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Against the Idols of the Age Paperback – 31 Jul 2001

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Transaction Publishers; 1 edition (31 July 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765809109
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765809100
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,701,796 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

"Stove was undoubtedly the most stylish and witty writer of all philosphers of the last one hundred years, if not of all time. When it comes to attacking the absurdities of twentieth century intellectual movements no one else came close, and certainly no one else was as funny. The greatest iconoclast of the twentieth century, we can now see in retrospect, was not any of the European avant-garde, most of whom in fact, epitomized the spirit of the century perfectly, but this no nonsense Australian. His greatest contributions were in the philosophy of science, in particular in his defense of inductive reasoning, and in his attack on the sort of irrationalism manifested by his four horsemen, Popper, Kuhn, Lalatos, and Feyerabend."

--The Review of Metaphysics

"A self-proclaimed neo-positivist-and a brilliant, truculent, cantankerous essayist-Stove attacks everything from contemporary philosophy of science and evolutionary theory to religious belief and intellectual equality of women."

--The Weekly Standard

"The greatest philosopher of the twentieth century may not have been Wittgenstein, or Russell, or Quine (and he certainly wasn't Heidegger), but he may have been a somewhat obscure and conservative Australian named David Stove (1927-94). If he wasn't the greatest philosopher of the century, Stove was certainly the funniest and most dazzling defender of common sense to be numbered among the ranks of last century's thinkers, better even--by far--than G. E. Moore and J. L. Austin. . . . What separates Stove from your average angry-eyed reactionary is the startling brilliant way that he argues, combining plain horse sense with the most nimble and skillful philosophical reasoning this side of Hume, along with a breathtaking wit."

--Partisan Review

"An early, fearless, sometimes reckless combatant in the science and culture wars, Stove fought wittily and two-fistedly on the side of empirical realism."

--Choice

"Stove was undoubtedly the most stylish and witty writer of all philosphers of the last one hundred years, if not of all time. When it comes to attacking the absurdities of twentieth century intellectual movements no one else came close, and certainly no one else was as funny. The greatest iconoclast of the twentieth century, we can now see in retrospect, was not any of the European avant-garde, most of whom in fact, epitomized the spirit of the century perfectly, but this no nonsense Australian. His greatest contributions were in the philosophy of science, in particular in his defense of inductive reasoning, and in his attack on the sort of irrationalism manifested by his four horsemen, Popper, Kuhn, Lalatos, and Feyerabend."

--The Review of Metaphysics

"A self-proclaimed neo-positivist-and a brilliant, truculent, cantankerous essayist-Stove attacks everything from contemporary philosophy of science and evolutionary theory to religious belief and intellectual equality of women."

--The Weekly Standard

"The greatest philosopher of the twentieth century may not have been Wittgenstein, or Russell, or Quine (and he certainly wasn't Heidegger), but he may have been a somewhat obscure and conservative Australian named David Stove (1927-94). If he wasn't the greatest philosopher of the century, Stove was certainly the funniest and most dazzling defender of common sense to be numbered among the ranks of last century's thinkers, better even--by far--than G. E. Moore and J. L. Austin. . . . What separates Stove from your average angry-eyed reactionary is the startling brilliant way that he argues, combining plain horse sense with the most nimble and skillful philosophical reasoning this side of Hume, along with a breathtaking wit."

--Partisan Review

"An early, fearless, sometimes reckless combatant in the science and culture wars, Stove fought wittily and two-fistedly on the side of empirical realism."

--Choice

"The incisiveness of [Stove's] logic presses toward the something new and adventuresome that has been obscured by the intellectual idols of the age."

--The New Criterion

"David Stove is thoughtful, trenchant, sharp and wonderfully disrespectful of the established pieties of our time."

--Harvey C. Mansfield, Harvard University

"Stove is an independent and honest philosopher who, like Voltaire and Nietsche, has the wit to make us laugh as we learn."

