Kent Lundgren's Reviews > Voltaire's Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West

Voltaire's Bastards by John Ralston Saul
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's review
Oct 07, 2008

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bookshelves: currently-reading, sociopolitical-nonfiction

To say that I am "Currently Reading" this poorly states the case. I have been reading it in bite-sized bits for five years or more. I find that too big a bite clogs my mind.

The book defies simple description for it covers many areas and elements of modern society, however . . .

Saul's premise is that Reason, a "discovery" of the late 18th and early 19th, century has run riot, ignoring humanity (in the sense of human-ness), to society's detriment. Here's a sample of a thought. "Reason" develops complexity in a system (say, the law), and to express that complexity, language becomes more and more complex. Finally, the language is understood only by those priests and acolytes of the system, and those affected by the system and the language (say, the public) are no longer capable of understanding what's going on.

The book is nearly 600 pages of heavy going, because the author is asking us to look at our history (European/North American) through a new lens: that perhaps being logical is not always the best way for a society to proceed, for that develops problems that must look back into the system for solution. Thus, we see corruption and a descending spiral of utility for society.

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