Image and reality

Martha Nussbaum’s review of Harvey Mansfield’s book Manliness is a demonstration of what can make a book review worthwhile. She explores not just the intellectual failings of a book purported to be an intellectual work, but goes on to examine how those failings could plausibly have been a deliberate attempt to increase Mansfield’s appeal and marketability to a certain audience.

Nussbaum shows how the image of “Harvey Mansfield” differs from the reality of Harvey Mansfield. That sort of exposé is necessary but too rare.

Image is nearly empty when detached from reality. An intellectual image so detached can do little more than provide a brief thrill of knowingness that seems like knowledge before you stop to think about it.

Humility is a virtue because it restrains us to the hard work of reality when the easy charm of image tempts us. And when people are not humble, as with Professor Mansfield, sometimes it is in the public interest to humble them.

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