The Right Side of History: How Reason and Moral Purpose Made the West Great

The Right Side of History: How Reason and Moral Purpose Made the West Great

America has a God-shaped hole in its heart, argues New York Times bestselling author Ben Shapiro, and we shouldn't fill it with politics and hate. In 2016, Ben Shapiro spoke at UC Berkeley. Hundreds of police officers were required from 10 UC campuses across the state to protect his speech, which was -- ironically -- about the necessity for free speech and rational debate...

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Title:The Right Side of History: How Reason and Moral Purpose Made the West Great
Author:Ben Shapiro
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The Right Side of History: How Reason and Moral Purpose Made the West Great Reviews

  • Jeanette

    This review is beyond my ability to adequately describe the thoroughness and point to point focus over historical periods for homo sapiens' individual and collective cores for their own existence and rules of/for behaviors.

    In one point in particular, this finally made me understand the huge differences between two massive Revolutions that happened mere 3 short years apart (American and French) and why they evinced such alternative approaches within both processes and outcomes.

    If you have taken

    This review is beyond my ability to adequately describe the thoroughness and point to point focus over historical periods for homo sapiens' individual and collective cores for their own existence and rules of/for behaviors.

    In one point in particular, this finally made me understand the huge differences between two massive Revolutions that happened mere 3 short years apart (American and French) and why they evinced such alternative approaches within both processes and outcomes.

    If you have taken few or many philosophy classes- you will benefit for this read. Regardless of what studies re those that support your own gifts received from both Jerusalem and Athens or either or neither. Especially if you are of the core belief that passion, feelings or instincts often rule well for general good or collective purposes.

    The 4 elements of human society, interchange criteria that are essential for the homo sapiens "better"!

    I've guessed what the empty hole of needy void and incessant angst filled anger of the most "lucky" presently comes from; it's become much worse in the last 20 years. But I never could begin to posit and define the what and why of all that observable scowl reaction perception. Ben can in this succinct and exact work of historical/ philosophical Western civilization "structural moral law vs reasoning" history as components in the mix.

    Read this. If only for the placements and exact recordings of what the history of collective as power have wrought. Or if you want to grasp all the essence of the Founding Fathers ideas for a governance of individual rights with built in protections against the top down powers.

  • Brian Popp

    In The Right Side of History, Ben Shapiro gives a stirring defense of the enduring truth found in the philosophy of our founding fathers. In this compact book he manages also to give a high level overview of the entire history of western thought that will be sufficient to understand the "big ideas" of the various contributors and also be good starting point for those who want to dig deeper.

    In these turbulent times we are often hyper-focused on the "right now"; this book in my opinion helps us u

    In The Right Side of History, Ben Shapiro gives a stirring defense of the enduring truth found in the philosophy of our founding fathers. In this compact book he manages also to give a high level overview of the entire history of western thought that will be sufficient to understand the "big ideas" of the various contributors and also be good starting point for those who want to dig deeper.

    In these turbulent times we are often hyper-focused on the "right now"; this book in my opinion helps us understand the broader context of our times. This was my first experience reading Ben Shapiro, and I was impressed at the seriousness of this book. A good read; would definitely recommend to people on the right and left alike.

  • Tyler

    An exceptional read!

    With only 200 pages, Ben Shapiro summarizes the history of Western philosophy in a thrilling and exciting fashion that makes you want to keep reading. He masterfully boils down each philosopher to the root of their ideas, explains its impact in the culture at that time and how each new philosophy led into the the next step of history.

    He makes a compelling case for what we have lost in culture and gives clear and concise steps for us to take action on that will move us as a so

    An exceptional read!

    With only 200 pages, Ben Shapiro summarizes the history of Western philosophy in a thrilling and exciting fashion that makes you want to keep reading. He masterfully boils down each philosopher to the root of their ideas, explains its impact in the culture at that time and how each new philosophy led into the the next step of history.

    He makes a compelling case for what we have lost in culture and gives clear and concise steps for us to take action on that will move us as a society back to the Judeo-Christian values that brought us here.

