For a book written so long ago, the author does an especially good job representing the gay characters. The story is interesting, the writing is good,For a book written so long ago, the author does an especially good job representing the gay characters. The story is interesting, the writing is good, and for a book of this genre it's about the right length....more
I read this as a follow-up to Marenbon's book Early Medieval Philosophy 480-1150, which I liked. This book looks mainly at the way Medieval philosopheI read this as a follow-up to Marenbon's book Early Medieval Philosophy 480-1150, which I liked. This book looks mainly at the way Medieval philosophers grappled with the the mind, human identity, and the particulars of human thought. The author takes a historical critical approach to these philosophers to highlight the distinction between between modern philosophy and the Scholastic version.
He stresses that readers must take into account the fact that these philosophers were usually also theologians, and the implications of this make it tricky to draw inviting parallels between the ideas of modern epistemology and earlier elucidations. Medieval philosophy, for example, sought to account not just for the mental processes of man, but also those of God, angels, the dead, and other disembodied spirits.
This book describes in its first section the structure of medieval education, in which the theologian was the de facto PhD, and goes into some detail about the ideas of individual philosophers, showing how their standing within the university systems affected the philosophy they pursued. This detail Marenbon goes into in an interesting way, and in such a way that most interested readers will be able to follow the details. I recommend both his books to anyone curious about the state of Western philosophy starting in the Dark Ages and running to early modern times. ...more
With the 100th anniversary of World War One at hand I found the motivation to take on this lengthy book. The narrative approach to history works wellWith the 100th anniversary of World War One at hand I found the motivation to take on this lengthy book. The narrative approach to history works well in it and quickly gave me a good orientation to the sequence of events and their significance. The story was so engaging I knocked the book out in five days.
The only weakness to the narrative is its lack of a human perspective and its refusal to situate the war in its historical significance. That is, the author makes no effort to describe the phenomenon that makes the Great War unique: the massive effect on human psychology that the staggering death toll triggered, an effect that, one can argue, splits all human history into a before and after.
Still, the subject is so broad that no author can be expected to take it on in its every aspect. I rate the book highly on the basis of its captivating story-telling, and I'll supply the interpretations myself. ...more
Good writing and the good use of magical realism are eclipsed by an excessive reliance on repetition. I rated it one star lower for what struck me asGood writing and the good use of magical realism are eclipsed by an excessive reliance on repetition. I rated it one star lower for what struck me as a gratuitous and highly offensive resort to homophobia in the narrative. ...more
This exciting title delivers as promised -- it's a documentation of the philosopher Martin Heidegger's lifelong sympathies and connections to the NaziThis exciting title delivers as promised -- it's a documentation of the philosopher Martin Heidegger's lifelong sympathies and connections to the Nazi movement.
I expected to read more than the author gives us about the way in which Heidegger adapted his brand of existentialism to support fascist ideology. Farias instead puts heavy emphasis on academia and university politics, which, I suppose, are a necessary part of the story. We get prodigious accounts of such things as which rectors and deans of which universities attended what particular meeting, function, or seminar. It all goes to make the author's point quite convincingly, but much of the detail could have been shunted off to the appendix with no loss of integrity to the book's thesis. ...more
More and more these days the mavens of American opinion have taken pains to frame the Declaration of Independence as either a rhetorical relic or a naMore and more these days the mavens of American opinion have taken pains to frame the Declaration of Independence as either a rhetorical relic or a narrowly directed legal document. Here, author Alexander Tsesis gives us the reason: the assertion that all men are created equal found in the Declaration's preamble. That notion doesn't square with the reality today's political system.
So do you do anything about the reality? No, apparently you just reason from it that the DOI must not have had much actual significance in American law and culture in the first place, or so the current trend in academics and the media goes. This book means to counteract that spreading perception.
Tsesis dispels that notion and writes explains further that quite the opposite is the case. He does it by showing how the Declaration factored into debates over every legal and social turn in American history in which the idea of equality bears on the issue at hand.
By taking that approach the author's thesis becomes a little repetitive; at each point in the nation's history he demonstrates anew how the Declaration's preamble plays a key role in building the notion of equality into both law and popular culture.