--John Silber, Boston University

"Stove was undoubtedly the most stylish and witty writer of all philosphers of the last one hundred years, if not of all time. When it comes to attacking the absurdities of twentieth century intellectual movements no one else came close, and certainly no one else was as funny. The greatest iconoclast of the twentieth century, we can now see in retrospect, was not any of the European avant-garde, most of whom in fact, epitomized the spirit of the century perfectly, but this no nonsense Australian. His greatest contributions were in the philosophy of science, in particular in his defense of inductive reasoning, and in his attack on the sort of irrationalism manifested by his four horsemen, Popper, Kuhn, Lalatos, and Feyerabend."

--The Review of Metaphysics

"A self-proclaimed neo-positivist-and a brilliant, truculent, cantankerous essayist-Stove attacks everything from contemporary philosophy of science and evolutionary theory to religious belief and intellectual equality of women."

--The Weekly Standard

"The greatest philosopher of the twentieth century may not have been Wittgenstein, or Russell, or Quine (and he certainly wasn't Heidegger), but he may have been a somewhat obscure and conservative Australian named David Stove (1927-94). If he wasn't the greatest philosopher of the century, Stove was certainly the funniest and most dazzling defender of common sense to be numbered among the ranks of last century's thinkers, better even--by far--than G. E. Moore and J. L. Austin. . . . What separates Stove from your average angry-eyed reactionary is the startling brilliant way that he argues, combining plain horse sense with the most nimble and skillful philosophical reasoning this side of Hume, along with a breathtaking wit."

--Partisan Review

"An early, fearless, sometimes reckless combatant in the science and culture wars, Stove fought wittily and two-fistedly on the side of empirical realism."

--Choice

"The incisiveness of [Stove's] logic presses toward the something new and adventuresome that has been obscured by the intellectual idols of the age."

--The New Criterion

"David Stove is thoughtful, trenchant, sharp and wonderfully disrespectful of the established pieties of our time."

--Harvey C. Mansfield, Harvard University

"Stove is an independent and honest philosopher who, like Voltaire and Nietsche, has the wit to make us laugh as we learn."

--John Silber, Boston University



-Stove was undoubtedly the most stylish and witty writer of all philosphers of the last one hundred years, if not of all time. When it comes to attacking the absurdities of twentieth century intellectual movements no one else came close, and certainly no one else was as funny. The greatest iconoclast of the twentieth century, we can now see in retrospect, was not any of the European avant-garde, most of whom in fact, epitomized the spirit of the century perfectly, but this no nonsense Australian. His greatest contributions were in the philosophy of science, in particular in his defense of inductive reasoning, and in his attack on the sort of irrationalism manifested by his four horsemen, Popper, Kuhn, Lalatos, and Feyerabend.-

--The Review of Metaphysics

-A self-proclaimed neo-positivist-and a brilliant, truculent, cantankerous essayist-Stove attacks everything from contemporary philosophy of science and evolutionary theory to religious belief and intellectual equality of women.-

--The Weekly Standard

-The greatest philosopher of the twentieth century may not have been Wittgenstein, or Russell, or Quine (and he certainly wasn't Heidegger), but he may have been a somewhat obscure and conservative Australian named David Stove (1927-94). If he wasn't the greatest philosopher of the century, Stove was certainly the funniest and most dazzling defender of common sense to be numbered among the ranks of last century's thinkers, better even--by far--than G. E. Moore and J. L. Austin. . . . What separates Stove from your average angry-eyed reactionary is the startling brilliant way that he argues, combining plain horse sense with the most nimble and skillful philosophical reasoning this side of Hume, along with a breathtaking wit.-

--Partisan Review

-An early, fearless, sometimes reckless combatant in the science and culture wars, Stove fought wittily and two-fistedly on the side of empirical realism.-

--Choice

-The incisiveness of [Stove's] logic presses toward the something new and adventuresome that has been obscured by the intellectual idols of the age.-

--The New Criterion

-David Stove is thoughtful, trenchant, sharp and wonderfully disrespectful of the established pieties of our time.-

--Harvey C. Mansfield, Harvard University

-Stove is an independent and honest philosopher who, like Voltaire and Nietsche, has the wit to make us laugh as we learn.-

