Customer Review

3 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not recommended, 8 Mar 2008
This review is from: The Intellectual: The Positive Power of Negative Thinking... (Hardcover)
Luckily, I didn't buy this book - I read it in my university library. It's not at all what I expected from the title and description (although later, having heard Steve Fuller debating, I was not surprised).

Fuller discusses 'truth', 'power', 'thinking', etc. but makes no attempt at all to define these terms - let alone to engage with the varied and interesting debate surrounding these ideas. He does not bother to generate any arguments, expand the boundaries of knowledge, engage with real debates and ideas, or even present existing theories in an interesting way. His 'arguments' are loose, winding, and often either ridiculous or exceedingly obvious. Where you can find a train of thought, which is rare, it is a subject that has inevitably been discussed at length, and with far greater eloquence, elsewhere. As a result, much of the book is tedious, outlandish, and at worst, nonsensical. I find it difficult to understand why anyone enjoyed this book. I can only imagine that they were swayed by the self-satisfaction and smugness that Fuller attempts to extend to his readers.

This is not a serious book, and I do not recommend it at all. Anyone with a very basic knowledge of philosophy will recognise it to be completely nonsensical. And beginners would do far better elsewhere.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 9 Mar 2008 14:03:27 GMT
The fact that you fail to provide any examples from the text, other than personal impressions of the author, undermines the credibility of your case.

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Mar 2008 10:38:26 GMT
Latif Jones says:
I felt a short review was necessary, given the space constraints, and because the examples in the book are virtually innumerable. For example, during the conversation between the 'philosopher' and 'intellectual', the intellectual (who posits that Americans are narcissistic) claims: "In it is unreasonable to place the burden of proof on someone trying to speak truth to power. If Americans are not as narcissistic as I allege, then they should have no trouble proving me wrong." (p62) This is an obvious logical fallacy, borne out of sheer laziness to go and look at facts, justified by an epistemology that makes sense to no one - that when speaking "truth to power" (a phrase peppered throughout the book) the burden of proof is on the accused. Later, the intellectual opines that "We can think away facts by turning them into problems" (p65). And later, Fuller states: "Scientists often try to pre-empt intellectual debate altogether by appealing to facts," something he sees as a bad thing (unsurprisingly, if you listen to the debate where he advocates Intelligent Design theory with no reference to facts at all).

Essentially, I think that Fuller's idea of an intellectual is alien to many people. He seems to see himself on a level above others where basic logical fallacies need not be questioned. The arguments he presents are not new or original; moreover they are generally presented partially and with no attempt at justification. Many statements, such as the idea that intellectuals need not be concerned with 'science' or 'facts' seem outlandish unless provided with a clear justification. Postmodernists such as Lyotard, for example, do propose such ideas with clear justificatory principles. Fuller does not state where these ideas came from, or how they are to be justified. To someone interested in philosophy and 'intellectual' culture, this book falls short of the mark in every respect.

Posted on 12 Aug 2008 23:23:51 BDT
Melvyn Bragg says:
There is no point in trying to define 'truth' or 'power', or any other commonly used yet diffuse notion. Words are defined by their usage. People learn through analogy, not definition. The older Wittgenstein was wiser than the younger Wittgenstein.

Other than that point of disagreement I found your review useful, thank you.
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