Good Reads That I Disagree With

Hello From HoustonI’m in Houston this week for work, and all full up of Tex-Mex food. Since I’ve been sitting on planes so much lately, I’ve done lots of reading. I thought I’d throw out some of the better pieces I’ve come across, with some minimal commentary about why I think the author’s thesis are wrong.

Pandora’s Briefcase Gladwell writes a typically intriguing piece about what spying means for our relationship to knowledge. Also typically, I think one of his underlying assumptions, that there is some a priori truth that’s obscured, is wrong, and thus his conclusion is way, way off base.

Condo’s of the Living Dead A. A. Gill argues that the super-lux buildings of “New New York” are soulless, nouve-riche status symbols. I don’t disagree but rather marvel at the quality of his condescension. Rarely is strawman-directed snobbery so readable.

America’s True History of Religious Tolerance Kenneth Davis argues that America’s checkered, violent past belies our ideal of religious tolerance. I’d argue that “tolerance” is a continuum, not an all-or-nothing proposition. Occasional violent flare-ups, like the murder of Joseph Smith don’t mean that the intervening, and increasingly long, periods of tranquility were worthless. Change takes time.

All three of these pieces suffer from a similar fault; thinking about life, and what makes it worth living, in a categorical way. How many things in life are really immutable? Isn’t life, and our decisions, much more contextual, more nuanced, more subtle and complex, than these three pieces would suggest?

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