--John Silber, Boston University

About the Author

<p> <em>David Stove </em>(1927-1994) taught philosophy at the University of New South Wales and the University of Sydney. He was a critic of sociobiology, Marxism, feminism, and postmodernism. He is the author of numerous books, including <em>The Rationality of Induction; What’s Wrong with Benevolence: Happiness, Private Property, and the Limits of Enlightenment; </em>and <em>Against the Idols of the Age.</em></p>|||<p> <em>Roger Kimball </em>is co-editor and publisher of <em>The New Criterion </em>and president and publisher of Encounter Books. He is also an art critic for the <em>London Spectator </em>and <em>National Review</em>. He is author of numerous titles including <i>The Rape of the Masters: How Political Correctness Sabotages Art</i> and <i>Art's Prospect: The Challenge of Tradition in an Age of Celebrity</i>.</p

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According to Roger Kemball's introductory comment, "There is something to offend nearly everyone in Stove's essays" Stove, who once suggested in an essay that "the sum of Marxism, semiotics and feminism is 0+0+0=0" was threatened with disciplinary action by the politically correct Australian academic establishment for doing so.

Stove was not just a contrarian. He's the boy who asked why the King had no clothes. The king in this instance is the liberal establishment with its commitment to fads and fancies and unable to define or defend any principle because it holds none. Stove asks, "How did an argument so easily answered ever impose itself upon intelligent people?" and replies that it is by ensuring "a one-sided diet of examples". Progress is always good but never refer to Lenin, Pol Pot or the evil that men (or women) do. Intellectual clichés rule - OK!?

Stove argued that Karl Popper had undermined the scientific certainty of Baconian induction by applying both deductivism and empiricism in science. This was "prescription for irrationalism and cognitive impotence" or as Kemball puts it, "an empiricist who is also a deductivist is forced to conclude that there can be no reason at all to believe any contingent proposition about the unobserved". Although the aim of science is to find true laws, the principle of falsifiability makes it impossible.

Stove suggested that Popper's irrationality paved the way for other philosophers of science such as Imre Lakatos, Thomas Kuhn and Paul Feyerabend to create their own "influential versions" of irrationalism which have since permeated the liberal academic establishment. This irrationalism is hidden beneath a welter of "success" words and an unholy inter-mixing of the sociology of science with the logic of science.
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By A Customer on 5 May 2002
Format: Hardcover
If you are at all aware of the irrationalism present in scientific thought today, or the permeation of evil philosophies like Marxism into every aspect of Western society, or even some of the silly ideas Darwinists have created, then David Stove is going to be your philosophical idol. Even if you haven't a notion on the above issues, or are the staunchest supporter of them, David Stove's essays will provide you with many points well worth considering.
"Against the Idols of the Age" is a well-rounded collection of some of Stove's best (and some controversial) essays, all filled with his razor-sharp wit and dazzaling insight. Anyone interested in philosophy should definitely read some Stove, and this book provides an excellent place to start.
I thoroughly recommend it.
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By opus on 26 Dec. 2011
Format: Paperback
This book is a representative anthology of the writings of David Stove, nicely edited and with no typos except for a few in the last part.

Stove writes so engagingly and wittily that one has to carefully reread to ensure that one has not been seduced into accepting his point of view by reason of felicity and charm alone.

I had read Popper - the main target of the first part of this book, and had felt - though I could not say why exactly - that there was something unconvincing about Falsifiability. Stove, happily, explains exactly what is wrong with it. The third part of the book takes various parts of Evolutionary Theory to pieces, and is fairly scathing towards Dawkins' Selfish Gene. One can only conjecture, given Stove's views as to Dawkins "Demonological cast of mind", what Stove might have done to Dawkins more recent books.

The second part is perhaps somewhat less technical and contains his famous essay on the intellectual inferiority of the fair sex. One does not have to go far on the Internet these days to find flesh put on that particular bone or indeed even on Amazon to see the unanswerability of his attack.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)

Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars 13 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sawn off, pump action, logic gun 21 Feb. 2013
By Eric Holloway - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
David Stove's concise, witty and precise prose cuts to the heart of the many fallacies masquerading as philosophy today, especially Darwinism. If you enjoy his writings, check out the many free resources also available on his website:

[...]

