The Great Lie

Thanks to Peter Robinson for his post, below, about my new book, The Great Lie.  I’d be just delighted to discuss the book right here on Ricochet with anyone who’d like to ask questions or offer comments.

First, a word about The Great Lie. The book is a collection of essays by some of the greatest minds of th…

  1. Robert Lux

    When is it coming out on Kindle?  It looks great.  It will add to my current reading of Kenneth Minogue’s book on ideology, Alien Powers…

    Which essay (or essays) by Strauss is included? 

  2. katievs

    It’s in my Amazon shopping cart. Looking forward to it.

  3. Copperfield
    “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”   -Ronald Reagan

    Look forward to reading it.  What a great idea.  Thank you. 

  4. Peter Robinson
    C

    How do your students at Skidmore respond to the material in The Great Lie?  Do they get it at all?  Or do they see the twentieth century as another planet?  How does one enable an 18- or 19- or 20-year old to understand?

  5. Concretevol

    Peter, I don’t know the answer to your last question but am buying this book for my 20 yr old and have already sent him an invitation to Ricochet so that should be a start!

    Very much looking forward to reading this book too! 

  6. Mel Foil

    If you can’t or won’t explain the meaning of life to your children, be certain that someone else can and will. In most cases, the big lie doesn’t replace something; it replaces nothing.

  7. Paul A. Rahe
    C
    Robert Lux: When is it coming out on Kindle?  It looks great.  It will add to my current reading of Kenneth Minogue’s book on ideology, Alien Powers…

    Which essay (or essays) by Strauss is included?  · Sep 21 at 2:18pm

    Robert, you might enjoy the sequel to Ken’s book, which is called The Servile Mind. I reviewed the two as a pair for The American Interest a few months back and enjoyed them both.

  8. Paul A. Rahe
    C
    Flagg Taylor:

    Can we say with confidence that the totalitarian temptation has been overcome?  There are some disquieting arguments in this book that suggest this is far from the case.  Chantal Delsol, for one, argues that, “The foundations of contemporary thought remain those of the same revolutionary modernity that gave rise to totalitarianism.”  Though we inhabitants of the 21st century think we have turned a corner and left totalitarianism behind, perhaps we remain in the same dark hallway. 

    I suspect that we are in the process of going where totalitarianism, when it was powerful, was itself going — towards Tocqueville’s soft despotism.

  9. wilber forge

     Perhaps explaining the term Velvet Fascism to a young learner might be a productive for a start.

  10. Flagg Taylor
    Robert Lux: When is it coming out on Kindle?  It looks great.  It will add to my current reading of Kenneth Minogue’s book on ideology, Alien Powers…

    Which essay (or essays) by Strauss is included?  · Sep 21 at 2:18pm

    Robert,

    The Strauss essay is called “German Nihilism.”  It was given as a lecture at The New School in 1940.  It is a remarkable tour of the minds and passions of the young and their teachers under Weimar. 

  11. Flagg Taylor
    Peter Robinson: How do your students at Skidmore respond to the material in The Great Lie?  Do they get it at all?  Or do they see the twentieth century as another planet?  How does one enable an 18- or 19- or 20-year old to understand? · Sep 21 at 2:51pm

    A course I teach called Dissident Political Thought was the initial inspiration for the book.  We do some history in the first 2-3 weeks–I think many are overwhelmed.  Most simply don’t know the extent of the suffering.  The next challenge is to get them to see the seductiveness of these ideas–Milosz and Koestler are terrific for that (a section of the book is called Seduction).  And I have found they do begin to understand the dehumanizing effect of ideologies, but this takes a lot of work.  They instinctively shy away from connecting moral judgments with reason–precisely what Havel and Solzhenitsyn insist one must do to rescue oneself from the Lie.  I have more thoughts on this.  More to follow…

  12. Concretevol

    “The imagination and the spiritual strength of Shakespeare’s evildoers stopped short at a dozen corpses. Because they had no ideology.”