  • MJD

    For those interested in exploring the marriage of Jewish and Greek thought further I would highly recommend the book

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  • Daddy-O

    Shapiro’s title for The Right Side of History was a little off-putting when I first saw it announced. Being so steeped in studying the philosophical presumptions of contemporary progressivism, as Shapiro certainly is, I tend to conflate the rhetoric of “progress” and the titular “right side of history” with Marx’s delusions of historical materialism and the inevitability of a Communist future. On the contrary, Marx co-opted these ideas from religious teleology and transformed them into his philo

    Shapiro’s title for The Right Side of History was a little off-putting when I first saw it announced. Being so steeped in studying the philosophical presumptions of contemporary progressivism, as Shapiro certainly is, I tend to conflate the rhetoric of “progress” and the titular “right side of history” with Marx’s delusions of historical materialism and the inevitability of a Communist future. On the contrary, Marx co-opted these ideas from religious teleology and transformed them into his philosophy of conceit. Like with so many other ideas in this book, Shapiro helped me recognize the Judeo-Christian foundation that we either take for granted or forget.

    Midway through the book I was a little disappointed. It had begun to read like an Introduction to Western Philosophy Lite. Having already read a book overview of Western thought that Shapiro quotes twice, The Passion of the Western Mind written by my uncle, a lot of the middle chapters were rather dull review. However, things get interesting when we get to the French Revolution. From here, Shapiro adds his own flair and covers a lot of influential ideas that would be dismissed by other history authors. Most engagingly, he covers the philosophical foundations of the great 20th century despots and allows the reader to recognize that those same philosophical foundations are still very much present in our contemporary thought. Do we have many eugenicists preaching about the necessity of sterilizing and/or slaughtering certain groups of people? No, but now we have the mainstream Left preaching about the moral necessity of murdering diseased children in the womb. Do we have many Nazis preaching about the need for living space and the supremacy of the German race? No, but now we have authoritarian population-alarmists and, well, Intersectionality. The list goes on, and really a lot of the same tyrannical philosophies from Bismarck to Lenin to Woodrow Wilson go relatively unchanged in contemporary politics.

    As a whole, Shapiro has produced a great Conservative manifesto. Did I expect that? No, I expected a study in God’s teleology of history. A pleasant surprise for me: I got both—the two are intertwined. Shapiro lays out a case for moral preservation: what made the West great and what has made our lives the most free and prosperous of all history is the tradition of Jerusalem and Athens. What do the activists of Intersectionality , Marxism, the Alt Right, and general Progressivism want to tear down? The tradition of Jerusalem and Athens. The stance of Conservatism is to conserve, as Bill Buckley wrote, “A conservative is someone who stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it.” Shapiro—and hopefully the reader—will continue to take that stand athwart history.

  • Tyler Ouellet

    I played the audio book throughout the day it was released. Clearly I found it both a quick read / listen and compelling. It is without a doubt the the tour de force that the author promised.

    For those who agree with Ben Shapiro and his general world view it is a good concise overview of the the history of western thought and progress. It spells out the triumphs of the "Athens and Jerusalem" world view and how the initially slow, but then quick abandonment of this wisdom now threatens western civ

    I played the audio book throughout the day it was released. Clearly I found it both a quick read / listen and compelling. It is without a doubt the the tour de force that the author promised.

    For those who agree with Ben Shapiro and his general world view it is a good concise overview of the the history of western thought and progress. It spells out the triumphs of the "Athens and Jerusalem" world view and how the initially slow, but then quick abandonment of this wisdom now threatens western civilization. Ben provided what I would consider very good summations of the ideas of complex thinkers in only a few paragraphs and weaves a compelling and truthful narrative. Shapiro's ability to balance narrative and explain complex ideas with clarity is objectively impressive.

    My concern with the book is I am not sure it is an effective work to convince those who do not already buy the author's premise. He is a clear, engaging, and concise writer. However, the brevity that makes for an easy and accessible read leaves important issues not fully explored and important counter arguments not addressed. I understand that striking the right balance is key to a work like this and is quite difficult, but I think I would have appreciated a slightly longer and more in depth work. That said the author leaves enough breadcrumbs for interested readers to pick up and explore topics at the depth they desire.

