I’m reading through Deirdre McCloskey’s generally-excellent and occasionally-surreal The Bourgeois Virtues at the moment. It’s a great read, although its target audience — people whose reflexive reaction to the term “bourgeois virtue” is a sneer and a snort — probably won’t buy or read a six hundred page apologia thereupon (let alone four of them). Still, it’s far from a sermon to the choir, and I’m finding my hard-nosed stoic-existentialist naturalism gently and unsettlingly challenged. (It’s also the first book I’ve read since Kierkegaard that is deeply Christian without being smarmy.)
I do have one complaint: McCloskey likes to use “democratic” when she seems to mean something more like “anthropophilic”*, as for example in:
True humility on the contrary is democratic, looking for the best in people, and often finding it.
Perhaps she does, in a subtle and precise way, mean that true humility is subject to rule by the people. I rather suspect, however, that she uses the term in the more amorphous sense of “respectful of people in general, rather than an elite few”. I think democracy is a pretty cool guy, but its generically laudatory use — “warm happy fuzzy feelings for everyone” — isn’t doing anyone any favours, least of all uptight usage Nazis like me.
* I’d compare to “philanthropic” if modern usage hadn’t reduced that one to “giving lots of money to colleges and symphonies”.