I have friend who refuses to read books because in college, as an engineering student, he had to concentrate on every word. I feel the same way aboutI have friend who refuses to read books because in college, as an engineering student, he had to concentrate on every word. I feel the same way about philosophy books and have avoided them over the years. Then I discovered "Plato and a Platypus Walk Into Bar". This introduction to Philosophy helped me, at least, know what the different schools of philosophy were and the very basic concepts of philosophical thought.
I also believe that most people do not want to think about death even though it is inevitable. As William Saroyan is reputed to have said, "Everybody has got to die, but I always believed an exception would be made in my case."
The philosophers, though, have thought and written about it, in many cases, in such detail as to be impenetrable. It helps understanding to take a lighter approach liberally seasoned with corny jokes and New Yorker cartoons to illustrate what major philosophers like Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Descartes, William James, Nietzsche, Sartre, Tillich, and Wittgenstein have to say about, not only death, but also consciousness, afterlife, immortality, the self, the soul, and other related concepts.
I like that the authors have included Woody Allen, Monty Python, Dave Barry, Stephen Colbert and other more contemporary "philosophers" to the pantheon of those who have contemplated these issues.
I'm far enough along in my own life's journey to find the ideas in this book worth considering. It helps that I didn't have to spend months, maybe even years, digging the basics out of the original writings.
No matter how old you are taking four or five hours to read this book will be time well spent....more
In my continued effort to learn philosophy, I picked this book up at Powell's. I enjoyed it immensely.
There are two ways to approach this book. One,In my continued effort to learn philosophy, I picked this book up at Powell's. I enjoyed it immensely.
There are two ways to approach this book. One, read it from cover to cover. Two, use it as a resource when confronted with a philosophical question. I picked number one as I continue to be confused about the various schools of philosophy. Now I refer to it periodically.
If you are new to philosophy this book would be a good place to start....more
A good bathroom book, unless, of course, you are politically conservative or very religious. If you fit either of these descriptions, you might have aA good bathroom book, unless, of course, you are politically conservative or very religious. If you fit either of these descriptions, you might have a fit of apoplexy and make a mess.
This book is now slightly out of date but still very funny. ...more
What great fun! I have in the past tried to study philosophy seriously and either don't have the ability to focus or the intelligence to understand. BWhat great fun! I have in the past tried to study philosophy seriously and either don't have the ability to focus or the intelligence to understand. But I sure do have a sense of humor. I may not have gotten all the concepts in this book but I'm pretty sure I got all the jokes.
I came away with at least an introductory understanding of the major philosophical schools. Now when I tell people I'm an existentialist, I can at least explain what it is without getting all tangled up in complicated theory.
The only book that comes close to this one is "Sophie's World", a novel in which Sophie learns Philosophy through a series of anonymous letters. However, for me, this book was more helpful and I do love a corny joke.
This short, 74 page volume, was originally presented as a series of lectures on the BBC. Ultimately disappointing: perhaps because the transcript of aThis short, 74 page volume, was originally presented as a series of lectures on the BBC. Ultimately disappointing: perhaps because the transcript of a series of lectures written to be heard cannot serve as well as a series of essays written to be read.
Keegan is an esteemed writer of military history. I was awed by his history of World War One. Here he tries, with some success, to discuss why war happens. He expounds on the most prevalent theories and comes to the conclusion that nobody really knows.
The last Chapter, "War and the Individual", is the most compelling and left me both frightened and hopeful.
I was left pondering, not only the nature of war but also the nature of humankind. A worthwhile exercise, I believe. ...more
This book, about people born or maturing during the Great Depression and then getting caught up in WW II, opened with a bang and ended with a whimper.This book, about people born or maturing during the Great Depression and then getting caught up in WW II, opened with a bang and ended with a whimper.
The first few sections, where he was writing about normal people humbly doing extraordinary things without fanfare or expectations, were extremely interesting and gave the reader an excellent picture of who these people were and how they lived.
The last few sections about famous people, politicians and others in the public eye were stilted and not that interesting. It's hard to imagine that Brokaw was awed by these people but the writing left the impression that these people were almost faultless in carrying out their duties. Multiple marriages and youthful peccadilloes were glossed over. Art Buchwald's profile rang the truest. He was by his own admission, a marine eight-ball and proud of it.
The last section of the book in which Brokaw summarizes his feelings about the people of this generation is very well done and heartfelt.
While certainly worth reading this book was, in the end, somewhat disappointing. Maybe I expected too much....more
This is one of those books that I kept avoiding because I knew I "should" read it. I'm not sure what "nudged" me into picking it up but I'm sure gladThis is one of those books that I kept avoiding because I knew I "should" read it. I'm not sure what "nudged" me into picking it up but I'm sure glad I did.
It contains a number of great ideas on how government, industry and/or anyone else who wishes to influence others can "nudge" them into positive choices without limiting the chooser's freedom to do whatever they want. It introduces two concepts I was unfamilar with, "Libertarian Paternalism" and "Choice Architecture".
