Middle-Earth and the Return of the Common Good

J.R.R. Tolkien and Political Philosophy

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Joshua Hren
  • Eugene, OR: 
    Cascade Books
    , October
     2018.
     212 pages.
     $26.00.
     Paperback.
    ISBN
    9781532611193.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.
Review coming soon!

Review by Marie Nuar forthcoming.

Description

Political philosophy is nothing other than looking at things political under the aspect of eternity. This book invites us to look philosophically at political things in J.R.R. Tolkien’s legendarium, demonstrating that Tolkien’s potent mythology can be brought into rich, fruitful dialogue with works of political philosophy and political theology as different as Plato’s Timaeus, Aquinas’ De Regno, Hobbes’s Leviathan, and Erik Peterson’s “Monotheism as a Political Problem.” It concludes that a political reading of Tolkien’s work is most luminous when conducted by the harmonious lights of fides et ratio as found in the thought of Thomas Aquinas.\

A broad study of Tolkien and the political is especially pertinent in that the legendarium operates on two levels. As a popular mythology it is, in the author’s own words “a really long story that would hold the attention of readers, amuse them, delight them, and at times maybe excite them or deeply move them.” But the stories of The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings contain deeper teachings that can only be drawn out when read philosophically. Written from the vantage of a mind that is deeply Christian, Tolkien’s stories grant us a revelatory gaze into the major political problems of modernity—from individualism to totalitarianism, sovereignty to surveillance, terror to technocracy. As an “outsider” in modernity, Tolkien invites us to question the modern in a manner that moves beyond reaction into a vivid and compelling vision of the common good.

About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Joshua Hren is Assistant Director of the Honors College at Belmont Abbey, teaching and writing at the intersection of political philosophy, theology, and literature. He also serves as editor of Dappled Things: A Quarterly of Ideas, Art, and Faith, and as Editor-in-Chief of Wiseblood Books. Joshua has published scholarly articles in such journals as Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture, poems in First Things, and a collection of short stories, This Our Exile.

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