Even if you do not agree with his arguments, your mind will be the sharper for having dealt with his criticism.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent philosophical workout 2 April 2011
By Geoff Puterbaugh - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you scan the reviews of this book, you'll quickly discover that a lot of people hate it. They seem to be a mix of convinced pomos, the devout, and "professional philosophers" who have a Ph.D. but no teaching job. (This is one of the real risks of going for a Ph.D. in philosophy: winding up waiting tables or writing computer software.) I especially admired the review which tried to imply that Stove was a CIA tool. :-)

But a lot of other people admire David Stove, including Roger Kimball, who is nobody's fool.

A lot of people get worked up over his essay on the intellectual inferiority of women, which is of course historically accurate (as Camille Paglia would agree). I think Stove misses the main reason for this unequal performance, which is largely that the bell curve for males is a lot wider (or longer) than the bell curve for females. So men have more geniuses and more morons. This probably does not completely explain the difference in math ability, but I find it hard to care because I have never accepted the loony idea that men and women are interchangeable parts. Nevertheless, a lot of people get seriously upset by this essay, as if it were illegal even to broach the idea of sexual inequality. (By the way, Jensen in his authoritative book, The g Factor: The Science of Mental Ability (Human Evolution, Behavior, and Intelligence) documented at some length the fact that men and women score equally on intelligence tests.)

No, the most interesting essay in here is the one about Idealism ("A Victorian Horror Story"), although the others are well worth a read. Contra Idealism, it seems to me the most obvious thing in the world that human beings have knowledge about the (external) real world. This is not some sort of Primitive Philosophy: it was shared by Avicenna, Maimonides, and St. Thomas Aquinas. It is the matrix which underlies modern science. The idea that the only reality is in your head is the Loony-Tunes idea, defended among others by that "pathological windbag Schopenhauer." (Those are Stove's words, not mine, but I agree!)

I don't think that David Stove is the first philosopher to Get Everything Right, but he does write brilliantly and he will make you think. I recommend this book highly.
17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Stove Cult and other Philosophical Frivolities 12 Nov. 2007
By Steven M. Duncan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
In the first place, David Stove was a crank, a witty crank but a crank nonetheless. After reading these reviews, it appears that most of the people who like his books are cranks as well. It is a reliable rule of thumb that any philosopher who accuses his targets of being dogmatic, irrational and guilty of elementary errors that even a child could detect is almost certain to be at least as guilty of these vices as those he attacks. Indeed, it is only because he or she is committed to a set of definite and usually simplistic views that he or she is capable of seeing those opponents in this palpably distorted way.
Stove is often accused of being a latter-day positivist, but he was in fact a Baconian inductivist who believed that casual, everyday observation was a sufficient epistemic ground for sweeping philosophical claims. (This, in fact, was the view that he defended - against Hume - in his technical philosophical work on induction.) His constant appeals to "what everybody knows" and the prejudices of two generations ago that pass themselves off as "common sense" illustrates that well enough. For example, we all know that women are less intelligent than men; history proves it, after all, inasmuch as women have failed to acheive anything even remotely close to what men have acheived in historical time. And, if women do as well on math tests as men, that just proves that math tests are not a good way of comparing males and females with regard to intelligence. Casual induction, the source of stereotypes and prejudices of all sorts, apparently trumps the social sciences as well, which are to be dismissed simply as the running dogs of political correctness.
Stove is funny (though in a mean-spirited and often heavy-handed way) and entertaining to read; I throughly enjoyed reading his essays. That is not to my credit. Each of us secretly desires to see those smarter and better than ourselves exposed as stupid and wicked; Stove appeals to this form of intellectual schadenfreude - we read him and we feel good. However, when this guilty pleasure wears off and we begin to actually think about his arguments soberly, they are far from convincing. I am neither a Popperian nor an Absolute Idealist, but I know enough about these philosophies to know that what Stove says about them amounts to a silly caricature, one so distorted as to be completely irrelevant to the proper philosophical evaluation of those views. I am much more sympathetic to his attacks on sociobiology and cosmic evolutionism - which has been much more effectively critiqued by others without his particular axe to grind - but I doubt that anything Stove says will impress Dennett or Dawkins, and not simply because they are as intransigent and dogmatic in their own way as Stove is in his quite different one.
To conclude, "irrationalism" is not a matter of what views one holds, but rather of the manner in which those views are held. Humor, wit and style are not antithetical to good philosophical prose, but hyperbole, misrepresentation and dismissivenss are and no substitute for argument. Stove's passionate commitment to a set of atavistic ideas that have long since fallen out of fashion (at least in some cases for good and solid reasons) leads him to see "irrationalism" and imminent anarchy lurking everywhere in the contemporary world. He is the philosophical equivalent of the prophet of doom standing on the streetcorner with sign saying "THE END IS NEAR" hanging around his neck: good for a laugh, nothing more.
Still, a good laugh is worth something - so read this book.
5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A representative collection from an original thinker 19 Aug. 2006
By MrOzik - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book is a collection of 12 essays, all of which have appeared before in other books by the same author. There are 4 essays from 'Darwinian Fairytales', 4 from 'Cricket versus Republicanism', 3 from 'The Plato Cult', and 1 from 'Popper and After' (later retitled 'Anything Goes'). So if you are planning to buy any of those, think twice before getting this collection. Especially since even the introductory essay by Roger Kimball ('Who Was David Stove?') can be found elsewhere (it has been reprinted in Kimball's 'Lives of the Mind'). If, however, you are looking for a representative collection of Stove's writing, this should definitely be your first choice, since it contains essays from several different fields of interest.

