Make no mistake, Lawrence Krauss hasn't actually answered the question of how a universe--any possible universe, including ours--could arise from noth...moreMake no mistake, Lawrence Krauss hasn't actually answered the question of how a universe--any possible universe, including ours--could arise from nothing. But he does make a damn compelling case that such a thing might not be very far outside the realm of possibility; in fact, it may turn out to be an inevitability based upon the problem of Nothing. Nothing, a word which in everyday parlance has a specific meaning, turns out to defy our intuitions at the quantum level. This shouldn't be too surprising. The history of science (including and especially physics) is the history of the universe kicking our 'common sense' in the nuts over and over . . . and over. (less)
My rating of this book was more a failure of expectations thing than anything wrong with the subject or the prose. I was about 50% of the way through....moreMy rating of this book was more a failure of expectations thing than anything wrong with the subject or the prose. I was about 50% of the way through. Poggio had found Lucretius's lost manuscript and the inquisition was in full swing. Given the book's subtitle, "How the World Became Modern," I was silly enough to think the author might actually get around to explaining that part. Instead the book just sort of stops, the rest of it given over to footnotes and whatnot. All I got from Greenblatt's book was basically a vision of a screaming Italian guy standing on top of an isolated monastic tower, hoisting a lost scroll with beams of light shooting in every direction.(less)
I gave this book every opportunity and it just didn't do it for me. Shadow, the protagonist, is aptly named. His detached nonchalance is insufferable....moreI gave this book every opportunity and it just didn't do it for me. Shadow, the protagonist, is aptly named. His detached nonchalance is insufferable. Also, as a King veteran, Gaiman showed me nothing with his creep factor, either. Very overrated selling point. I agree with the majority opinion: the premise of the book is intriguing, but after completing about 40% of the book (on my second attempt), it's decision time: either suffer through or move on to greener pastures.
Sorry all my Gaiman-loving friends. I have no doubt he's done better, but count me out of American Gods.(less)
On page 303 of Albert Camus's windy, long-form essay on the nature of rebellion, the failures of religion, Nihilism and Marxism, he approaches the poi...moreOn page 303 of Albert Camus's windy, long-form essay on the nature of rebellion, the failures of religion, Nihilism and Marxism, he approaches the point:
"Man can master in himself everything that should be mastered. He should rectify in creation everything that can be rectified. And after he has done so, children will still die unjustly even in a perfect society. Even by his greatest effort man can only propose to diminish arithmetically the sufferings of the world. But the injustice and the suffering of the world will remain and, no matter how limited they are, they will not cease to be an outrage. Dimitri Karamazov's cry of 'Why?' will continue to resound; art and rebellion will die only with the last man."
My gripe with this book has less to do with any specific disagreement with its content than an inability to justify why Camus needed three hundred pages to state the obvious. I'm aware the danger of this critique lurks in anachronism or an under appreciation for philosophy in general. For me, the mark of genius is not only the possession of knowledge, though that's a part of it. It's the ability to transmit that knowledge in a way that illuminates something about the universe––and to do it in a coherent, timely fashion (i.e. utility). I'll bet students working on an MA in philosophy might get some miles out of this. For the rest of us, try a Kindle Single.
As I waded section to section, it usually felt like I understood the basic point. How the sprawling asides fit together is anyone's guess; Camus has much love for the trees but very little for the forest. He will rarely if ever reiterate a point, or demonstrate how it in conjunction with a previous subject advances his thesis. This kind of obfuscation is typical of academic writing, a mutated subset of Standard English someone (I think it might have been David Foster Wallace, or if not, it should have been) called Academicese. You'll be hanging on to the bloated prose by your fingernails when all of the sudden you'll hit a sinkhole like:
"A revolutionary action which wishes to be coherent in terms of its origins should be embodied in an active consent to the relative. It would express fidelity to the human condition. Uncompromising as to its means, it would accept an approximation as far as its ends are concerned and, so that the approximation should become more and more accurately defined, it would allow absolute freedom of speech. Thus it would preserve the common existence that justifies its insurrection." -The Rebel 290
What, if anything, the above passage is meant to convey is, as before, anyone's guess. And if there is some enlightened soul out there who can offer a simple explanation, please do, but expect my ready reply: "Why didn't Camus say that?"
I have a soft spot for absurdism but a very limited understanding of Camus, which in spite of everything I hope to fix. In fairness, there are some very profound moments in this work, mostly when Al lets himself go a little and serves his philosophizing with a side of the transcendent. These occasional moments of illumination are almost worth the slog.
"The world is divine because the world is inconsequential. That is why art alone, by being equally inconsequential, is capable of grasping it. It is impossible to give a clear account of the world, but art can teach us to reproduce it––just as the world reproduces itself in the course of its eternal gyrations. The primordial sea indefatigably repeats the same words and casts up the same astonished beings on the same seashore. But at least he who consents to his own return and to the return of all things, who becomes and echo and an exalted echo, participates in the divinity of the world." -The Rebel 73