Freud’s Moses: Judaism Terminable and Interminable
by Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi
Yale University Press, 159 pages, $25
This massively documented yet eminently readable text takes up the questions surrounding Freud’s last and conventionally derided book, Moses and Monotheism. Freud’s identity as “godless Jew,” says Yerushalmi of Columbia University, was much deeper than many scholars have allowed. What that might mean, and whether psychoanalysis is a “Jewish science,” and what that, in turn, might mean for our understanding of “Jewish” and “science” are among the questions posed by the author in a concluding “Monologue with Freud.” Freud does not answer.
Anti-Americanism: Critiques at Home and Abroad, 1965-1990
by Paul Hollander
Oxford University Press, 515 pages, $35
Hollander, professor of sociology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, is justly celebrated for his earlier Political Pilgrims, an analytical chronicle of American intellectuals’ search for the revolution that works. In the present book. Hollander massively documents the leftist (mainly) contempt for the American experience, examining its institutional locations, also in the churches. Among the more intriguing chapters is the survey of early “revisionisms” regarding the collapse of Communism. According to myriad alienated thinkers who are nonetheless in the institutional mainstream of our high culture, the end of Communism means the birth of authentic Marxism and the vindication of their indictment of Western democracy in general and America in particular. This invaluable work both documents and provides an analytical framework for understanding the force of anti-Americanism in our culture wars. Now that the opportunities for political pilgrimages to revolutions elsewhere are more limited, that powerful force may be yet more effectively focused on the battles at home.
The Triumph of the Embryo
by Lewis Wolpert
Oxford University Press, 211 pages, $22.95
The author is professor of biology at University College London, and his book is something of a triumph in explaining to the general reader the current state of embryology and what it may portend for the human future. While he skirts ethical issues such as abortion, he does convey the “wonder and delight” of scientific reflection on the source and development of life.
Rationalism in Politics. [New and Expanded Edition]
by Michael Oakeschott
Liberty Press, 558 pages, $24
The reissue of a classic work of twentieth-century political philosophy, first published in 1962, with six new essays added to the original ten. A major Oakeshott theme is the use and abuse of reason in political life. He distinguishes between “rationalism” (an over-reliance on deductive reasoning and systematic coherence) and the “practical rationality” that is more appropriate to political life.
by John Kleinig
Princeton University Press, 283 pages, $35
An academically careful examination of the status of life itself in moral reasoning. Abortion, capital punishment, genetic engineering, and other disputed practices are treated intelligently, albeit inconclusively.
by William of Ockham
Yale University Press, Vols. I and II, 702 pages, $100
A quodlibetal question is any question that catches one’s fancy and is thrown up for discussion. One might, for instance, ask why Yale is publishing such an ambitious series in medieval philosophy, of which these two volumes are part. Fifteen years ago, there were few in academic philosophy who suggested that it might be “relevant” to reexamine thinkers of, say, the fourteenth century. The suggestion is no longer deemed eccentric.
A Grammar of Consent: The Existence of God in Christian Tradition
by Aidan Nichols, O.P.
University of Notre Dame Press, 214 pages, $31.95
Arguments for faith in a God, including the argument of Newman’s suggested by the title; rely too heavily on specifically “religious” and experiential considerations, contends the author. An important and lucid contribution to a discussion that will have no end before the End Time.
A Covenantal Theology: The Eucharistic Order of History
by Donald J. Keefe, S.J.
University Press of America, Volume 1: 553 pages, $63.50; Volume II: 536 pages, $63.25
That there is a twenty-five cent difference between the volumes, suggesting a little more than a penny per page, is a lesson in economies of scale. This is, more seriously, a serious and intriguing study, advocating Augustine’s Christianizing of Plato and Aquinas’ Christianizing of Aristotle against everything that has been proposed to replace them under the banner of “modernity.” The immense critical apparatus is a bibliological treasure house. The author has, it seems, read everything. A must for respectable theological libraries.
Money and the Meaning of Life
by Jacob Needleman
Doubleday, 321 pages, $20
A philosopher at San Francisco State, best known for his writing on Eastern religions in America, attempts to “sacralize the money question.” The book glosses the observation that where your treasure is there will your heart be also, and tends to accept the probability that one’s treasure is likely measured in terms of money. Suggestive and sometimes quirky. Money and the Meaning of Life might help some readers to think more seriously about the spiritual dimensions of economics.
Political Order and the Pluralistic Structure of Society
by James W. Skillen and Rockne M. McCarthy
Scholars Press, 421 pages, $34.95
Readings in the Abraham Kuyper tradition of Calvinist political theory. The emphasis is on “spheres of sovereignty” in the social order, which entails also schemes for proportional representation in the polity. A valuable collection, albeit woefully overpriced.
Prodigal Son/Elder Brother: Interpretation and Alterity in Augustine, Petrarch, Kafka, Levinas
by Jill Robbins
University of Chicago Press, 182 pages, $24.95
Readers who are excited by aporias and alterities batted about in the intellectual high jinx of critical theory may relish this little book. If we accurately, so to speak, discern the skilled pretexts of the author, her conclusions, as it were, are not good news for Jewish-Christian dialogue.