Libertarian Economics was the brainchild of Milton Friedman, the famous University of Chicago Economist, a mentor of the authors. They take things a step further by recognizing that, in today's complicated and fast-moving world, giving people the freedom to choose whatever they want is unrealistic because of the nature of Human behavior.
One of their examples: the Prescription Benefit, called Medicare Part D, while allowing people to choose from many alternatives, was so complicated and obscure, that most eligible participants were confused rather than excited. They show how, with a few tweaks of the presentation by those who were the Choice Architects, the entire process could have been made user friendly and would have avoided all the confusion, while allowing people to make the best economic decision for their situation. Personally. years later, I'm eligible and still confused so I've never enrolled.
The underlying philosophy, a very attractive propostion, is that while everyone should be given the freedom to choose what they want, human behavior is such that sometimes people need a nudge to make a decision that is in their own best interest. If they still want to choose something other than what they are being nudged to do, fine.
Obviously there are many ethical and political issues ranging from the need to help those who have neither the education or the resources to help themselves to questioning the marketing tactics of those who would use Choice Architecture to rip people off. Much of this is covered in the book but many questions are left unanswered. It is the type of book that leaves the reader thinking about how the ideas might work in their own situation.
There are numerous other examples as they develop their thesis and dozens of additional ideas at the end of the book. I hope there will be a follow-up volume down the road two or three years from now. ...more
An attempt to explain philosophy in the format of a novel. It didn't work for me as well as it evidently has for millions of others.
It took me quite aAn attempt to explain philosophy in the format of a novel. It didn't work for me as well as it evidently has for millions of others.
It took me quite a while to wade through the book as it was focused more on explaining philosophical concepts than telling a story. The idea behind the book is creative and good. Perhaps my problem is I have always had a hard time understanding many philosophical concepts. This book didn't change that, admirable effort that it is.
I found "Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar...: Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes" by Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein more accessible and a lot more fun.
I cannot unreservedly recommend this book but I can suggest it might be a great introduction to philosophy for you.
I have always admired Kurt Vonnegut and liked his writing. I'm not sure about this collection of essays, speeches, short stories and what-all.
For oneI have always admired Kurt Vonnegut and liked his writing. I'm not sure about this collection of essays, speeches, short stories and what-all.
For one thing, I acquired the audio version and listened to it while driving. I think I might have appreciated the work more if I had read it rather than listened to it. Rip Torn, whose acting I admire, narrated and was almost laughable but not in a good way, especially when doing accents and dialects.
The volume contains a number of un-published writings. I wonder if the publisher was trying to take advantage of Vonnegut's recent death. The introduction by his son came across as filler rather than a real contribution.
The stories, speeches and essays are all anti-war and anti-violence. Many of the entries hark back to the Dresden bombing which Vonnegut survived and memorialized in, perhaps his greatest work, Slaughterhouse Five.
I would rather remember Vonnegut for his novels than this conglomeration of stuff. And so it goes.......more
When my wife, Pam, and I first moved, more or less permanently to Hong Kong, Chris Patten was the newly appointed and last Governor. I think we both mWhen my wife, Pam, and I first moved, more or less permanently to Hong Kong, Chris Patten was the newly appointed and last Governor. I think we both missed much of the drama that was evident in the five years he was here. We were too focused on our jobs and figuring out how to live in this incredible city.
Reading his memoir and advice, 12 years after the handover and 10 years after publication of this book, was a much needed trip down memory lane and a much needed reminder of how China operates and what is needed to successfully deal with her politicians and to a certain extent her business people.
Patten writes with a nice light touch and understated humor. He is humble in the extreme but also unafraid of presenting his ideas and his principles.
He starts with a quick three chapter summary of his years as Governor. He makes no bones about the difficulties he had dealing with Beijing, or as he continues to call it, "Peking". He also chronicles the difficulties he had with his own government, particularly the foreign office and some economic advisers.
He was determined to introduce as much democracy as he could during his tenure, within the structure of the Joint Agreement between China and England. it was an effort neither Beijing nor previous Hong Kong governors and bureaucrats necessarily appreciated.
It made for fascinating reading and made me realize how much of what was going on politically in Hong Kong from 1992-1997 that I totally missed.
In the middle three chapters, a section titled "The View From Hong Kong", he takes on what he thinks are the mistaken impressions of most people when looking at the recent economic success of China and the so-called Tiger Economies. He believes that economic progress can only be sustained where there is political freedom. He refutes the idea that "Asian Values" usually ascribed to Confucius and others and favoring a more authoritarian political climate are really what all Asians believe or are effective at promoting long term economic growth.
In the last section, "Looking to the Future" he makes a compelling case for political liberalism and support for human rights. He also suggests that the way to deal with China is not to kowtow and buy the illusion that real politik in China is different than anywhere else but rather to deal with China as you would with any other emerging power, straightforward and from a position of principle leavened with pragmatism. He shows how the Chinese uses Western myths about China to manipulate the diplomatic process in their favor.
I enjoyed the first part of the book more than the latter parts. I suspect because it covered history that I had lived through. The rest of the book, though is well worth the time spent and should be required reading for anyone interested in how things really work in Asia....more