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Ideas Have Consequences

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  1,141 ratings  ·  134 reviews
In what has become a classic work, Richard M. Weaver unsparingly diagnoses the ills of our age and offers a realistic remedy. He asserts that the world is intelligible and that man is free. The catastrophes of our age the catastrophes of our age are the product of unintelligent choice and the cure lies in man's recognition that ideas--like actions--have consequences. A ...more
Paperback, 198 pages
Published September 28th 1984 by University Of Chicago Press (first published 1948)
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Aug 17, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy
Not exactly what I thought it would be. Heard about this back in college and thought it would be more of an exposition on ideas, agency, morality, etc. Which it kind of was, but not in the way I thought.

Weaver's book was written just after WWII, so that needs to be taken into consideration. This book is focused mostly upon the author's ideas of "The decline of the West", which has been addressed by many others. I guess what disappointed me was that instead of focusing on the general theme that
Spencer Kashmanian
Before The Closing of the American Mind, there was Ideas Have Consequences. Nearly two decades before Bloom, Richard M. Weaver – rhetorician, Southern agrarian sage, and a founding father of the postwar conservative revival – published this spirited disquisition on the Western intellectual tradition.

Part jeremiad and part prescription, Ideas Have Consequences argues that the 14th-century “defeat of logical realism [by nominalism]…was the crucial event in the history of Western culture.” With
Sep 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is a book written in 1948 that tries to diagnose the ills of our time. It reminds me in many ways of C.S. Lewis' Abolition of Man. Weaver believes at the root of our troubles are changes that began in the 14th century by Willam of Occam who propounded the idea of nominalism. These ideas are pervasive in the way we tend to view reality, in politics, religion, art, etc. It's a critical book.
He makes quite a few generalizations about our modern age, some of which I don't find convincing, but I
Mar 17, 2016 rated it liked it
Ah, this book. Where to start?

The author has a habit of framing options as mutually exclusive opposites when it is not necessarily the case that they are. For example, when considering human societies he offers the choice that one can have a society whose values are ontological or one can have a society whose values are progressive. Presenting these things as if they are as incompatible as matter and anti-matter is a rhetorical framing device to direct your thinking along certain lines. The
Douglas Wilson
May 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: culture-studies
Top ten.
Jul 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: culture
I'm not a fan of using a highlighter to mark memorable passages in books, but if I were at least half of my copy of Ideas Have Consequences would be yellow. Richard Weaver is that rare writer who both has interesting things to say, and says them in an interesting way. This book is not only considered Weaver's masterpiece, but, sadly, Weaver is often considered something of literary one hit wonder, with comparatively few people aware of his other writings (or even familiar with this one beyond ...more
Jan 17, 2020 marked it as to-read
Apparently, this is the source for a lot of the "Reformed theology is Ockhamist" narrative (esp. pp. 2–3 in my copy). See here and here.

Nevertheless, it's in Doug Wilson's top ten (maybe top four).
Mar 31, 2009 rated it it was amazing
An amazing book, honestly. Many of the ideas propounded in the book, I had heard before and kind of taken as my own because they sounded right. However, this book explained the reasoning behind those ideas and really opened my eyes to what I had been blindly believing before. Equality is a bad thing, democracy is harmful, and Ideas do have consequences no matter how innocent they seem. This was the book that gave fuel to my senior thesis. It has proved invaluable and will continue to do so, I am ...more
Aug 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"There is ground for declaring that modern man has become a moral idiot.”

