on 6 September 2009
The book is in praise of prejudice..or discrimination (in the literal sense) or the choice of one thing over another whether that is religion, ethics, taste, or anything else you may care to make choices about. In fact, in the context of this approach to "prejudice" on the truly vapid a free of prejudices.
on 25 May 2009
Thin hardback, no illustrations, 29 chapters, about 126 pages. It has very short chapters. The index is sparse and hints at philosophical interests - Plato, Descartes etc, and novels - but also Colin Turnbull on the Ik in Uganda, Peter Singer of Animal Liberation, Adam Smith. There's a quotation from Macaulay (p 9) which is mixed up typographically with Dalrymple's own text... he hasn't proofread his own book.
He takes his definition of 'prejudice' from the Shorter Oxford, not the OED. One wonders if he has any basis for the claim 'the archetypal prejudice is that which relates to race' apart from modern media.
I'd expected this book to be a defence of common sense - prejudging tells you that some dogs are dangerous, some traffic conditions are hazardous, Germans are organised, rain will make you wet and cause drips, and newspapers are unlikely to tell the truth. Prejudice isn't always right - but why is this? An interesting book might be written. But this isn't it.
Dalrymple switches to topics which are barely related to prejudice. His main belief, probably prompted by long involvement with criminals and 'abusers', is that single mothers, unpleasant behaviour, living on a day to day basis, etc, are all deplorable. 'Prejudice' is belief in marriage, civilised behaviour, doing work for exams to get a highly paid job. 'Habit is behavioral prejudice' he writes, doing his bit to change the meaning of a word. (He complains on page 75 that 'discrimination' has had its meaning changed. As has 'valid').
Dalrymple also has a tendency to adhere to the one-example school of history, notably of course the 'Holocaust'. Page 14 quotes Keith Windschuttle, who (Dalrymple says) wrote a revisionist book saying the Tasmanian genocide was made up. This single, solitary example shows Aussie intellectuals are short of material. A similar example is 'Ernesto Guevara would have been recognised .. as the arrogant, adolescent, power-hungry egotist that he undoubtedly was.' Was he now? Dalrymple's historical background is largely naive 20th century media.
Another tiresome thing is Dalrymple's lack of awareness of the backgrounds of some attitudes. For example, in England, people renting houses could be evicted under the terms of the lease is they had an illegitimate child. To describe the resulting attitude of being wary of illegitimacy as 'prejudice' is absurd.
Dalrymple is described as a 'retired physician and psychiatrist'. Judging by this book, he regards philosophy or speculative writing as higher status than psychiatry. His philosophy is non-professional. In view of the qualities of professional philosophers (".. they will spend more and more time talking about less and less" - Bertrand Russell) this is not necessairly an objection. But Dalrymple isn't very sound. J S Mill 'On Liberty' is attacked because Mill talked of the 'tyranny of prevailing opinion and feeling'. 'Tabula rasa was never very realistic.' An entire chapter says life's too short to check every single thing. He can't resist stating things which sound impressive, but aren't: 'an unachievable goal cannot be a desirable one.' (Page 3). I have to say this is a disappointing book. At the end of it you'll have learned nothing much.
on 2 July 2009
In praise of prejudice? Against reason then?
Certainly there's little sign here of any reasoning power. This is just a collection of splenetic, unthought-out, bigoted assertions.
If he has any consistent thought, it is that he favours following our preconceived ideas. Surely this raises the question - which are preconceived ideas?
In Pakistan, for example, these ideas are fairly likely, not inevitably, going to be reactionary and Muslim. Is that really OK by Dr D?
What if your preconceived ideas are those of liberty, equality and fraternity? Would DR D be happy with that?
Really, his thinking is just silliness and muddle, confused and confusing.