I like the book. Although I've been generally aware of the importance of the preamble, I'm surprised at how effectively the book drives home the point. As an example, the author shows how the first blow against "aristocracy" in the United States came immediately in the wake of independence with manhood emancipation.
The struggle to extend voting rights to men generally, not just those who owned significant property, was carried out in good part by veterans of the Revolution who had understood themselves to be fighting for the idea of equality designated in the preamble and held that as the explicit sine qua non of joining the new federation.
From then on, more intriguing instances of what was first thought of as a battle against "aristocracies" draw attention to the enduring efficacy of the preamble of the Declaration. Readers even encounter the argument negatively, for Tsesis points out how so many countries emulating the United States excluded any reference to equality in their own founding documents; he leaves it to us to consider the legal and social systems that resulted.
I recommend this book. It has greatly helped ground my understanding of the unprecedented power of this unique document. ...more
In this book Maugham paints a portrait of a painter, using words. Reading it gives me a picture of the era, too. As I discovered what made this painteIn this book Maugham paints a portrait of a painter, using words. Reading it gives me a picture of the era, too. As I discovered what made this painter special I couldn’t get Nietzsche’s overman out of my mind. The absence of judgment makes me think of the Bloomsbury Group and the then-fashionable non-cognitive approach to ethics. Freud’s ideas as well thread their way through the narrative.
It’s interesting to read a middle- or upper-class writer taking up the subject of poverty, and in these 200 pages Maugham stands out. The protagonist, Charles Strickland, throws up a life of ease for the poverty and hardship endemic to the life of a painter. We come to see that poverty is no problem to those who eschew the all-too-many in response to their inner drives. For if you have the inner fiber it takes, hunger and sickness pose no problem. So our aspiring painter lives among the poorest yet remains uncontaminated by their poverty and beyond material want. The gutter poor around him seem happy with their lot, too, so everything’s hunky-dory. Or, if it isn’t, a dose of non-cognitive ethics will settle even the most overly excited conscience.
In any case, none of that goes to the author’s point. He’s simply telling us the story of a man whose non-traditional rejection of social norms and interpersonal concerns leads him to ... contentment with both. Maugham knows he must give us Charles Strickland on the protagonist’s own terms. And, as with Goodbye to All That, trying to arrive at a point of view about what we’re reading proves futile and somehow silly.
Like Robert Graves, Somerset Maugham in this book gives us an apparently judgment-free perspective on life. And again like Graves, this author writes with style. Despite the inter-war approach to ideas, the prose flows easily, simply and effectively. I can recommend this book for any reader who enjoys a writer's style apart from the sometimes annoying substance. This book gives readers both style and substance in a way that highlights the thematic touchstones of early 20th-century literature. ...more
My best exposure to non-Western literature comes courtesy of Egypt's authors. In comparison to them I was rather disappointed by Midnight's Children,My best exposure to non-Western literature comes courtesy of Egypt's authors. In comparison to them I was rather disappointed by Midnight's Children, about India. But when I read this short novel by Tagore I encountered a Bengali author capable of matching Naguib Mahfouz, although writing about completely different subjects.
If this sounds too esoteric to readers in search of good writing who haven't yet ventured into non-Western literature, it's my way of saying simply to read this book. You'll be glad you did. ...more
Included in this book is more short poetry than I've normally seen in the decadence genre. Most of the stories are a few pages. Some are okay and otheIncluded in this book is more short poetry than I've normally seen in the decadence genre. Most of the stories are a few pages. Some are okay and others are quite good. ...more
This detailed intellectual history contrasts the "radical" Enlightenment of Spinoza with the moderate version represented by John Locke. The author doThis detailed intellectual history contrasts the "radical" Enlightenment of Spinoza with the moderate version represented by John Locke. The author documents a five-way battle for the minds of modern people and shows how the most radical ideas of the era found their way into the High Enlightenment. The focus is on Europe, but the implications for the new American state are obvious, helping us over here sort out what is meant by the expression that the United States is a "product of the Enlightenment." The book looks at the Enlightenment in extraordinary detail. A year or more of French will help readers get through the many untranslated passages. ...more