Ben Shapiro is a controversial figure in the media. He has a huge following on YouTube and through is news website the Daily Wire. Search YouTube for his name and you’ll find titles like “Ben Shapiro DESTROYS Transgenderism And Pro-Abortion Arguments”. Naturally he peaked my interest and after watching the Joe Rogan Podcast where Shapiro introduced his newest book ‘The Right Side of History’, I thought it would be nice to read his book.
We are living in an era of subjectivism and relativism. We live in a post-truth age where everyone can have his or her own truth. But Shapiro claims: Facts don’t care about your feelings. He asks two questions. Why do we have it so well? Why are we ruining it? Even though we live in the best possible times which has ever been presented on this planet, it feels like we aren’t happier or more content. Instead we go against what made our societies so great. Shapiro wants to see why we do this.
According to him it is because we have lost the pillars on which we founded our civilization. The two pillars being belief in the sovereignty of the individual granted to us from the Bible and rational teleological (everything has a goal/purpose) thinking granted to us from the Ancient Greeks. He calls this dichotomy Jerusalem and Athens. These two cities created the foundation of western civilization according to Shapiro and it the book he shows the timeline of how these two cities created our ideals.
According to Shapiro, it is impossible for a civilization to exist of it doesn’t have any transcendental purpose, which it normally finds in religion and/or a God. He stresses quite often that many philosophers whom we have to thank for ideas, were religious. The Founding Fathers of the United States were deeply religious. It is the idea that every human being is created in the image of God that is highly important for Shapiro. This means that every human is inherently equal and worthy of life. Here we could argue that dogmatic belief in religion has caused millions of deaths and that there was discrimination between those who honored the ‘right’ God and the ‘heretics’. But the fact that people have abused ideas to gain in power or wealth (which happens with every idea), isn’t a good reason to put away with the whole idea. It is not because Hitler has used the ideas of Nietzsche, that we should abandon the ideas of Nietzsche altogether.
The second pillar is that of the telos in the world. Aristotle believed that everything in this world had a proper function. The function for teeth was for biting and so on. The proper function of the human being is to act according to one’s reason. If we fulfill our purpose we will achieve happiness.
The two ideas were combined by Thomas Aquinas. He used the two ideas and made it the main philosophy of the Christian church. The purpose for humans was to act in accordance with his or her reason. This reason was granted to us by something. This something is God. So by using our reason we could come closer to heaven. Saint Augustine called this the City of God. The City of God was the end goal for human beings and we could only reach it by believing and using our rational mind.
But says Shapiro, we have lost those two pillars. After the enlightenment, we lost faith in God and we broke away from the Ancient Greeks. This was the main reason the atrocities of the 20th century happened according to Shapiro. Instead of going back to our two pillars, we retreated into existentialism, which was the basis for subjectivism and moral relativism. This resulted to postmodernism, which is now the dominant idea and is to blame for the relativeness of todays society. In order to remake our divided society, we should go back to our roots. We should again believe in God and believe in the telos of human beings.
This book is highly accessible for any reader. There are a lot of important philosophers being explained in this book. Therefore, it is a good book for anyone who wants to learn about some new philosophers and their ideas. It takes the problems of today and tries to give a concise and precise answer to it, which I can only respect. I’ll be posting a discussion post later, because there are some things I don’t agree with. If you want to learn more about the ideas of Ben Shapiro and where they come from, I would highly recommend this book.