From a blog I wrote early on in my reading of this book (I'll be writing more about the rest later on):
"Climbed to the Highest Point on the Tree and t...moreFrom a blog I wrote early on in my reading of this book (I'll be writing more about the rest later on):
"Climbed to the Highest Point on the Tree and the Empathy Therein"
I'm reading a book right now that's quite impressive called Primates & Philosophers by the primatologist Frans de Waal which is mostly about the evolution of morality. The book is finished with a series of exchanges between philosophers (like Peter Singer for instance) so basically like a conversation in essay form about the subject of evolutionary ethics among other things. De Waal critiques what he calls "Veneer Theory" which posits that human morality exists as a thin layer on top of our amoral core. According to de Waal, and I agree, this model just doesn't add up when we look to the empirical evidence provided by evolution and the rich sources of information we currently have on animal behavior studies. Anyway, I suggest that people check it out. It argues very well for the idea that nature and culture, human nature and moral reasoning are not at odds but rather are so intertwined that the Veneer Theory (culture as a layer on top of biology) just breaks down and falls apart. It's really interesting and has some great descriptions of non-human primate behavior and non-primates (such as dolphins with their relevant presence of higher levels of cognition). One very moving and interesting story is an account of a bonobo attempting to care for an injured bird and help it fly again:
"Here is another story about Bonobo empathy: Betty Walsh, an animal caretaker, observed the following incident involving a 7 year old female Bonobo named Kuni at Twycross Zoo in England. One day, Kuni captured a starling. Out of fear that she might hurt the bird, the keeper urged Kuni to let it go. Kuni took the bird and gently set it on its feet, right side up. When it didn't move, Kuni tossed it in the air. However, it returned to sitting on the earth, probably because it was too stunned or terrified to fly. Kuni then picked it up, climbed to the highest point on the highest tree, wrapped her legs around the trunk so that she had both hands free and carefully unfolded the bird's wings and spread them wide open on her palm and then threw the bird into the air as hard as she could. Unfortunately, it was still too stunned to make it over the barrier, so it sat on the edge of the moat where Kuni guarded it for a long time from the juveniles until it finally flew away."
Here Nietzsche returns to the form of the essay after several complete works largely composed aphoristically. The second essay in the polemic On the G...moreHere Nietzsche returns to the form of the essay after several complete works largely composed aphoristically. The second essay in the polemic On the Geneology of Morals is excellent and my personal favorite of the three essays that comprise this work. He discusses the historical tossings and turnings that have led to weird inversions of moral standards throughout the ages. The ways in which many eggs are often broken to make various omelettes and how the omelettes often turn out much differently than intended. Social psychology at its most fearless and polemicized.
Ecce Homo (tr. "Behold the man!" in reference to Pontius Pilate's presentation of Jesus to the blood thirsty crowd) is interesting as well. Nietzsche gives several short "reviews" of each of his own books written up until that time, some are a bit forgettable, some a bit more interesting. For a good example of official self-critique see his essay ("Attempt at Self-Criticism") about his first book The Birth of Tragedy which can be found in the intro to some copies of the same book.
The rest of this Beholding of the Man consists of four short chapters entitled "Why I Am So Wise", "Why I Am So Clever", "Why I Write Such Good Books", and "Why I Am a Destiny". These are probably best read as something written on the brink of insanity and steeped in deliberate irony and sarcasm--but not completely. I'll just admit that I had a hard time taking much of it all that seriously. For several pages Nietzsche goes on about his ideas concerning nutrition. He also equates drinking alcohol with subscribing to Christianity. It's a bit of a laugh riot from some angles but one that includes a series of doubtful and perplexed moments about from where or why the laughter comes.(less)
An enjoyable read. I remember finding the essay on Nietzsche's relation to Buddhism to stand out a bit as well. This is a great series that Cambridge...moreAn enjoyable read. I remember finding the essay on Nietzsche's relation to Buddhism to stand out a bit as well. This is a great series that Cambridge has been publishing and I intend to read several others namely on Spinoza, Bacon, Hume and Wittgenstein. (less)
Another book I read for a Social & Political Activism course, which is rife with glaring injustices to boil the blood and get one's wheels turning...moreAnother book I read for a Social & Political Activism course, which is rife with glaring injustices to boil the blood and get one's wheels turning about complex issues of ethics, social order, etc.(less)