's client. Besides, he insisted, he already knew what she wanted to say. When she tried to verify what he claimed to know, he hung up. The nightmare grew worse. But Plasil's doubt and anger also grew when she discovered that Leonard's other female clients had had similar experiences. [ES: some of Leonard's other female clients, not all of them; he also had techniques of undermining his male clients' self-esteem, though Plasil doesn't appear from her book to have learned much information about those.] After four and a half years of therapy, with outrage piled upon outrage, she decided to fight back. She terminated her therapy, and, with several other of Leonard's victims, she initiated legal action against him. Not surprisingly, shortly afterward Leonard announced that he was giving up his practice. Plasil was then accused by [ES: some of] his other clients of causing irreparable harm to a great man.
I had a similar experience when I broke with Ayn Rand. I had left the New York circle of Objectivists in the late 1960s, years before the events in this book took place. I did not know Dr. Leonard, but I did help to launch Dr. Blumenthal's career. Although I repudiated him many years ago (we repudiated each other, you might say), I confess I read this story with embarrassment and sadness for having played even a small part in it. But perhaps, from one perspective, my part was not really so small. Did I not, together with Ayn Rand, help to create the kind of subculture in which irrationality and inhumanity could exist (even if, to repeat, we would have been horrified at this particular manifestation)? Blumenthal may protest that Leonard is not his creature, but I am not quite comfortable in protesting that Blumenthal is not mine. The bad judgments of our past do come back to haunt us.
Plasil won her case, and Dr. Leonard settled out of court. He is now working as a beekeeper in Florida. [ES: He died in the early '90s -- so I've heard, from excessive drinking.] She has remarried happily and is working on a law degree.
Therapist is written with great simplicity, clarity, and dignity, and I recommend it to anyone interested in the psychology of cultism and how individuals can be led to suspend their moral judgment and their common sense in the name of idealism and loyalty--and out of an overzealous desire to belong somewhere. Plasil has something important to say to all of us.
Fran, I fully sympathize with your reaction about Allan Blumenthal's behavior in the phone call from Ellen Plasil. I was sickened by hearing of this when I learned of it -- which was back in the late '70s when the news hit "the Objectivist streets" that Plasil and some others were instituting a suit against Lonnie. At that time, my only basis for interpreting why Allan had done what he'd done was his sense of propriety being misapplied. Allan was characterized by a strong sense of propriety ("appropriate" was one of his most-used words -- sometimes drove me nuts). I haven't time to try to describe my frustrated history with Allan. I liked Allan very much, and often found him perceptive, but I thought he was hampered by his being an Objectivist and being in close relationship (part of "the Inner Circle") with Rand. I was always hoping to prise him away from Rand and to make of him what I thought of (though I didn't have a good definition for what I meant) as "a real psychologist." (Either not long before or not long after the news about the LL scandal became public -- I'm forgetting the exact sequence of events, but it was within close proximity -- Allan at last did split with Rand, to my great joy.)
Later -- and by that I mean many years later, in 1997 -- I started to think that maybe there'd been more to it than his "sense of propriety" about breaching what he thought of as professional conduct in regard to a fellow psychiatrist. It was details in Plasil's book, which I only read in 1997, that aroused a suspicion in my mind, the suspicion that Lonnie might have physically threatened Allan himself and/or Joan. Lonnie's threatening Joan would have been the more scary threat. I began to suspect this because of some details in the Plasil book. Lonnie muses, suppose a person were posing a risk to someone's career, wouldn't it be justified to murder the person? Plasil was frightened by these musings, taking them as directed at her. But details in what she wrote -- combined with some things which had puzzled me which Allan himself said back at the time in question -- led me to wonder if it wasn't Allan whom Lonnie had in mind.
I don't know if there was such an issue involved, if Lonnie did make threats. I do know that Lonnie could have been quite terrifying, with his feline muscular coordination, his personality, and his knowledge of martial arts. Joan would have been no match for him were he to physically aggress; nor would Allan have been able to defend himself. If my suspicion is at all right, this would leave me feeling better about Allan's behavior. But I don't suppose I'll ever know for sure if there's anything to the suspicion.
Posted 25 August 2006 - 12:39 AM
reviewed by Nathaniel Branden
In this book, the author presents the most comprehensive and devastating analysis and critique of theism that I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Clearly and simply, but without “writing down” or over-simplifying complex problems, Mr. Smith leads the reader through an examination of the many issues involved in the notion of a supernatural being—the metaphysical and epistemological issues in particular—and patiently demolishes, one by one, every significant alleged justification for belief in a supernatural being.
Mr. Smith begins by pointing out that atheism is not a belief but rather the absence of a belief—the absence of a belief in a god. This means that the atheist does not have to prove anything. The burden of proof is on the theist. He shows, further, that agnosticism is not a viable “third position,” but is a species of atheism, since the agnostic, like the atheist, does not hold a belief in a god.
Mr. Smith then proceeds to explore the notion of a supernatural being, and shows in what ways the notion is unintelligible and leads to hopeless self-contradictions. He moves on to examine—and refute—the various “justifications” for theism that theologians have provided, as well as the more popular “justifications” usually resorted to by laymen. When Mr. Smith has finished his job, nothing is left standing of theism, Christian theology or Christianity itself. Whether or not every reader will have the intellectual integrity and honesty to appreciate this fact is, of course, another question—about which it is doubtless futile to speculate.
Several books have been written in recent years aimed at refuting theism and supernaturalism. But I consider this book the best written by far, the most comprehensive, and the best suited to the philosophical layman. (Antony Flew’s superb God and Philosophy, for instance, is difficult for the philosophically untrained reader.) Lucidly written, eminently objective and fair-minded, Atheism: The Case Against God is an invaluable contribution not only to philosophy but also to psychology—because I believe that this book will be liberating to the many persons who have been harmed mentally and emotionally by childhood exposure to the teachings of religion. I have never been happier to recommend a book. The author is to be congratulated on a superlative achievement.
[This review first appeared in the February 1973 issue (#10) of Academic Associates' Book News and was posted to Objectivist Living with the reviewer's permission on Thursday, August 24, 2006. Comments and questions are welcome.]
Posted 25 August 2006 - 04:59 AM
Hurray, thanks for posting this! It looks like just the kind of book that I'm looking for and was relieved to find that it's still in print. I've just ordered a copy for myself and maybe I could buy a dozen copies and send them to prominent Christians in the UK - PM Tony Blair being one of them ;-)
Posted 25 August 2006 - 07:40 AM
The Academic Associates Book News at one time published a statement from Nathaniel Branden's lawyer after Holzer had denounced Branden's sale of his recorded NBI lectures. If you have the text of this statement it would be a valuable document in the ongoing wrangles over who "owns" Objectivism.
Posted 25 August 2006 - 05:07 PM
Atheism: The Case against God is a great book. Well worth just about anyone's time to read.
Posted 25 August 2006 - 06:05 PM
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