    I hope many people pick up this book and dig deeper into the topics presented. I agree with the author that this is a very important topic and commend him on taking such a difficult topic and making it accessible to a wide variety of readers. This book can serve as a broad introduction to the topic that anyone no matter their prior knowledge of theology, philosophy, and history can find valuable. They should also be aware that such a broad topic cannot be done full justice in 200 pages, no matter the talent of the writer.

  • Jeremy

    The main thesis of the book is this: “There can be no individual or communal moral purpose without a foundation of divine meaning. There can be no individual capacity or communal capacity without a constant, abiding belief in the nature of our reason. The history of the West is built on the interplay between these two pillars - divine meaning and reason.”

    Some who are not religious might dismiss the book entirely and argue that reason alone is sufficient for a good and happy society. To me, wheth

    The main thesis of the book is this: “There can be no individual or communal moral purpose without a foundation of divine meaning. There can be no individual capacity or communal capacity without a constant, abiding belief in the nature of our reason. The history of the West is built on the interplay between these two pillars - divine meaning and reason.”

    Some who are not religious might dismiss the book entirely and argue that reason alone is sufficient for a good and happy society. To me, whether or not we need “divine purpose” depends entirely on what you mean by that expression. Are we doomed if we don’t convert to the same orthodoxy? Surely not. But we might be destined for failure if we can’t leave open the possibility of a discoverable moral order embedded within reality. We might need to be humble about what we don’t know concerning the nature of reality, for example, why there should be something rather than nothing, or what consciousness is. We might need to embrace the idea that believing something means acting it out, and that we are better off acting as if there is a moral order to the universe that we did not (and in fact could not) create ourselves.

    What is really frightening about our society today is that some are actually taking a pickaxe to reason. This seems unimaginable - because without reason how can you function? - and yet it is happening. College professors argue that science and logic are merely the tools of oppression and serve no legitimate purpose in human affairs. I can understand the pickaxe some have taken to religion, usually in the name of reason, but trying to uproot reason itself? This is freaky.

    Summary of Big Ideas:

    + Freedom is built upon two ideas in tension with one another. Removing either one collapses the bridge built between the two. We are losing Western civilization because we have spent generations undermining these two deepest sources of our own happiness: divine meaning and reason

    1. God created every human in his image (Jerusalem - divine meaning)

    2. Human beings are capable of investigating and exploring God’s world (Athens - reason)

    + Four elements are required for a good and happy society.

    1. Individual moral purpose

    2. Communal moral purpose

    3. Individual capacity

    4. Communal capacity

    + America was founded on the twin principles of divine purpose and reason with the aim of promoting individual and communal moral purpose as well as individual and communal capacity

    - “The founding philosophy [of America] acknowledges the possibility of individual purpose. That purpose isn’t to be supplied by a government, or by molding individual citizens to the service of the polis. That purpose is supplied by a Judeo-Christian tradition of meaning and value and a Greek tradition of reason”

    + There is both a moral and a logical order to the universe. Humans cannot alter these fundamental realities, we can only align ourselves to these orders or experience the peril that ensues from misalignment or from trying to establish new orders on our own, from scratch

    - “If it were beneficial to us to kill babies and eat them, that would not make it moral. If it were beneficial for us to calculate that 2+2=5, it would not make it true. We care about both the moral and the true, and that requires a baseline assumption that we can discover the moral and the true”

    + There are some key differences between Judaism and Christianity, although they share the same fundamental belief that all human life is sacred and that we are created in God’s image

    - “Judaism rebuked the notion of a corporeal God in ringing fashion. Judaism is anti-materialism. It specifically rejects the idea that what we can see is all there is, or that the spiritual must be made physically manifest”

    - “In making faith paramount, Christianity demoted the role of Greek reason in the life of human beings. Despite Christianity’s vision of God as the logos - the logic lying behind all of the universe - Christianity conflated that logos with the person of Jesus”

    + History reveals that scientific progress was pushed forth by religious people because they had faith in reason as a means of understanding God’s order in the universe

    - “The age of scientific progress didn’t begin with the Enlightenment, it began in the monasteries of Europe”

    + No shocker here: FDR’s political philosophy is among the worst America has ever produced; he is perhaps the greatest enemy of freedom our country has ever known (my editorial summary, not Ben’s)

