Before 2013 begins, catch up on the best of 2012. From now until the New Year, we will be re-posting some of The New Republic’s most thought-provoking pieces of the year.
David Hume was born three hundred years ago, in 1711. The world has changed radically since his time, and yet many of his ideas and admonitions remain deeply relevant, though rather neglected, in the contemporary world. These Humean insights include the central role of information and knowledge for adequate ethical scrutiny, and the importance of reasoning without disowning the pertinence of powerful sentiments.
The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution By Francis Fukuyama (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 585 pp., $35) Ideas about what it means to be modern are soon dated. Not so long ago theories were in vogue claiming that a “scientific-technical revolution” was under way that would lead to a single type of government spreading throughout the world. Originally promoted by Daniel Bell in the 1950s, the theory of convergence suggested that the Soviet Union would evolve to become like the advanced industrial societies of the West.
Civility: Manners, Morals, and the Etiquette of Democracy by Stephen L. Carter (Basic Books, 338 pp., $25) Civility, or rather its absence, is a subject of great concern today. Journalists, politicians, social critics, professors, and ordinary Americans are worried. In 1996, U.S.