LJ Reviews 2018 March #1
Whether based on nationality, class, culture, race, and/or religion, identity is seen today as a main source of various conflicts worldwide. But NYU philosophy and law professor Appiah, author of the prize-winning Cosmopolitanism and the "Ethicist" column for the New York Times, begs to differ. Pointing to discarded or ineffectual concepts of race, nation, and the West, he argues that identity isn't the cause but the result of these conflicts. Appiah expands on his 2016 BBC Reith Lectures to deliver something timely; look for a five-city tour to New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, and Washington, DC.
Copyright 2018 Library Journal.
LJ Reviews 2018 September #2
Appiah (philosophy, New York Univ.; Cosmopolitanism) argues that people identify with ideas and groups in ways that are inescapable but dangerous. The key danger lies in essentialism, the view that a group has fixed conditions of identity that apply without exception to its members. Thus, Scriptural determinism holds that people who profess a religion are committed to beliefs found in canonical texts, yet to view religion in this way is to ignore the diversity of belief and behavior among those who profess a particular creed. In another example, Appiah denies that race determines intelligence and personality traits and offers similar considerations along lines of country, class, and culture, moving easily over diverse fields including biblical scholarship, philosophy, history, and anthropology. Appiah often draws examples from his own remarkable life, as well as from personalities such as Michael Young, a sociologist who coined the term meritocracy and was an architect of the post-World War II British welfare state. VERDICT Written in a clear, nontechnical style, this book by an outstanding contemporary philosopher presents critical thinking about public issues at its best and should appeal widely to anyone interested in serious thought. [See Prepub Alert, 2/12/18.]—David Gordon, Ludwig von Mises Inst., Auburn, AL
Copyright 2018 Library Journal.
PW Reviews 2018 June #3
The supposedly eternal categories people use to group themselves into antagonistic collectives are misleading memes of recent vintage, according to this probing critique of identity politics. New York University philosophy professor Appiah (Cosmopolitanisms) argues that, although people have an innate "clannishness"—an instinct to identify with groups—the common essential properties that bind those groups are arbitrary, inconsistent, and mainly imaginary. The idea of fixed biological races, he contends, developed in the 18th century to justify the transatlantic slave trade; the notion of homogeneous national identities sprouted from a 19th-century romantic philosophy that forced them onto multiethnic, multilingual communities; modern religious divisions are based on contradictory, often unintelligible scriptures; and, contrary to the dicta of both white nationalists and Afrocentrists, Western culture isn't the creation of Europeans, Egyptians, or any other single people. Writing in erudite but engaging prose, Appiah spotlights figures who created identitarian doctrines or challenged them, including a West African boy who traveled to Germany in 1707 and became a philosophy professor, and ponders his own complicated identity as a gay, biracial man descended from English knights on his mother's side and Ghanaian royalty on his father's. With deep learning and incisive reasoning, Appiah makes a forceful argument for building identity from individual aspirations rather than exclusionary dogmas. (Aug.)
Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly.