Practical Judgments: Essays in Culture, Politics, and Interpretation


344 pages
Contains Index
ISBN 0-8020-3675-9
DDC 081




Reviewed by Geoffrey Harder

Geoffrey Harder is a public services librarian and manager, Knowledge Common, in the Science and Technology Library of the University of Alberta.


Practical Judgments successfully guides both philosopher and layperson
through the philosophical quagmires of culture, politics, and
interpretation. Kingwell is a thoughtful and intelligent guide with a
remarkable knack for being able to cut through mountains of
philosophical discourse to what truly matters, never dismissing or
overlooking the importance of other great minds and intellectual debates
along the way.

I have read several of Kingwell’s books, and I am once again
impressed by his ability to sensibly work his way through complex
problems, in a manner that truly does draw on the best semblance of
practical judgments and what is generally referred to as common sense.
Kingwell’s introduction marks the importance of this book: “Every
critical sortie has a chance of success, in other words, meaning a
chance to decrease the evident levels of misunderstanding, ignorance,
injustice, and oppression in the world.” This collection of mostly
previously published essays does much to achieve this goal.

Practical Judgments is divided into three parts, which cut a broad
swath through questions and ideas he labels as Foundations; Reactions;
and Interventions. The book progresses from abstract analysis of
multifaceted problems (e.g., “What is the plain truth about common
sense?”) to more practical reflections regarding contemporary culture,
politics, and the media. The book will appeal mostly to those who enjoy
philosophical reading and who have some experience with the torrent of
complex ideas and debate that Kingwell masterfully unveils.

That said, one of Kingwell’s strengths is his ability to write in a
fashion that is both entertaining and enlightening. Latter chapters
discussing television, information, and media may find a welcoming
audience even with nonphilosopher types.

Kingwell’s collection of essays is a success—a very worthwhile
sortie that contains many fresh ideas and insights.


Kingwell, Mark., “Practical Judgments: Essays in Culture, Politics, and Interpretation,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 24, 2024,