"We approach a condition in which we shall be amoral without the capacity to perceive it and degraded without the means to measure our descent.”
♥ Ibrahim ♥
Nov 29, 2017 rated it it was ok
Great title, but densely boring content, unless you’re seriously in the mood for your annual shot of of philosophy, but don’t expect anything applicable or practical in real life.
Gabriella Hoffman
Dec 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Book #19 of 35... A very terse read and sometimes hard to follow, but I understand why it’s recommended reading in some of our corners of politics .
An Idler
Feb 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Weaver's writing is as poetic and affecting as it is philosophical and obscure. His thinking is more complex and integrated than the blunt title (not of his choosing) would suggest - it's a critique of modernity that deserves a wider audience than the conservative niches in which his name still circulates. I suspect this book hasn't changed many minds over the decades, but it certainly gave expression and connection to concepts I had only intuited.
Peter Jones
Jun 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
It would be difficult to express how much impact this book had on me as I read. As numerous reviewers stated, it is not an easy read. I had to reread numerous paragraphs and sections. But his post WWII analysis of cultural decline was worth the time. Another reviewer mentioned his tight prose, which I also enjoyed. Not a wasted word. As I read, I did not just think about our cultural decline, but I thought about my family, my church, and my own life. I felt rebuked for my slovenly thinking and ...more
Josh Bauder
Mar 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Weaver's premise is simple. There are two basic worldviews in the history of the West: one that affirms transcendent reality and one that doesn't. In the late 1300s, Weaver argues, the momentum shifted from the former to the latter, and it has remained with the materialists ever since.

We are now, Weaver claims, reaping the final fruits of the materialistic worldview. Most of these fruits take the shape of various losses: the loss of true sentiment, resulting in mere sentimentality; the loss of
Peyton Smith
Jul 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In a way, this book is a metaphysical contextualisation of the political battle between conservatism and liberalism. In Weaver’s mind, the decline of the West began when Nominalism won out over Logical Realism in the late 14th century. Having lost faith in a transcendental reality, the West abandoned intellect in favor of the empirical. As a result, people today often lack a “metaphysical dream”, or an “intuitive feeling about the immanent nature of reality”. People have opinions about issues, ...more
This is a difficult book! I was expecting a political diatribe, but this book is book is not just a curmudgeonly rant, but a deep philosophical discourse on the problems with modern society. True, I often disagreed with his premise, namely that modern man is a 'moral idiot' compared to mediaeval man because of his faith in empirical science and historical progress. I believe that materialistic ambitions have made modern society more civilized and less violent than in the past - an assertion ...more
Jan 06, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy, culture, isi
Tightly-written short book on the philosophical origins of the postwar traditionalist conservative movement in the United States. Weaver opens by stating in a matter-of-fact tone that "this is another book about the dissolution of the West." Weaver attacks moral relativism insistently, suggesting that the "denial of everything transcending experience means inevitably…the denial of truth. With the denial of objective truth there is no escape from the relativism of ‘man is the measure of all ...more
Read this back in December 2006 and remember how incredible it was.
Oct 29, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found my way to this book in a circuitous loop of connection, one involving an evening Youtube binge of interviews with William F. Buckley. Hey, the net is weird, but occasionally fecund.

Anyhoo, what drew me in was seeing Weaver cited as a particularly fierce conservative critic of Ayn Rand's objectivism, one who recognized that Rand's godless selfishness was the enemy of the good. On the back of this edition, praise from...Paul Tillich? Reinhold Niebuhr? What?

So of course I read it.

Weaver is
Thomas Achord
Apr 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have seen everything.
May 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A great read. Foundational reading for anyone leaning towards conservatism.
Feb 23, 2018 rated it liked it
Takeaway: Without universals, "hysterical optimism" prevails, leading to cultural decay in which man becomes the measure of all things.

Quotes: “Man is constantly being assured today that he has more power than ever before in history, but his daily experience is one of powerlessness.”

“There was a time when the elder generation was cherished because it represented the past; now it is avoided and thrust out of sight for the same reason.”

“There is no correlation between the degree of comfort
Adam Marischuk
Nov 26, 2017 rated it liked it
I have read this book a dozen times before, yet it still manages to say some things new

I was hoping that this book would be more of an argument against Marxist materialist history (which dominates much discussion today, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau put it regarding getting to the 'root causes' of Islamic terrorism, as if the true cause must lie outside of an ideological one and be the product of social inequality, disfranchisement etc).

