This novel oscillated between hit-you-over-the-head symbolism and a-little-too-gappy suggestiveness; as a result, I oscillated between feeling manipulThis novel oscillated between hit-you-over-the-head symbolism and a-little-too-gappy suggestiveness; as a result, I oscillated between feeling manipulated and confused. To be fair, the content and setting of this novel is a context which is completely unfamiliar to me, and so I probably lacked some of the requisite hermeneutic resources to truly understand what Vernon was doing. So take my single-star rating as indicating my personal lack of appreciation and not as a judgment about the literary quality and import of the book.
There were moving scenes. One definitely does feel for the characters, and Vernon withdraws some of the initial rigidity as the story unfolds and you learn more about each character's concerns. But the graphic nature of the tragic events in the story seemed to carry a lot of the weight of story-telling, much like the violence in a Tarantino film, and I don't enjoy that in-your-face aesthetic....more
A collection of essays and thoughts from the early '90s, this book is a nice refresher in Agamben's main concepts and concerns. For those completely uA collection of essays and thoughts from the early '90s, this book is a nice refresher in Agamben's main concepts and concerns. For those completely unfamiliar with his ideas, he doesn't do a lot to elucidate his jargon or justify his aims. But even for those with a minimal familiarity will gain a lot from the examples, anecdotes, and applied analyses presented here. Some of the pieces are accessible without any background in Agamben's thought, and none of them belabor his conceptual apparatus too much. But some of the moves are more suggestive than argumentative, and as plausible as I find his views, they won't convince the critic or satisfy the curious. Still, I really enjoyed this collection and recommend it heartily to those who want a refresher in his early works or who are only familiar with his later stuff....more
A provocative and easy-to-follow book, it suggests a simple formula for emancipation: assume that everyone has equal intelligence. Ranciere examines tA provocative and easy-to-follow book, it suggests a simple formula for emancipation: assume that everyone has equal intelligence. Ranciere examines the life, pedagogy, and thought of Joseph Jacotot, who was forced to try to teach students with whom he shared no common language and as a result developed "universal teaching." Universal teaching emphasizes the idea that every person is capable of learning with enough attention and hard work; since it is the student who is doing the work of learning, the teacher only needs to ensure that the student is actually attending to the source material and making connections to what s/he already knows.
From this inspiring premise and the historical instantiation of universal teaching in the early 19th century, Ranciere then pits the society of explication and masters against this ideal of equal intelligence. While I have always advocated that anyone can learn who wants to, and that every communication conveys something of intelligible worth and thus is worthy of attention, I am not so sure about the overarching political consequences that Ranciere tries to draw. I can accept that there is a conflict when those in power feel their status and influence undermined by a individual self-worth and innovation. But I feel like it is too much to say that the only revolution that is needed is a disruption of all social institutions in favor of individual emancipation into the will to learn. We are still social creatures, and intellectual emancipation is no guarantee of social responsibility; in fact, it seems that those who favor this kind of individual liberty often shun the social while taking advantage of its resources. As a result, I found myself simultaneously intrigued/inspired and frustrated/disappointed.
