This attack began, oddly enough, in Plato's day as Plato had the good sense to recognize the seductive appeal of rhetoric and could reject it in favor of elevating the reality behind that rhetoric over the rhetoric itself. Kimball notes that over the next two millenia most philosophers have succeeded in avoiding this pitfall--at least until this century when Jacques Derrida began to unravel the meaning of meaning by imputing to it a foundation of relativism that says in essence that human beings can never "know" anything for certain because of unvoidable biases, prejudices, and ideologies. Kimball takes an interesting tack by structuring much of his book in the form of academic conferences in which he attends and by using his trusty tape recorder captures the very words and intonations of speakers who rail against the very jobs that pay them such lofty paychecks. Kimball is a very witty and funny writer. As these academic deans speak their deconstructionist jargon, Kimball will then translate into plain English. As he does so, he, like Dorothy in Oz, swoops away the linguistic curtain that hides speakers who literally exhibit a gross lack of the very essentials that they are expounding.
Kimball is aghast at the willingness of academia to abandon the canon of Great Books. He notes that it is bad enough to suggest that this canon be discarded but that it is infinitely worse to replace it with second and third rate works that are represented only because the authors fall into an acceptable mixture or racial, ethnic, and gender divisions. Kimball also plays devil's advocate by examining the defense of academia against charges that this radicalization of curricula has rendered our nation's humanities departments largely irrelevant. Their defense, he notes, usually takes the tack of a call for "diversity" when the overwhelming number of courses offered today are anything but.
In TENURED RADICALS, Roger Kimball is not optimistic that there will be any significant changes anytime soon. The philosophical mind rot has embedded itself too deeply. For those who still believe that there are still some universal sentiments worth learning, then this book is invaluable reading.