    Solzhenitsyn

  13. Flagg Taylor
    Peter Robinson: How do your students at Skidmore respond to the material in The Great Lie?  Do they get it at all?  Or do they see the twentieth century as another planet?  How does one enable an 18- or 19- or 20-year old to understand? · Sep 21 at 2:51pm

    I also try to put them in the shoes of a Havel or Solzhenitsyn–what would it have been like to face what they had to face?  Would they (the students that is) risk their jobs to stand up to the regime?  Would they have put their children’s future in jeopardy?  Would they have risked the loss of their closest friends?  What would they endure for the sake of the truth?  These conversations are pretty revealing.  At minimum, I think they appreciate the true greatness of some of these figures.

    Films help a bit too.  I use The Lives of Others, Katyn, and a wonderful little documentary called Citizen Havel Goes on Vacation.

  14. Anon

    Damn good idea for a book.  Appears to be a must read particularly following Steyn’s After America.  Include me in.

  15. Flagg Taylor
    katievs: It’s in my Amazon shopping cart. Looking forward to it. · Sep 21 at 2:47pm

    Katie,

    I had guessed you would like the book!  Let me know what you think–which essays strike you, etc.

  16. Pseudodionysius
    Robert Lux: When is it coming out on Kindle?  It looks great.  It will add to my current reading of Kenneth Minogue’s book on ideology, Alien Powers…

    Which essay (or essays) by Strauss is included?  · Sep 21 at 2:18pm

    Yes, my wife is forcing me on behalf of our collapsing bookshelves to wait for it on Kindle.

  17. Illiniguy

    On the Alma Mater statue at my alma mater, there’s the quote: “To thy happy children of the future, those of the past send greetings.” This is a wonderful opportunity for us to use Ricochet for the purpose for which it was created, that is, discourse. I have a suggestion: Give us poor Ricos a chance to buy the book and read it, (hopefully on the Kindle) and then allow us to interact with your class at Skidmore next semester. Make it an extra credit or an online seminar course. It would be a great opportunity for those of the past to send greetings, and maybe give your students a chance to argue with those of us who remember when some of those events actually occurred.  

  18. Flagg Taylor
    Illiniguy: On the Alma Mater statue at my alma mater, there’s the quote: “To thy happy children of the future, those of the past send greetings.” This is a wonderful opportunity for us to use Ricochet for the purpose for which it was created, that is, discourse. I have a suggestion: Give us poor Ricos a chance to buy the book and read it, (hopefully on the Kindle) and then allow us to interact with your class at Skidmore next semester. Make it an extra credit or an online seminar course. It would be a great opportunity for those of the past to send greetings, and maybe give your students a chance to argue with those of us who remember when some of those events actually occurred.   · Sep 21 at 9:19pm

    Edited on Sep 21 at 09:35 pm

    Well, I am teaching it now, so not sure how this would work.  But I can give you the essays we will be reading in class.  It would be interesting to compare the reactions of Ricochet members to these particular essays with the reactions of the students.

  19. Flagg Taylor

     I am not sure yet about a Kindle edition–there are some issues around permission rights that need to be worked out.

  20. Flagg Taylor
    Robert Lux: I trust I’m not diminishing people’s purchasing incentives of Prof. Taylor’s fine book — alas, it’s bereft of any preview at Amazon, so consider my post a surrogate: I should bring to everyone’s attention that Strauss’s essay “German Nihilism” is available on the internet. See here.

    I  second Robert’s recommendation.  Strauss first explores the non-nihilistic basis for German nihilism–what he calls the sense of “endangered morality.”  The true nihilist, he explains, rejects the principles of civilization as such.  What are those principles according to LS?  He writes:

    “By civilization, we understand the conscious culture of humanity, i.e., of that which makes a human being a human being, i.e., the conscious culture of reason. Human reason is active, above all, in two ways: as regulating human conduct,and as attempting to understand whatever can be understood by man; as practical reason, and as theoretical reason. The pillars of civilization are therefore morals and science, and both united. For science without morals degenerates into cynicism, and thus destroys the basis of the scientific effort itself; and morals without science degenerates into superstition and thus is apt to become fanatic cruelty.”

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