    - “Ignoring the injunction by economically laissez-faire thinkers that no set of individuals can know more than the entire market at large, FDR his cadre of ‘geniuses’ lengthened the Great Depression by nearly a decade by manipulating the currency, setting wages and prices, and bullying those who objected into silence. As Harold L. Cole and Lee E. Ohanian of UCLA concluded, ‘the economy was poised for a beautiful recovery, but that recovery was stalled by these misguided policies.’ Those misguided policies included FDR setting the price of gold based on his lucky number. Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau wrote in his diary, ‘If anybody ever knew how we really set the gold price - through a combination of lucky numbers, etc. - I think they would be frightened.’ Ironically, as Cole points out, ‘The fact that the depression dragged on for years convinced generations of economists and lawmakers that capitalism could not be trusted to recover from depressions and that significant government intervention was required to achieve good outcomes’”

    + Freud’s ideas were also terrible

    - “Freud a charlatan - a phenomenal publicist but a devastatingly terrible practicing psychologist. He was a quack who routinely prescribed measures damaging to patients, then wrote fictional papers bragging about his phenomenal results. In one 1896 lecture, he claimed that by uncovering childhood sexual trauma, he had healed some 18 patients. He later admitted he hadn’t cured anyone. Freud himself stated, ‘I am actually not at all a man of science, not an observer, not an experimenter, not a thinker; I am, by temperament, nothing but a conquistador, an adventurer’”

    + Self-esteem from thin air is a terrible way to attempt creating happiness. The Left has used self-esteem as a means for destroying the pillars of Western civilization

    - “It turns out not that self-esteem makes people more high-achieving, but that more high-achieving people tend to have higher self-esteem, thanks to their achievements.” The true effect of the self-esteem movement “wasn't to create generations of more fulfilled human beings, it was to create generations of more self-obsessed human beings.”

    - “Where children had once learned from Pinocchio to ‘always let your conscience be your guide,’ now they were taught by Frozen, ‘no right, no wrong, no rules for me, I'm free, let it go.’”

    - “By focusing on self-esteem, the new Left could kill three birds with one stone. They could overturn reliance on Judeo-Christian religion, Greek teleology, and Capitalism [because these three] all have something in common: none of them cares particularly much about ‘your bliss.’ Religion suggests that your self-realization lies in consonance with God, and that any attempt to placate your ego through pursuit of personally defined happiness is bound to fail. Religion suggests that ‘your bliss’ does not exist, only God’s bliss does. Greek teleology is utterly unconcerned with your personal definition of self-realization. The only thing that counts is whether you are acting virtuously in accordance with right reason. And Capitalism cares far less about how you are feeling than about your ability to create products and services someone else wants”

    + Don’t tear down a wall before you know why the wall was built

    + So, what do we teach our children?

    Your life has purpose

    Life is a struggle but is guided by a higher meaning

    Defend the rights of the individual and the preciousness of individual lives

    Act with virtues including justice and mercy

    Restore the foundations of your civilization and build new and more beautiful structures atop those foundations

    What you do matters

    You can do it

    You have freedom to choose your path

    This is the freest civilization in the history of mankind, make the most of it

    You are not a victim

    You are responsible for your actions

    Look to your own house before blaming the society that bore you

    If society is violating individual rights, it is your duty to work to change that

    You are made in the image of God, bound to the earth but with a soul that dreams of the eternal

    Your civilization is unique

    Most human beings throughout time have experienced more pure pain in their first few years than you will likely experience in your whole life

    You did not create your freedoms or your definition of virtue, nor did they arise in a vacuum; learn your history

    Be grateful for your roots and defend those roots

    We are all brothers and sisters

    Our common cause is a civilization replete with purpose, both communal and individual

    We must share the same definition of liberty when it comes to politics and the same definition of virtue when it comes to creating and maintaining social capital

    Potent Quotables:

    "The consideration that human happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected, will always continue to prompt me to promote the progress of the former, by inculcating the practice of the latter." George Washington, Letter to The Protestant Episcopal Church, 1789

    We humans cannot completely understand God... The human notion of good and evil doesn’t mirror the divine notions of good and evil. But God does have a standard, even if we can’t fully understand it.

    Material human progress in the absence of spiritual fulfillment isn’t enough. People need meaning.