If anything, this seems like a great book for parents. I think educators and public officials can also take the warnings regarding stultification which probably does have its impact in the classroom and social arenas. But after starting with the belief in intellectual equality, there seems like a lot more to do, in and out of the classroom....more
This is an incredibly accessible book for beginners, and it has all the feel-good bravado of embracing one's own individuality and freedom. Sartre's rThis is an incredibly accessible book for beginners, and it has all the feel-good bravado of embracing one's own individuality and freedom. Sartre's response to criticisms tends to follow the path of blaming the critics for believing in something false, and then saying they just don't get how awesome freedom really is--some serious question-begging. Despite completely disagreeing with Sartre about the nature of the self and the purpose of psychoanalysis, he at least lays out an alternative that is relatively easy to comprehend and which is consistent with his view. Most definitely an example of a ladder to throw away after climbing it....more
This might be a really good book for an introductory class on philosophy, since the trend in classrooms is a kind of pseudo-relativism intended to resThis might be a really good book for an introductory class on philosophy, since the trend in classrooms is a kind of pseudo-relativism intended to respect differences but which seems to undermine the ability to make, defend, and critique claims. Williamson does shuffle through several commonly assumed positions and shows how difficult each is to justify, both to other views and on their own terms. One piece of the dialogue that aggravated me on occasion was the conflation of psychological confidence with epistemic warrant, which led to quick dismissals of seemingly promising lines of thought. In particular, Williamson seems completely unsympathetic to fallibilism and probability-weighted warrant, but I'm not sure he really captures either view as well as the others portrayed in the book (e.g., the Foucauldian critic of discourse as power). I did like his discussion of faultless disagreement at the end of the book; it was much more lucid than the class I took on the issue last year, which seemed to repeatedly shuffle between particular and general claims without discerning how this affected truth values. Anyway, despite my disagreement with some of the positions which seemed to "win" in the conversation and the stylized caricatures who served as participants in the conversation, I did appreciate the sustained examination of disagreement....more
This is a solid collection of essays by well-informed and well-reputed Sellars scholars. I didn't find them all equally interesting or beneficial, butThis is a solid collection of essays by well-informed and well-reputed Sellars scholars. I didn't find them all equally interesting or beneficial, but I also have atypical interests (e.g., I don't care much for philosophy of science, and question the plausibility and benefit of a strong realism/idealism distinction). Still they were interesting, informative, and well researched. I was particularly helped by the contributions of Michael Williams, James R. O'Shea, and Johanna Seibt. Some the debates were definitely for insiders, and the acronyms became overwhelming. Not for everyone, but if you want to pursue research on Sellars or the thinkers inspired by him, this is a good resource....more
This is the best primer for a philosophical topic I have ever read. (There are certainly a lot I haven't read, so take that with a grain of salt.) ZagThis is the best primer for a philosophical topic I have ever read. (There are certainly a lot I haven't read, so take that with a grain of salt.) Zagzebski does a terrific job introducing readers to many of the issues in contemporary analytic epistemology, even briefly summarizing important arguments and criticisms, without getting too technical for the new initiate. I would most definitely recommend this book for new philosophers, those about to teach epistemology, and non-philosophers who want to understand what kinds of questions capture philosophers' attentions and why. The only negative comment I had was that Zagzebski used what seems to me to be a pretty fallacious (or ill-formed) analogy by which she intends to dispatch reliabilism, and she repeats the analogy a couple of times. Otherwise, her intro is inclusive of different answers given in the field, broad in the scope of epistemic problems raised, informative regarding historical and contemporary positions, and honest about the limits of such an introductory book, with solid recommendations for continued reading. She doesn't touch on other forms of epistemological inquiry (e.g., phenomenology, non-Western thought), but she does address much more than analyses of "knowledge."...more
This interesting and informative little book could have been expanded into a very useful compendium. Instead, it often feels far too rushed and incompThis interesting and informative little book could have been expanded into a very useful compendium. Instead, it often feels far too rushed and incomplete. Rescher includes interesting tidbits of philosophical history, and he provides a few arguments that have been offered to critique infinite regresses and some which attempt to legitimize some kinds of regresses. But there are a lot of distracting typos, and I rarely felt like the arguments were worked out thoroughly enough. A good place to start for general information and for recommendations for further research....more
There are moments when Mosteller's summary or criticisms of a particular view are helpful and brief, and thus could serve a student as a decent introdThere are moments when Mosteller's summary or criticisms of a particular view are helpful and brief, and thus could serve a student as a decent introduction to the issues. However, the book is plagued with strawmen arguments, non sequitor inferences, and a conflation between ontology and semantics. The concluding chapter in particular is full of too-quick arguments and sweeping claims which seem not to follow from their premises. Ultimately, I believe this book is more misleading than helpful, which is why I rated it so low despite its easy-to-read style and useful discussions of Aquinas and Husserl. Since Mosteller admits following Dallas Willard (1984) in many of his most important claims about truth as correspondence, I suggest just reading Willard....more