As most reviewers before have acknowledged, it seems impossible to be able to agree with everything Stove says. But that only adds to the enjoyment. The book may be controversial but it certainly is FUN. What's more, even when making the most preposterous claims, Stove will usually do two other things: 1) lay out his argument in an innovative, surprising and clear way, 2) make several brilliant and true observations on the side, which otherwise would probably never have crossed your mind. For instance, he may be wrong in saying that the intellectual capacity of women is inferior to that of men, but how ingenious of him to point out that this is in no way a moral statement. The book abounds in "banalities" of this sort and thanks to that it is truly an enlightening read. Recommended!
60 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Iconoclastic essays by masterful polemicist 23 Jan. 2001
By Greg Nyquist - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is not a book for moralizers, ideologues, fanatics, dogmatists, right thinkers, or anyone who cannot tolerate having some pet idea or another ripped to rhetorical shreds. David Stove must have been one of the most splenetic philosophical critics ever to put pen to paper. There are very few ideas, thinkers, ideologues that Stove approves of. He is, to use a phrase of the great critic William Hazlitt, a "great hater." Whether its Karl Popper, Plato, feminism, Darwinism, religion, idealism, Thomas Kuhn, Victorianism, Schopenhauer, academic, racial egalitarianism---they are all so much grist to the Stovean critical mill. Stove relishes attacking popular positions. Are women as intelligent men? No, declares Stove; nobody believes that, he insists, despite all the liberal fustian to the contrary. Is racism a valid concept? No, Stove argues, it is a mere neologism that nobody accepts in everyday life. Stove's iconoclasm might lead some to dismiss him as a mere crank. Certainly there is nothing easier than to disagree with him (his positions do tend towards unpalatable extremes). But because of Stove's incendiary wit, his clear, forceful, ingenious (though sometimes, admittedly, sophistical) argumentation, and his pungent, graceful, perspicuous style, he cannot be so casually dismissed. Stove is a master at finding compelling reasons to adopt outrageous opinions. Against "The Idols of the Age" is a contrarian classic. It belongs on the shelf of every person who is opposed, on principle, to all the appalling bilge that passes for common wisdom among today's "intellectuals." And even, as is more than probable, Stove attacks some idea or individual that you admire, what of it? We all of us need to be shaken out of our dogmatic slumbers now and again. I can think of no more invigorating way to be awaken than by reading Stove's brilliantly inflammatory essays. Highly recommended.
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