For my Introduction to Philosophy course, a question on the final exam [pdf] was:
In your judgment, what is the most dangerous book we read this semester? First give a clear and sympathetic presentation of the book’s most important themes; second, state your criterion/criteria of dangerousness; finally, explain why you think the book is dangerous.
This semester we read Plato’s Apology, Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, Galileo’s “Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina,” Descartes’ Meditations, C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, and Sigmund Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents. My twelve students’ responses:
* One voted for Socrates as most dangerous
* Two voted for Lewis and two voted for Galileo
* Three voted for Descartes
* Four voted for Freud.
Three students took issue with Freud’s dismissing religion as a childish illusion. One disagreed with Freud’s argument that religion illusion plays an important civilizing and palliative role for the common man, holding that encouraging society’s leaders to promote falsehoods is politically dangerous.
I hereby declare Civilization and Its Discontents to be the Most Dangerous Book in Introduction to Philosophy, Rockford College, Spring Semester 2011.