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The Right Side of History:
How Reason and Moral Purpose Made the West Great

by Ben Shapiro, published by Broadside Books, 2019

Ben Shapiro is happy with his life (in Southern California). He loves his wife (a medical doctor) and daughter and son. He begins his book asking, "Why are things so good? And, "Why are we blowing it?" Life, he writes, "has been nasty, brutish, and short. But that's a bygone era." The "American population" now lives in an era of marvelous technology, communications, medicine, and "there are our freedoms." We can expect that we won't be arrested for "worshipping the wrong god or no god at all." It's not a perfect world, but it's "the best world that ever existed." So why are we "throwing it away?"

Shapiro writes of advising his children to "forge forth and conquer. Build. Cultivate." But Shapiro is not looking for something new. He is a conservative. He says his book is an "attempt to determine what we've lost and how we can find it." Shapiro is advocating what he calls core values as expressed in Judeaism and ancient Western philosophy, including Aristotle and that crazy old Pythagoras.

Shapiro slips into dogmatism. He denounces moral relativism:

The only logical position for an atheist to hold is moral relativism. Now today I want to discuss why moral relativism ... is nonsensical and false. We do not get to invent our own moral systems.

He finds fault with the existentialism of Kierkegaard and the subjectivism of choice. He writes:

There is only one true moral system, and it is a system that everyone, everywhere, knows and recognizes.

Against choice he apparently expects us to stick with the views of our parents or old fashioned Western monotheism — with all of its failures, someone complains.

Someone else complains:

Awash in religious moralism as a basis for human "purpose". [Shapiro] suggests our purpose is find out God's purpose for us. Huh? He lost me here.

I have to ask about Shapiro's title and subtitle, his grasp of history, about reason and moral purpose in history's unfolding — all that bloodshed for political power. Despite his personal decencies his dogmatic conservatism isn't useful. We need new adjustments, practical solutions, for contemporary circumstances.

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Copyright © 2019 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.