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A Question of Values

by Hunter Lewis

Hunter Lewis, a former honcho at Atlantic Monthly, divides the world into six value systems--logic, authority, sense experience, emotion, intuition, and inexact social science--and therein lies a major failing of this book: Arbitrary categories. Robert Wellert has a better method for dividing moral beliefs: Virtue, deontological, pragmatic, consequentialist, existentialist, natural law, and contract ethics. Actual morality is largely absent from Lewis' work. Benefit, harm, and merit are mostly missing.


The best part of this book blasts social Darwinism. Underlings who dedicate themselves to the "team" are often manipulated by bosses who think nothing of degrading or slaughtering those underlings. Hitler once said that if Germans cannot win the war, they deserve to die.


Lewis defines intuition as unconscious, emotionless creative thinking, but it is hard to imagine anyone emotionless being creative, especially unconsciously creative.


To put it euphemistically, the author's explanation of logic is not accurate. Applied logic mostly uses inductive reasoning, not deductive reasoning as the author claims. Philosophers do not keep 167, or however many, fallacies fresh in their minds. Most of the 167 fallacy categories identified by Lewis are variations of simpler fallacy categories.


The target audience for this book is those wanting to consider themselves morally educated, but doesn't want to trouble himself with more than 300 pages of entertaining prose.


At the end Lewis asks us to guess which value system he adheres to. I have little idea. Breezy infotainment? Not recommended.


book review article by J.T. Fournier, last updated June 29, 2009


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