A Letter to the Editor in The Economist in Response to Two Book Reviews

While on vacation in California the November 3rd and 10th issues of The Economist arrived in the mail, which I thus read more or less simultaneously upon my return.

My usual practice is to turn to the ‘Science and Technology’ and ‘Book Review’ sections first, and two reviews, in particular, caught my eye, one of John Gray’s Seven Types of Atheism (Nov. 10th) and one of Paul Collier’s The Future of Capitalism (Nov.3rd).

I have no idea if the same reviewer was responsible for both (their reviews are anonymous), but despite how different the ostensive topics of the books were, the reviews had identified a common philosophical tone: a deeply critical attitude toward the traditional philosophical defenses of their respective subjects (atheism and capitalism) combined with the absence of any sort of systematic, positive alternative.

This prompted the letter to the editor below, which they published in their November 24th issue. In fact, while I didn’t stress this, I am convinced that this absence was in both cases intentional: Gray and Collier are both ‘pragmatists’ who are skeptical of any principled, systematic answers to moral questions. Here is a link to this post that will take the reader to my LTE. (The link is to the entire LTE page of The Economist. You need to scroll down to the 4th letter, which they titled ‘In praise of individualism’.)