However, the book is more of a critique of one idea,
Nov 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Demolishing of all that is egotistic, 'present', ignorant. Despite the author's here and there contradictions which slightly undermine the rigor, this is one of the best reflective works I've read. Pulling no punches for a scholar-gentleman, in a masterfully coherent style.

Of course, my own fragmentary style he would condemn. Rightly so.

Sample chapter titles:

Egotism In Work And Art.
The Great Stereopticon.
Fragmentation And Obsession.

Weaver's treatment of the corruption of language, of "the
Corey Astill
Nov 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: conservative
Weaver responds to what he saw as the cultural decline of the West resulting from the dissolution of transcendental truth or higher values. He argues that relativism and the leveling of hierarchy in society has led to rampant egotism and the breakdown of community. People no longer know where they belong in the whole. Without metanarratives, people turn to lowest-common-denominator consumerism. The media machine ("The Great Stereopticon") feeds the cynicism by continually serving up distortion ...more
Jun 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2011
This book is a marvel. It is an intrusion of a bygone era into the miasma of modernity. It is no wonder that the left loathes Weaver. His is a prophetic voice of denunciation against the tides of modernity assaulting human dignity and personhood.

Weaver argues that the Nominalism of William of Occam has opened the floodgates of relativism, egotism, and sentimentality upon the West, with little traction left for a revival of traditional values.

This is a remarkably dense book. His sentences are a
Charlene Mathe
Jan 14, 2013 rated it it was ok
I found this book a real labor to read. I think if he were writing today, this book would be more straight-forward in style. I felt like the author lived in his head and peered down upon the rest of humanity. He made disparaging comments about American soldiers in World War II. So what was he doing while they were fighting? I think he was around 32 when America entered the war. At the same time, he makes many good points. I had to keep reminding myself that he is writing in 1948, because so much ...more
Mar 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a bold work by an author whose thesis will be either completely accepted or absolutely denied by the reader. Weaver asserts an idea in the introduction and then pursues it with such thoroughgoing, damnable consistency, that the reader is left, naturally, in either philosophical shock or ideological rage.

Weaver asserts the main idea by bringing us to Shakespeare: "Like Macbeth, Western man has made an evil decision, which has become the efficient and final cause of other evil decisions.
Jul 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Written in 1948, this book offers a prophetic account of how modernism will lead to the collapse of Western civilization. I freely admit I was lost on some points (dangers of jazz?), but overall this is one of the best books I have read. Weaver offers up counter actions to our predicament, primarily through resisting semantic manipulation, a liberal education, knowing our history, and securing private property. Sixty years later his positions are still valid; one could argue that stronger ...more
Sally Ewan
Sep 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Sobering to think this book was written in 1948. Weaver talks about the decline of our society with the clarity of a prophet. From the back cover: "The catastrophes of our age are the product not of necessity but of unintelligent choice. A cure, he submits, is possible. It lies in the right use of man's reason, in the renewed acceptance of an absolute reality, and in the recognition that ideas--like actions--have consequences." It was distressing to realize as I read that we are getting dumber ...more
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American scholar who taught English at the University of Chicago. He is primarily known as a shaper of mid- 20th century conservatism and as an authority on modern rhetoric. A solitary figure in 20th-century American academic life, briefly a socialist in his youth, a lapsed leftist intellectual conservative by the time he was in graduate school, a teacher of composition, a Platonist philosopher ...more
“Hysterical optimism will prevail until the world again admits the existence of tragedy, and it cannot admit the existence of tragedy until it again distinguishes between good and evil. . . Hysterical optimism as a sin against knowledge.” 31 likes
“The issue ultimately involved is whether there is a source of truth higher than, and independent of, man; and the answer to the question is decisive for one’s view of the nature and destiny of man.” 20 likes
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