    The new scientific Athenians will have to make common cause with the devotees of Jerusalem, rather than making war on them. The same holds true in reverse.

    It is our job to reconnect with both the word of God and with the philosophy of reason and individual liberty - two ideas that are, after all, inextricably intertwined.

    When we accept our past, when we learn the lessons [our ancestors] teach us, when we recognize their wisdom, even as we develop our own, we become a link in the chain of history.

    It is our job to carry on the tradition. It is our job to push the task forward… We will choose life.

  • Manny

    Certainly not what I expected. Love him, hate him or love to hate him, Ben is certainly a figure that regardless where you stand, you have to give him credit, one of the most

    nimble people to debate. His quick witted and thoughtful responses are interesting to watch weather you agree or not. This is the Spairo I was expecting to read. Instead I got a decent book about Judeo-Christian society and its norms. Again not what I expected.

    I applaud Shapiro on his faith and the decisions he makes regar

    Certainly not what I expected. Love him, hate him or love to hate him, Ben is certainly a figure that regardless where you stand, you have to give him credit, one of the most

    nimble people to debate. His quick witted and thoughtful responses are interesting to watch weather you agree or not. This is the Spairo I was expecting to read. Instead I got a decent book about Judeo-Christian society and its norms. Again not what I expected.

    I applaud Shapiro on his faith and the decisions he makes regarding said faith. I can certainly appreciate them. I disagree with some of his beliefs but that does not take away from his execution

    of his faith. For all of you anti-Trumpers, that love to hate him, I will have you know that he is NOT a shil for Trump. He slams him consistently when it makes sense.

  • Ryan

    I am a big fan of Ben Shapiro. I listen to his podcast most days. I find him intellectually honest. He brings conservatism back to its fundamentals. In fact, I could say that I agree with him on 90% of his policy and reasoning.

    This book presents an extremely important premise. Western civilization, which is built of Greek reason and Judeo-Christian values, is one of a kind. It brought us several core beliefs which eventually led to the foundation and the success of the United States. Losing thos

    I am a big fan of Ben Shapiro. I listen to his podcast most days. I find him intellectually honest. He brings conservatism back to its fundamentals. In fact, I could say that I agree with him on 90% of his policy and reasoning.

    This book presents an extremely important premise. Western civilization, which is built of Greek reason and Judeo-Christian values, is one of a kind. It brought us several core beliefs which eventually led to the foundation and the success of the United States. Losing those values and reason will bring about our demise.

    So why only three stars? Because other books have done this better. Read ‘A Little History of Philosophy’ and then ’Why Liberalism Failed’, and Ben Shapiro’s laziness and lack of innovation become apparent.

    It is a fine read for those who are only now embarking on the historical and philosophical study of conservatism, but for the rest of us, it feels like more of the same.

  • Jerrid Kruse

    I wanted to like this book. I believe the judeo-Christian tradition to be a powerful framework to guide our living. However, the book was filled with logical fallacies, false equivalencies, spurious correlations, half truths, and cherry picking of ideas. For example, the author repeatedly makes causal claims based only on the fact that one event happened before the other. He believes the enlightenment was only possible with judeo-Christian values, but ignores the scientific advancement of non-Eu

    I wanted to like this book. I believe the judeo-Christian tradition to be a powerful framework to guide our living. However, the book was filled with logical fallacies, false equivalencies, spurious correlations, half truths, and cherry picking of ideas. For example, the author repeatedly makes causal claims based only on the fact that one event happened before the other. He believes the enlightenment was only possible with judeo-Christian values, but ignores the scientific advancement of non-European civilizations. He consistently misrepresents the arguments of the left. In one example, he critiques intersectionality with a clear misunderstanding of the construct. Other times he dismisses logic other than his own a priori and provides no explanation and seems to fundamentally misunderstand the role of premises in formulating coherent logic. His mishandling of basic logic is exemplified by his spending so much time creating straw men of his opposition that he forgot to argue for his premise. It seems the author has strung together a line of thinking that will resonate very well with those who uncritically nod along. I suppose that is one way to sell a lot of books. Luckily I read mine from that left wing socialist non-Christian institution that is ruining our country called a library.

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