The public was asked to vote on a list of the top 20 academic books, from a list of 200 titles, selected by a committee of experts invited to take part by the Booksellers Association and The Academic Book of the Future project.
As it turns out, Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species was the firm favorite, securing 26 percent of the vote. The Communist Manifesto came in second.
But, for some strange reason, Alison Flood [ht: ja] decided to focus instead on Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, which was fifth:
a choice heralded by the Booksellers Association’s Alan Staton. “We seem to be governed by expediency and doublethink and it’s reassuring to know that Kant’s Categorical Imperative is known and thought important,” he said.
Philosopher Roger Scruton agreed. “I am gratified that the Critique of Pure Reason, which must be surely one of the most difficult works of philosophy ever written, should have been chosen as among the most influential of all academic books,” he said of the 18th-century text.
“Kant set out on an extraordinary task, which was to show the limits of human reasoning, and at the same time to justify the use of our intellectual powers within those limits. The resulting vision, of self-conscious beings enfolded within a one-sided boundary, but always pressing against it, hungry for the inaccessible beyond, has haunted me, as it has haunted many others since Kant first expressed it.”
From my perspective, it is much more interesting that the list included Edward Said’s Orientalism, E. P. Thompson’s The Making of the English Working Class, Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, and John Berger’s Ways of Seeing.