This book uses and relies heavily on these two concepts: Richard Dawkins' term meme, and the philosophical sociological term just-so story.
There are sThis book uses and relies heavily on these two concepts: Richard Dawkins' term meme, and the philosophical sociological term just-so story.
There are some contradictions in this book, particularly in its tangents and criticisms of topics where is struggles to remain consistent philosophically because it continues in its primary course contrary to the criticism it introduces in its tangents, and a lot of revisitations of philosophical and sociological concepts but overall it is thought-provoking. The conclusion is sort of that cultures have been and will continue to be unpredictable (for reasons convincingly described in the book) and that's part of the reason why, to use my own poor phrasing and word choice, history is unpredictable in terms of creating predictive models....more
There is a somewhat limited use of evidence in this book. For example, Drews doesn't address Colin Renfew's main hypothesis and generally doesn't engaThere is a somewhat limited use of evidence in this book. For example, Drews doesn't address Colin Renfew's main hypothesis and generally doesn't engage much on the topic of language. The scope of evidence is small, but the reliance on the evidence that is used is well done.
Indo-European migrations and language Chariots...more
Spends too much time rebutting plausible ideas. It's not that they shouldn't be criticized, it's just that these parThis review is a work in progress.
Spends too much time rebutting plausible ideas. It's not that they shouldn't be criticized, it's just that these parts aren't interesting or informative because the rebuttal is so short and not detailed. In one case, Chadwick is criticized for the theory of eastern and western Greek dialects and the arguments made by Chadwick aren't thoroughly rebutted at all.
The book does not have enough information in it to make it worth reading through the bad theory rebuttal sections, especially for something written in 2006. There's a lot of information out there that should be in this book that's not.
Chapter 2: The Collapse of Bronze Age Civilization is just bad. Every idea in the chapter has flaws, constantly substituting one possible false cause with another false cause, leaving the reader with no one to trust even for incomplete theories. -Dickinson tries to rebut Drews' theory by saying Mycenaeans would have been fine with the changes in warfare and that the Mycenaeans would have been safe from sieges even if they had not adapted to the change in warfare tactics. This dabbling in military history is making everyone feel uncomfortable, I can tell. -At one point Dickinson says it's doubtful there was an invasion because the invaders wouldn't have destroyed (burning the palaces) what they sought to control (the palaces). This is the type of explanation I'd expect in an expository dialogue scene in a B movie. Dickinson seems to know that invaders, whoever they may be, intended to control the palace systems around the Aegean by physically inhabiting the physical structures that existed in the territories being invaded. Huh, why did Alexander the Great burn Persepolis? Why did Rome destroy Corinth and Carthage? Why did Brennus burn Rome? -Accusing people who theorized that the Bronze Age Collapse was caused by violence as having a "romantic" view. I think this is a misrepresentation of those theories. -Overwhelmingly focused on mainland Greece. It's like Dickinson might not understand the scope and nature of the Bronze Age Collapse. The chapter goes into almost no detail on the Near East or even islands in the Aegean. The Wikipedia page on the Bronze Age Collapse is more informative. -Many of the authors of the works he criticizes (Ventris & Chadwick, and Drews in particular) themselves contain the very doubts, in greater detail, that Dickinson raises. Don't bother publishing something if you're not willing to put in the work necessary to make it worth reading. -Dickinson mentions Ugarit, but does not talk about the circumstances that led to its destruction, which probably contain the most significant evidence for Sea Peoples as being capable of destruction. -During the discussion of whether militaries played a role in the destruction of the palaces, Dickinson says it's hard to believe that earthquakes were to blame for the burning of the palaces in every case. It is amazing that Dickinson even raises this theory as a potential counterpoint to the intentional burning of the palaces by humans. It's as though he's saying "Well, it's either one or the other, and in most cases, it probably wasn't earthquakes." -He says the purpose of the coast guard mentioned in the Pylos tablets might have been to guard against Greeks in other parts of Greece attempting to get food from Pylos p. 55. Oh, I'm sorry, the Sea Peoples isn't a reasonable alternative for the purpose of the coast guard of Pylos? About the Sea Peoples, "It seems most unlikely that such groups would be prepared to settle down to besiege well-fortifed centers, allowing an opportunity for forces to be mobilized against them." But, STARVING GREEKS would mount offensives against Pylos!? Oh, but the poor Greeks were only after food, and the Sea Peoples were only after loot, and the palaces had a lot of food, well not enough food because of the earthquakes and drought, but had even less value in terms of booty because their international trade was weakened because they had less food, and therefore the palaces were perfect target from starving Greeks but not greedy Sea Peoples. Reading this book is like... OMG! Aggghhhhh!!!!!!
