Philosophy, Culture, and Society Book Club
How would you evaluate the health of American democracy or of Western civilization itself? What issues do we face and what principles and beliefs are needed to sustain us? Every two or three weeks, our club examines these questions for a couple of hours by reading and discussing a book. We have read a variety of books, all chosen by the members. We tend to alternate from a relatively popular work to a serious work. We read only a chapter or two at a time and have a synopsis provided prior to the discussion. We have a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, some cheese and crackers and a cookie or two. The point is to learn something and to enjoy ourselves while doing so. Laughter nourishes the mind too.
The first work we read was a short book by the philosopher Charles Taylor, “The Malaise of Modernity,” which gives a quick overview of some issues facing contemporary democracies. The next work, “The Closing of the Muslim Mind,” was written by journalist Robert Riley. He leads us through the history of ideas that culminated in the break between the Islamic world and Western civilization. Our next book was a short work by theologian John Polkinghorne, “Science and Providence.” Polkinghorne’s work poses the question of whether a philosophy of history helps in any way our understanding of contemporary democracy and Western civilization. Our next work examined directly the present health of Western democracies. The political philosopher Kenneth Minogue is deeply worried about our future as reflected in the title, “The Servile Mind: How Democracy Erodes the Moral Life.” We have also read more popular works by such authors as Thomas Sowell, Rodney Stark and Dinesh D’ Souza. In between, we read a work by the British philosopher, Mary Midgley, “Heart and Mind.”
Some issues tend to reappear in many of the books we have read, For example, subjectivism and relativism permeate our current public discourse and, some argue, have a harmful effect on the sustainability of our democracy. Disputing and weighing such issues take the bulk of our time in discussions. Since we read only a chapter or two at a time, and since we have a relatively detailed synopsis of the reading prior to our meeting, our discussions tend to be clearly focused. We try to rotate books among three areas: philosophy, theology/religion and political philosophy.
We are interested in works that can help us understand the origins of the great issues affecting our culture and civilization. The following are some of the other authors that we have read: Plato, Rodney Stark, Edward O. Wilson, Victor Davis Hanson and Rebecca Newberger Goldstein.
If you are interested in an open discussion of serious works with a group of like-minded adults, please join us and call Jene Porter at 479-876-2597.