For millennia, philosophical, ethical and theological reflection was commonplace among the intellectually curious. But the wisdom that some of the greatest minds across the centuries continue to offer us remains routinely ignored in our modern pursuit of self-fulfilment, economic growth and technological advancement.
Sohrab Ahmari, the influential Op-Ed editor at the New York Post, offers a brilliant examination of our postmodern Western culture, and an analysis of the paradox at its heart: that the ‘freedoms’ we enjoy – to be or do whatever we want, subject only to consent, with everything morally neutral or relative – are at odds with the true freedom that comes from the pursuit of the collective good.
Rather than the insatiable drive to satisfy our individual appetites, this collective good involves self-sacrifice and self-control. It requires us to diminish so that others may grow. What responsibility do we have to our parents? Should we think for ourselves? Are sexual ethics purely a private matter? How do we justify our lives? These, and other questions – explored in the company of a surprising range of ancient and contemporary thinkers – reveal how some of the most ancient moral problems are as fresh and relevant to our age as they were to our ancestors.
By plumbing the depths of each question, the book underscores the poverty of our contemporary narratives around race, gender, privilege (and much else), exposing them as symptoms of a deep cultural crisis in which we claim a false superiority over the past, and helps us work our way back to tradition, to grasp at the thin, bare threads in our hands, while we still can.