Ch. 3 The Postpalatial Period When discussing early Dark Age Greece, Dickinson talks about the evidence that shows settlements moving away from shorelines all over the Aegean. He talks about some communities that remained on the shoreline "Thus, any theory positing a universal and continuing threat from the sea seems implausible." (p. 64). Next sentence, new paragraph, he says,
"It seems very unlikely that such coastal sites were themselves pirate bases, although this has been suggested for both Cycladic and Cretan sites. No community of the size suggested by the spread of material at most of them could support itself largely or entirely from piracy or land raiding."
Dickinson is saying that the coastal cities are an indication that raiding was not a universal problem in the Aegean. To support this, he's saying that the coastal cities in the Cyclades and Crete were probably not "pirate bases". Who said they needed to have been "largely or entirely" dependent on raiding in order to produce the raiders capable of scaring people from inhabiting the coastline of Greece and the Aegean islands? Inland settlements were so meager that they no longer produced grain. They were so meager their pottery art became squiggly lines and circles that look like they're from neolithic China. I guarantee they would have been susceptible to violence and dissuaded from being along the shoreline if raiders showed up. No need for strange theories like dedicated "pirate bases" for raiding threats to exist. It does not take many people to conduct a raid on a domestic settlement. That's why, going back to Pylos, even with their walls, had a coast guard....more
*Spoilers ahead* (I see that this is how people protect their reviews from fake outrage.)
It's not about bestiality. It's about infidelity in the embar*Spoilers ahead* (I see that this is how people protect their reviews from fake outrage.)
It's not about bestiality. It's about infidelity in the embarrassingly dull marriages of financially successful babyboomer suburban Americans. It was basically one long discovery of the infidelity, so I didn't think it was anything special. Albee's way of brightening up dialogue and characters is weak, so the play doesn't end up doing much besdies showing us a man explaining and those close to him reacting to a certain affair.
Another bad thing about writers like Albee is that their characters come out and analyze everything as a philosophical thought experiment in order to make his modern point.
Another problem with this play is that Albee sounds like he takes his sexual queues from 17th century England.
Edit, and spoiler: I personally don't get much out of thought experiments adn metaphors along the lines of "the goat represents the innocent person in the affair but also ends up paying the ultimate price." That is more literal than metaphor. I don't find it insightful or thought-provoking....more
So many good points throughout this book, in the footnotes and endnotes too. Homer to the fifth century is a great period to have a focus on poetry. ASo many good points throughout this book, in the footnotes and endnotes too. Homer to the fifth century is a great period to have a focus on poetry. All kinds of different analyses applied, historic, textual, scholar comparison, archaeology....more
The time period is eternal Rome because the period in which the play takes place is itself fictitious. The struggles are familiar in the panorama of RThe time period is eternal Rome because the period in which the play takes place is itself fictitious. The struggles are familiar in the panorama of Roman history: romani vs. barbarus, cives romani vs. monarch, emperor, or dictator. I like how Saturninus and Titus Andronicus interact throughout the play. Saturninus knows that he needs to honor Andronicus, but does not value Andronicus' contributions to Rome. Saturninus takes advantage of Rome while Andronicus, as a good citizen soldier, follows the rule of law, including Saturninus' arrangements, despite Saturninus' bad acts because Saturninus is the rightful ruler under Roman law, but even Andronicus has a limited tolerance for abuse of power. In this relationship is a warning about laws as much as there is a warning about abuse of power....more
Plato/Socrates brilliantly postulates on the subject of language in Cratylus by beginning an etymology discussion* to allow the reader to enter a mindPlato/Socrates brilliantly postulates on the subject of language in Cratylus by beginning an etymology discussion* to allow the reader to enter a mindset and be prepared to understand the differences between language and truth, and finding truth in language. The Goodreads description of this book says this is "specifically about names" and that is not true. - *during which he is sarcastic and purposefully erroneous, as Socrates loves doing, and mostly ends up using these flawed etymologies and theories on etymology as evidence of the ability of humans to perceive and imitate. This is a critical aspect of Plato's writing style. I think he writes this way to place ideas in the readers' heads easily. Plato thinks it is easier to understand Socrates in dialogues because his lines of inquiry and reasoning develop in the mind most easily ythat way. - Language is an act of imitation, but is its imitation true to nature? Can one know the truth or nature of something through a name (language)? Can one know the nature of a thing at all? If we understand things through language, then how did pre-lingual people understand or begin naming things (a questionthat is not introduced to advance theories about what the act of creating language is and how postulation on primitive language can inform us of what the value of language is now than an independent factual curiosity)?
