The Charioteer

"The charioteer of the human soul drives a pair of steeds, and one of the horses is beautiful, good, and formed of such elements, whereas the makeup of the other one is quite the opposite." -Phaedrus

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Location: Duquesne University, United States

A Blog For All and None. Consider it my narrative history of ideas. A place primarily to share and obtain feedback to my thoughts through my graduate career in philosophy. For philosophy is simply "thoughts that have been thought out."

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Secret, or a Philosophy-less Philosophy

It astounds me how hundreds of books are published each year by learned and erudite minds that, even if they are not necessarily groundbreaking in material, are still miles superior to the slavish drivel of Rhonda Byrne's bestseller, The Secret. So why does the drivel have the upperhand on the great oration? Perhaps, ironically, it is precisely because the book is so poorly argued, and therefore, very simple, that the masses take to it all the more; because it is a "philosophy" without a grounding philosophy, and therefore is easier to understand than philosophical scholarship. But this is all the more dangerous. If the only philosophically oriented literature the majority of people read nowadays is that "philosophical" literature that is not actually rigorously supported by philosophical argumentation, but some random references to "great thinkers" and actual quotes by others who happen not to be great thinkers, then philosophy (or a legitimate and supported world-view) is not what is actually being received. Rather, Rhonda's random, unsupported world-view, born from a reflection on experience, but one who certainly has not won the the educational rights to write philosophy. In short: why would someone trust a purported world-view, without the philosophical support of education and knowledge of previous philosophies?

Take for example the first paragraph of the dustcover summary:

Fragments of a Great Secret have been found in oral traditions, in literature, in religions and philosophies throughout the centuries. For the first time all the pieces of The Secret come together in an incredible revelation that will be life-transforming for all who experience it.

No one writing a serious philosophy or scholarly work would get away with a statement such as this one. (1) It's overly sensational. (2) It's incredibly audacious in its claim to tradition and its superiority. (3) It's far too presumptuous in terms of its expected outcome. In fact, there are scholars who dedicate their lives to the study of these very traditions, oral, literary, religious and philosophical traditions who all just may very much call Rhonda's work into question.

Read books with some scholarly argumentation and not empty assertions even if the latter are easier to understand. And don't trust any random philosophy, and especially if the author has not achieved the right to convince you of her opinion, i.e., who is not even a philosopher. In short, dump The Secret in the trash can nearest you!


Blogger Chris said...

My mom just bought me a copy of The Secret and really wants me to read it.

Have you read it then?

6:12 PM  
Blogger Eric J Mohr said...

I read the first chapter and skimmed through the rest. Let me know what you think. This post was my initial impression.

10:56 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Did you also receive it as a gift?

1:10 PM  
Blogger Eric J Mohr said...

No, I don't own the book. You probably shouldn't take the last line of my post seriously since the book was a gift! Of course, I was humorously exaggerating anyway.

3:57 PM  
Blogger Jerome said...

Wow. I just watched about half of The Secret: The Infomercial on the Interweb a few days ago, and now I see your admittedly tame debunking of this published roll of toilet paper. What is interesting is that something like Carnegie's Power of Positive Thinking can't compete in the age of overhyped publishing, so Byrne feels like what is essentially the same message has to be couched in a DaVinci Code-esque pseudophilosophical tale.

10:36 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

Great link Jerome. Thanks to you, I dread reading this book for my mom even more!

(Question to Self: Which would be the quickest way of making her happy, watching 1 hour and 30 minutes of this nutty video or skimming through the text itself?)

11:29 PM  
Blogger Eric J Mohr said...

Chris, why did your mom get you the book in the first place? Did she read it herself and think it really good? Or was it that she knows you study philosophy and wanted your opinion?

Also, you can watch the first 20 min. of the film on YouTube.

I used to be able to watch the whole thing but apparently they took it off.

And Jerome, you are very right that it is DaVinci Code-esque. That is very interesting.

1:28 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

My mom read the book herself and wants to share it with everyone she knows.

3:27 PM  
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