Judgment Day

The judgment in the Dan Brown / Holy Blood Holy Grail case is available here [pdf], and is quite fun. It’s better written than The Da Vinci Code, and it’s probably better written than The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, though it’s a while since I’ve seen a copy of that book.

Dan Brown doesn’t come terribly well out of the judgment at all (see §§197-217, 315-327, 343-5 especially), but fortunately for him he was up against Claimants like Michael Baigent, whose performance as a witness is described here:

“Mr Baigent was a poor witness. Those are not my words: they are the words of his own Counsel in his written closing submissions (paragraph 111). Those words do not in my view do justice to the inadequacy of Mr Baigent’s performance…” (§213)

And the judge observed a bit later

“I make allowances for the fact that Mr Baigent performed so badly he plainly missed obvious points when answering questions… Nevertheless the Defendants are right in their submissions even when taking in to account the factors mentioned above to submit that he was a thoroughly unreliable witness. They say that they do not know whether he was deliberately trying to mislead the court or was simply deluded and that he is either extremely dishonest or a complete fool. I do not need to decide that issue…” (§232)

There’s this, too, which I liked, when the judge was commenting on the evidence of Mr Ruben, a senior person at Random House, Dan Brown’s publisher: “His enthusiasm of the book [The Da Vinci Code] knew no bounds. I am not sure that it is as good as he says but then I am no literary person.” (§354)


Just for reference, I’m posting a few links to other posts that appeared in the Enlightenment wars over the last week or so, to add to the ones I mentioned below.

Chris Dillow made the unusual move of taking Madeleine Bunting’s question about models of rationality seriously, and offered a MacIntyre-inflected response. Bunting herself posted a follow-up here, accurately noting that my friend Jon Wilson’s comment was one of the smarter ones posted on the various Guardian threads (go here and ctrl-F on “jonewilson”).

Four posts that suggested that I’d missed the point somewhat are here (from a muscular liberal), here (from a non-muscular liberal), here (from a muscular non-liberal) and here (from a non-muscular non-liberal), all of which tend to converge on the idea that this isn’t really an argument about the eighteenth-century Enlightenment at all.

And if I’ve missed any more good links, please pop them in the comments.


As a footnote to last week’s posts on the Enlightenment, here’s a footnote from Istvan Hont’s Jealousy of Trade, which I bought yesterday (see below) and have been reading this morning:

198. [Adam] Smith expressed a violent dislike for the vicious combination of political and intellectual authority which today is often described as a characteristic of “the Enlightenment project.” “Project” is a genuine eighteenth-century key-word, but Smith deployed it for negative purposes. Jeremy Bentham, who regretted Smith’s aversion to “dangerous and expensive experiments” in business and technology, noted Smith’s hostility to projectors and his derogatory use of the term “project.” (Jeremy Bentham, “Letter XIII, ‘To Dr. Smith, on Projects in Arts, & C'” in Defence of Usury [1787], reprinted in Smith, Correspondence, “Appendix C,” pp.388-404) Samuel Johnson, like Bentham noted, defended projectors in science but made it clear that in politics “project” was a pejorative term. Projectors were persons of “rapidity of imagination and vastness of design,” such as Catiline and Caesar at the end of the Roman Republic whose projects were “to raise themselves to power by subverting the commonwealth.” Xerxes and Alexander the Great were projectors, and more recently there were the “royal projectors” such as Charles XII of Sweden and Peter I of Russia, all of whom Johnson, like Smith, detested (The Adventurer, [No. 99, October 16, 1753], subsequently retitled as “Projectors, Successful and Unsuccessful,” reprinted in Samuel Johnson: A Critical Edition of the Major Works, ed. Donald Greene [Oxford: OUP, 1984], pp.273-277). The Encyclopédie defined “Projet” as a kind of large-scale reform that had considerable beauty or imaginative order, like Lycurgus’ laws for Sparts, or Rome’s empire over Europe. While such large-scale meliorative efforts were of considerable beauty and imaginative order, the Encyclopédie asserted, the experience of centuries had shown such projects to be chimerical (Encylopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, par unes société de gens de lettres, ed. d’Alembert and Diderot, vol. 13 POM-REGG, [Neuchatel: S. Faulche, 1765], p.44b). The greatest enemy of projects in France was Montesquieu, with whom Smith was completely in tune on this issue; see Montesquieu’s “Preface” to the Spirit of the Laws: “In a time of ignorance, one has no doubts even while doing the greatest evils; in an enlightened age, one trembles even while doing the greatest goods. One feels the old abuses and sees their correction, but one also sees the abuses of the correction itself. One lets an ill remain if one fears something worse; one lets a good remain if one is in doubt about a better. One looks at the parts only in order to judge the whole; one examines all the causes in order to see the results” (p.xliv). By “projects” Montesquieu meant policies of “increase,” either as designs of conquest and territorial expansion, or grand economic schemes, mainly in revenue raising and taxation.

– Istvan Hont, Jealousy of Trade: International Competition and the Nation-State in Historical Perspective, Harvard University Press, 2005, pp.108-9.


The other day I asked the security guard in the Bodleian what he was looking for when he dutifully inspected my laptop case for the seventeenth time. “Things you aren’t supposed to take into the Library”, he replied. “Sticky buns?”, I asked. “No”, he said, “explosives”.


I’ve just been over to Blackwells to buy a copy of Istvan Hont’s Jealousy of Trade (as I’m still thinking that I might go to this). I wasn’t sure whether it’d be in the History, Politics or Economics section of the shop – being a book about the history of political economy – with a fighting chance that they’d have stuck it in Philosophy, as it’s got a lot of Hume in it. It was a good thing I asked: they’d put it in Business.

(The last time a book I wanted was mis-categorised so egregiously over there, come to think of it, was eighteenth-century political-economy-themed, too. I looked for Mandeville’s Fable of the Bees in all the sensible places, only to find it in the end under “Miscellaneous Nineteenth Century Prose”.)