This would never happen back in Berkeley! One of my supposedly intellectual groups had scheduled a discussion of Steven Pinker’s latest book Enlightenment Now over a month ago. There were thirteen people at this meeting and not one of them had read the book but for me. Some claimed to have watched some videos about the book but there wasn’t much evidence of that.
I was asked to summarize the book so we would have some basis of something to talk about, and I did that briefly and then read a couple of separate paragraphs which I felt were central to Pinker’s way of thinking. My reading included a passage which he chose to put into in the Edge book of key thoughts by current working thinkers, This Idea is Brilliant.
Consequently, the conversation wasn’t very directed and didn’t have much to do with the book, or Pinker or deeper ideas. The Tuesday morning conversation, two days ago, with a group that doesn’t claim to be intellectually oriented, was much deeper. What bothered me about tonight’s meeting was that no one even seemed concerned that no one had read the book. Okay, why not just call it a discussion group and have someone facilitate a conversation about some potentially interesting idea? That way no previous preparation is needed and no pretense about doing something that wasn’t going to happen, because it couldn’t happen. By having a supposed subject about which everyone acknowledged that they didn’t have even the most basic knowledge, that of having read the book, made the whole event into …
A pathetic farce.