When asked what he thought of the French Revolution, Chinese premier Zhou En-lai is reported to have said, “It’s too soon to tell.” One could probably make the same comment about the Enlightenment, the reason-based European kaffeeklatsch that began a century before the storming of the Bastille. Two new books out this spring – Andrew Potter’s The Authenticity Hoax and Laura Penny’s More Money Than Brains – approach the legacy of the Enlightenment from the right and the left and both find modern culture (surprise!) going to hell in a handbasket. Ray Conlogue is our tour-guide across the River Styx.
Why does socialism, which always seems to have its heart in the right place, generally prove to be more desirable than feasible? Gerald Allen Cohen, “a product of the lost world of Canadian communism” and a brilliant but little-known man of letters, wrote a short monograph a few years before his death titled Why Not Socialism? that explores this question. June’s LRC essayist, Andy Lamey, uses the book as a springboard to test both the practicality and morality of socialism, explaining the perils of confusing self-interest with selfishness.
The battle between the Darwinists and the divines shows no sign of letting up, but you have to give Michael Ruse credit for suing for peace. In his most recent book, Science and Spirituality: Making Room for Faith in the Age of Science, the ebullient philosopher makes the case that the two can co-exist. Our reviewer, Salem Alaton, after chasing Ruse through the winding corridors of history from Plato onward, finds that an ultimate separation between empirical investigation and faith “may just be the whole ball of wax”.
And since we seem to be leaning heavily towards the Big Questions in this month’s LRC, let’s also spotlight Michel Basilieres’ impressive critique of the most challenging novel out this season, Yann Martel’s Beatrice and Virgil. In trying to assess Martel’s goal – to find a way to write meaningfully about the Holocaust in fiction – Basilieres ends up stating that the verdict on this difficult work won’t be in for at least a decade.
Plenty to think about in our June issue. Enjoy!
Bronwyn Drainie Editor