For Common Things: Irony, Trust, and Commitment in America Today

For Common Things: Irony, Trust, and Commitment in America Today

by Jedediah Purdy
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For Common Things: Irony, Trust, and Commitment in America Today 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I always find it amazing that people have such yearning to criticize earnest works that they themselves could not pen. Is this book perfect? No. But it is one hell of an effort. His thoughts on the relevance of Montaigne were wonderful. So too was his determination not to be simplistic. Funny, so much of the criticism of him is that he is too simple, is out of his league. And yet these same critics would applaud him had he written a thoroughly ridiculous but provocative treatise with a simple, but unbelievable premise. They would do this as long as the book was all done according to accepted (read pedantic) standards and had an inner consistent logic, but no application to real life. Such books are legion in academia, with their feuding footnotes, and they are forgetable and soon forgotten. Instead, Purdy tries to thread the needle. He is in search of Truth, not tenure. He is attempting to give us a viable way to view our surroundings and the way in which we learn. Why do so many have a problem with this? Because Purdy understands,as did the great Aristotle, that humans can only be perfected in their nature by living together. But this is not the formulaic, simple but not applicable, cut-with-a-scapel distinction that the critics want. He does not tell you all the answers. Instead he invites you to step back even further and to look at the question and then how to possibly get the answer for yourself. His is not an arrogance of what is good for W. VA. is good for CA. Rather, he intimates that the Californian, as a human and in need of a community and place, must become attached to CA and his own 'place' and seek his own answers within that greater context, THEN view himself nationally, THEN internationally. This is very aristotelian in its understandings--this is how humans learn about themselves and their world. As Aristotle noted in The Politics: 'A human is BY NATURE a social (politikon) animal.' This is lost on the modern mindset. It is no surprise that the post-Cartesian (after 1650) need for certainty (one that Montaigne criticized 50 years even before Descartes attempted it) precludes the critics from appreciating this fine work. READ THIS BOOK!! And appreciate the fact that he DOES NOT give you all the answers. Rather, try to get into the stance he is advocating. Then, the magic will begin.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In this beautifully written, sensitive collection of essays, essays nos. 1-3 and 6 are abstruse and interrelated, nos. 4 and 5 are more specific, dealing with environmental politics and genetic engineering. Purdy puts the blame on 'irony' for most of our current ills. He can get away with this because he never defines irony and so it can mean almost anything bad--not just the tragedy of unintended consequences but cynicism, narcissism, despair, political apathy, that jaundiced feeling, hard-heartedness, and so on. He makes a pretty good case for giving up on all this irony and becoming more emotional, more risk-taking, even taking a chance on politics--but then, it has to be HIS type of politics, as we find out in chapters 4 and 5. Purdy's prose style is so beautiful I had almost forgotten he is only 25 until he veered into 'political correctness'--while this itself is not so bad, he seems to be perpetuating the syndrome that has failed his native state (West Virginia) over the years--the Ivy League graduate who comes back home with all the answers. He can be forgiven his arrogance because he clearly didn't mean to offend. And political work isn't easy in a state as schizophrenic as West Virginia, which drives a wedge between its Rockefellers and its Sons of the Soil. I hope Purdy follows his heart. But he's such a great writer I hope he continues with the essays and not fall into the trap of producing prose for Lexuses or California wine or whatever.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you are smart enough to read a book like Purdy's, you are no doubt smart enough to already know a basic rule of intelligent reading: don't judge the hype, judge the book. The hype is that the author is mid-twenties and can actually think and write about issues and ideas of substance. That's true, but it's not terribly relevant. The book is quite astonishing on its own merits. Read it for the power of its langauge, and the beauty of its ideas, or vice versa. It will inspire you to reflect more deeply, see the culture you swim through every day more clearly, and may even engage you enough to write your own book. I hope so. Mr. Purdy has achieved a rare thing: a book that is wise, engaging, and controversial.