An efficiently-written and brief introduction to the sorts of small-scale technologies that will be very useful if civilization collapses and isn’t coAn efficiently-written and brief introduction to the sorts of small-scale technologies that will be very useful if civilization collapses and isn’t coming back. A sort of boy scout manual for folks who think the end is nigh....more
Architecture porn — lots of pictures, but written in an unfamiliar dialect if you're not an architecture porn aficionado. Lots of laundry lists and adArchitecture porn — lots of pictures, but written in an unfamiliar dialect if you're not an architecture porn aficionado. Lots of laundry lists and adjectives about sustainable, efficient, off-the-grid thises-and-thats, but not a whole lot of details about trade-offs and wheres-and-whys-and-hows. If you're loaded and are thinking about building a dream house that will make your environmentally-sensitive friends cut you down jealously behind your back, this book will give you hours of fapping pleasure....more
Mayer looks at the historical conflict between government and liberty, and at the various philosophical, legal, and revolutionary methods people haveMayer looks at the historical conflict between government and liberty, and at the various philosophical, legal, and revolutionary methods people have devised to resolve it. He concludes that all of these have been incoherent and self-contradictory. The liberal ideal of a state that operates only within strict restraints, with the consent of the governed, and with a goal of maximizing and defending individual liberty is a pipe dream — and its most famous proponents end up unwittingly reducing our options to tyranny or anarchy.
He gives a number of examples from the United States in which “inalienable” rights found themselves alienated without much trouble, and in which the state discovered reasons why, on one occasion after another, it would have to reach just a little bit further beyond the carefully enumerated powers of the Constitution and into the carefully guarded Rights in the Bill of. Here’s a great example that almost reads like it comes out of today’s headlines:
…Attorney General John Mitchell revealed that the FBI had ignored the Congressional requirement of a court order to listen in on the conversation of youth leaders indicted for allegedly inciting riots at the Democratic National Convention of 1968 — and would go on doing so. “While it may be appropriate,” said Mr. Mitchell, “for Congress to establish rules limiting the investigative techniques which the Executive may employ in enforcing the laws the Congress has enacted, a serious question exists as to the power to restrict the President’s power to gather information which he deems necessary to the proper exercise of powers which the Constitution confers on him alone. If the Congress cannot tell the President whom he should employ to direct the Army, there is a strong basis to argue that Congress cannot tell the President what means he may employ to obtain information which he needs to determine the proper deployment of his forces … The President… has the constitutional power to authorize electronic surveillance to gather intelligence information concerning domestic organizations which seek to attack and subvert the Government by unlawful means.”
The various lines in the sand beyond which an individual, a conscience, and the home that is their castle may not be invaded by the state — whether in the rigorous formulations of political philosophers or in the legal scaffoldings of Supreme Court justices — Mayer shows to be easily wiped away by the next wave.
Does Mayer have any better ideas? “The problem may be insoluble,” he says near the beginning of the book, “which is not to say that it is a dead horse that will bear no beating.” At the end of many pages of beating, though, the horse doesn’t appear to have moved much, and although he starts by saying that “to rest on the proposition that the central problem of political life — the problem that is politics — is insoluble is to accept the counsel of despair” he ends on what seems to me, by this criterion, to be a despairing note:
“The immediate issue is not whether the problem of liberty and authority is soluble. Nor is it whether we are condemned to go on crying, ‘Liberty,‘ without knowing what we are crying. The immediate issue is whether we have any ground for asserting the problem’s solubility (or insolubility) without consciously confronting the problem; the question is whether we are manipulating it for purposes of propaganda, deceit, and self-deceit.”...more
“David Gross has created a marvelous historical compilation of 167 intelligent and intense writings on the challenging question of whether people of c“David Gross has created a marvelous historical compilation of 167 intelligent and intense writings on the challenging question of whether people of conscience should pay for war.” — Elizabeth Boardman, Western Friend...more
It's so nice to find a book on philosophy that's written in a challenging way, but in which the challenge doesn't come from obscure and poorly-chosenIt's so nice to find a book on philosophy that's written in a challenging way, but in which the challenge doesn't come from obscure and poorly-chosen language, but from well-presented but difficult topics.
Appiah does a good job of reconciling abstract ethical philosophies with psychological/sociological experiments in ethical reasoning and behavior (indeed, he insists that until recently the philosophy of ethics was uncontroversially considered to have an empirical component).
He concludes that ethics is a messy business, and that the many attempts to reduce it to a simple formula, while they have had obvious appeal to reductionists and to anyone who hoped there might be something simple about it, have all failed to be up to the task of encompassing the whole problem....more
A well-written and wide-ranging introduction to self-sufficient urban living (with plenty for the non- or sub-urbanite as well).
It covers too many tecA well-written and wide-ranging introduction to self-sufficient urban living (with plenty for the non- or sub-urbanite as well).
It covers too many techniques to be a complete guide to any one of them, but each one is described in enough detail to allow you to decide whether or not it might be practical and worthwhile for your situation. The authors provide pointers to more in-depth resources so you can more thoroughly examine the techniques that most appeal to you....more
A good thing to read if you like to daydream about getting an acre off somewhere away from the hustle & bustle on which you can keep some chickensA good thing to read if you like to daydream about getting an acre off somewhere away from the hustle & bustle on which you can keep some chickens and tend the land and have some homebrew fermenting away out back.
It's a little quick to gloss over the details, but that allows it to cover more ground. It's also a bit UK-centric in many parts, which makes it less-useful to people outside of the isles....more
Such a tiny, slim book, and yet it took me so long to get from one cover to the other.
It's clearly-written, for the most part, and dense with informatSuch a tiny, slim book, and yet it took me so long to get from one cover to the other.
It's clearly-written, for the most part, and dense with information. The first and better part of the book concerns itself with how the philosophical debate about free will has developed, and what the main points of contention are.
The last bit is the author's own attempt to recover free will from the ashbin of philosophical skepticism. It's less-clearly written, but does a good job of knocking down a bad argument or two -- it mainly argues that confident philosophical skepticism about free will tends to assume what it sets out to prove, which was a new counter-argument to me, and which Pink makes a pretty good case for....more