One of the great parts of this dialogue is when Heraclitus' perspective on change is discussed and compared to Plato/Socrates' ideas about change, particularly after the discussion of the unchanging nature of the Gods. When Socrates talked about the concept of beauty and he uses words that probably best translate to "true", "eternal", "natural", "absolute", it reminded me of what he'd said much earlier in the dialogue about the unchanging nature of divine Ares. Ares and the Gods are divine and eternal, and beauty and other forms are divine and eternal. Heraclitus and Socrates are at odds on the subject of change and whether there is an eternal nature that is unchanging. Personally, I think that neurology and evolution have answered a lot of these questions about perception. This is about perception and the subject, to me, rather thanobjects, including the divine forms Plato/Socrates discuss.
There are also interesting historic and anthropological facts and opinions and philosophical appearances that are very interesting in themselves: Heraclitus, primitive Hellenes and barbarians, who Plato compares to primitive Hellenes (celestial objects are still the Gods of many barbarians and were the only Godsknown by primitive Hellenes, primitive people might have primitive language that were more like pictures), legislators and their imposition of names/language (see Plato's concern over who controls meaning in every one of his works), Hesiod's Works and Days, a great number of half or wholly satirical etymologies (many of which lend themselves as evidence to the postulation that occurs later in Cratylus, in what is the heart of the philosophical discussion) and much more.
As with a lot of Plato's lectures, many of the reviews on this site are like: ex. 1 It's about love and how love is useful and that's why we like it but it's also dangerous too. So, love in moderation and don't be afraid. ex. 2 It's a long-winded book about Hellenic naming conventions. It's bad. Don't read it....more
I agree with the thesis of this book in the broadest sense. The major issue I have with the thesis is that nuclear weapons present an existential threI agree with the thesis of this book in the broadest sense. The major issue I have with the thesis is that nuclear weapons present an existential threat to humanity. Imagine a second edition written by Pinker during a nuclear winter, as he dies of radiation poisoning in a bunker alongside other protected intellectuals.
I also feel like the book lauds some accomplishments that have only advanced peace in specific demographics. I feel like the net decrease is explained fairly well, but there are many specific areas Pinker does not cover. This leads me to my main critique. It's a remarkably shallow and superficial survey of mostly Western violence and a bunch of over-simplified definitions. One minute you think you're reading a Wikipedia page maybe called "Violence in the Western Canon" and the next you think you're reading a high schooler's paper standardized test essay, in which the high schooler uses two sentences to explain the similarities and differences between state-sponsored violence, and the person who kidnapped Etan Patz. The book is like 400 CNN opinion articles strung together. It's like a response to The Today Show. A little testosterone here, a little Genghis Khan there. Ok, I can get into this because I've heard of that chemical and saw some of the movie they made about the guy. Pinker just proooooooves violence was a thing. So good that he sets us all straight, because we were all in error by not looking at complicated things like history, tracking its stops and starts. Pinker, please simply philosophies in the process, offer none of your own, and continue the tradition of the famous misquotation of Hobbes' most quoted line from Leviathan. Such a good catch up/101 for people who don't like history and philosophy. I'm occasionally tripping over some pop culture references (Daily Show, The Godfather Part II, Saturday Night Live just to keep things FAKE), while I'm thinking about nuclear arsenals now and their complex risk management systems, everything from mind to technology and their interfaces. Pinker takes me out of interesting questions by sticking to the simplest highlights. Just listen to one single broadcast, or read one article, from an International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons member and, even if you don't agree, your perspective will be broadened and you will be better informed. He doesn't address, for example, the thesis that a nuclear arsenal increases the authoritarian control a leader has.
