My weekly column at Taki’s Magazine is up. This week I reviewed R. Jay Magill, Jr.’s book Sincerity: How a moral ideal born five hundred years ago inspired religious wars, modern art, hipster chic, and the curious notion that we all have something to say (no matter how dull).
Regard for sincerity in Western civilization has ebbed and flowed since those 16th-century Protestants began plumbing their inner selves. (“I have within me the great pope, Self.”—Luther) Magill charts these cycles of action and reaction.
The problem with a community dedicated to sincerity is that impostors will quickly learn the appropriate outward show. As the old showbiz adage has it: “Sincerity—if you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” (I have a feeling that one’s a favorite with political consultants, too.) La Rochefoucauld noted in 1665 that: “What usually passes for sincerity is only an artful pretense designed to win the confidence of others.”
So the tide ebbed, and a mannered society, elevating the courtly arts of wit, style, flattery, and guile made a comeback, the restoration of the English monarchy in 1660 standing as a convenient milestone.
Read the whole thing at Taki’s Magazine.