September 5, 2007


Coetzee, J. M., Inner Workings: Literary Essays 2000-2005 (New York: Viking, 2007).

Frankfurt, Harry G., The Importance of What We Care About: Philosophical Essays (Cambridge: Cambridge U. Press, 1988) (I had occasion, once again, to re-read this collection of essays. I want to bring to your attention one particular essay, 'Equality as a Moral Ideal.' "Economic egalitarianism is, as I shall construe it, the doctrine that it is desirable for everyone to have the same amounts of income and of wealth (for short, "money"). Hardly anyone would deny that there are situations in which it makes sense to tolerate deviations from this standard.... Nonetheless, many people believe that economic equality has considerable moral value in itself. For this reason they often urge that efforts to approach the egalitarian ideal should be accorded...a significant priority." "In my opinion, this is a mistake. Economic equality is not as such of particular moral importance. With respect to the distribution of economic assets, what is important from the point of view of morality is not that everyone should have the same but that each should have enough. If everyone had enough, it would be of no moral consequence whether some had more than others. I shall refer to this alternative to egalitarianism--namely, that what is moral important with respect to money is for everyone to have enough--as 'the doctrine of sufficiency'." "But despite the fact that an egalitarian distribution would not necessarily be objectionable, the error of believing that there are powerful moral reasons for caring about equality is far from innocuous. In fact, this belief tends to do significant harm." To the extent that people are preoccupied with equality for its own sake, their readiness to be satisfied with any particular level of income or wealth is guided not by their own interests and needs but just by the magnitude of the economic benefits that are at the disposal of others. In this way egalitarianism distracts people from measuring the requirements to which their individual natures and their personal circumstances give rise. It encourages them instead to insist upon a level of economic support that is determined by a calculation in which the particular features of their own lives are irrelevant.... A concern for economic equality, construed as desirable in itself, tends to divert a person's attention away from endeavoring to discover--within his experience of himself and of his life--what he himself really cares about and what will actually satisfy him, although this is the most basic and the most decisive task upon which an intelligent selection of economic goals depends. Exaggerating the moral importance of economic equality is harmful, in other words, because it is alienating." Id. at 134, 134-136.)

Hagen, George, Tom Bedlam: A Novel (New York: Random House, 2007).

Hobbs, Robert, Milton Avery: The Late Paintings (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2001).

Lawrence, D. H., Apocalypse (The Definitive Text from the Cambridge Edition) (New York: Viking, 1981) (From the jacket cover: "This essay] is a radical critique of religion and society and a testament to Lawrence's belief in the life-giving spiritual properties of the physical word.").

Patterson, Kevin, Consumption: A Novel (New York: Doubleday, 2007).

Sofer, Dalia, The September of Shiraz: A Novel (New York: Ecco, 2007).

Stott, Rebecca, Ghostwalk: A Novel (New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2007).