Not only is there no real new perspective delivered by Pinker, the shallow factual survey does not include any deep thoughts at all. It just fucking plucks quotations from pop culture! Pinker wonders, how in the world people can still be racist if Michael Jordan is popular? (page 390) There are a number of lazy and dangerous underlying assertions within this question, and in many of the questions Pinker introduces without any rigor. This book is for people who do not want to investigate philosophically, historically, and what's probably worst, scientifically.
I hate his equivocal media, and superficial polling and thought statistical interpretation throughout the book. Page 367 "Many Muslims feel the United States does not want to spread democracy in the Muslim world, and they have a point: the United States, after all, has supported autocratic regimes in Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia, rejected the election of Hamas in the Palestinian territories, and in 1953 helped overthrow the democratically elected Mossadegh in Iran."
He mentions overreaching controls for children intendede to prohibit juvenile violence and calls them "sacrament and taboo" (pages 442-444). This is the type of dilemma that is presented on local news, coupled with lazy bullshit windbag language. Bad allegories, limited context and data.
I'm so upset that someone at the economist said "He writes like an angel, too." and that was printed on the back of the edition I have. Not an ANGEL. This book requires no thinking whatsoever. The text teaches almost nothing and it's easy to fly through the book.
He introduces the prisoner's dilemma, and yes he explains it to fill out the page count in this stupid book, by saying "Imagine a Law and Order episode". It's like, In order to understand the words I'm about to say, imagine you're watching tv and I'm on tv reading you this review....more
It's about people, not Hell. Finding the nature of Hell isn't the point.
The play conveys negative feelings. However, most of the characters' numerousIt's about people, not Hell. Finding the nature of Hell isn't the point.
The play conveys negative feelings. However, most of the characters' numerous personal problems would be solved if there were an exit. The exit from mortality and exit relationships from other people is key, both of which exist in reality. It is a testament to the play that it conveys such negative feelings in an unrealistic situation. While the characters' experiences and weaknesses related to those experiences are not mine, I still felt their resulting distress personally because I could relate to the feelings. Their problems felt to them like my problems sometimes feel to me....more
Even though Dante Alighieri claims that the ultimate goal is peace by means of a single and absolute temporal monarchy (empire), I figured, while readEven though Dante Alighieri claims that the ultimate goal is peace by means of a single and absolute temporal monarchy (empire), I figured, while reading Book I, that Book II would have assertions like
"Proof enough has been given that the Romans were by nature ordained for sovereignty. Therefore the Roman people, in subjecting to itself the world, attained the Empire by Right."
"Hence piety accepts the contradictory, that the Roman Empire gained its perfection with the approval of miracles, that it was therefore willed of God, and consequently that it was and is by Right."
"The Roman people were by nature ordained for Empire, as may be proved in this wise."
"That in subduing the world the Roman people had in view the aforesaid good, their deeds declare. We behold them as a nation holy, pious, and full of glory, putting aside all avarice, which is ever adverse to the general welfare, cherishing universal peace and liberty, and disregarding private profit to guard the public weal of humanity. Rightly was it written, then, that “The Roman Empire takes its rise in the fountain of pity.”"
, which rest on no real evidence. Apparently, Rome was the best example we have of what a good temporal monarchy would be. Dante is prone to incredibly false and biased views of Roman history, Roman mythology, and even Cicero. The book is not just about Rome. There is uninteresting philosophy too.
Look at this chapter progression: Book II Ch. XI The single combats of the Roman people. Book II Ch. XII: Christ in being born proved that the authority of the Roman Empire was just....more