Recommendation: * Read all of Section 1, containing descriptions of the seven basic plots in erudite detail. * Skip to Chapters 21 through 24 of S...moreNotes:
Recommendation: * Read all of Section 1, containing descriptions of the seven basic plots in erudite detail. * Skip to Chapters 21 through 24 of Section 3. These explore the "dark" and "sentimental" variations of the foregoing. * Skim Chapters 26 and 27, wherein the author is revealed to be a sexist reactionary. Keep in mind that if one can enjoy the music of Frank Sinatra while ignoring the fact that he as a sexist jerk, one can read the balance of Bookings with the same forbearance. * Either read or skim Section 2, which explores commonalities of all the plot archetypes, including character archetypes. But it will probably feel pretty redundant. * Finish with Chapters 28, 29, 25 and 30 in that order. The first two of those introduce and analyze two modern plot types; the third explores Thomas Hardy's psychological novels; the final goes into a fascinating analysis of Oedipus and Hamlet. * Skim
p. 382: "[George:] Lucas drew on the knowledge of Joseph Campbell ... in an effort to ensure that his story matched up as faithfully as possible to their archetypal patterns and imagery. [...:] But however carefully Lucas tried to shape his script around these archetypal ground rules ... it had not got the pattern right."
Section I: the seven basic plots are: Overcoming the Monster (incl. subgenre "The Thrilling Escape From Death"); Rags to Riches; The Quest; Voyage and Return; Comedy (*not* necessarily funny!); Tragedy; and Rebirth.
Section II: what they all have in common: the character archetypes.
Section III: "Missing the Mark" discusses how the plot archetypes go awry. First examines each of the plots in their "Dark" and "Sentimental" versions. In the "Dark" versions, the protagonist never achieves "enlightenment" in symbolic form due to an egoistic focus. In the "Sentimental" versions, the story and ending appear happy, but without ingredients necessary for archetypal closure. (Chapters 21 to 24). Then to Thomas Hardy (Ch. 25), documenting how his oeuvre shifted from "light" to "dark" in parallel with his increasingly frustrating and dysfunctional personal life. Then the worst two chapters (26, 27), reeking of personal biases and opinions regarding nihilism, violence, sex and the changing role of women. First of three "modern" archetypes (mostly unseen in classic literature): (Ch. 28:) Rebellion against "The One" (except Job); then (Ch. 29:) The Mystery (actually diagnosed as usually a sentimental comedy with a hero unintegrated into the basic story). Finally, best chapter of the book, on Oedipus and Hamlet.
Section IV: "Why we tell stories", pretty boring, unless you want an examination of how religious texts can be perceived in archetypal patterns.
Ch. 27: points out many books and films pushed out the boundaries of what was acceptable in terms of sex and violence (e.g., Texas Chainsaw Massacre). But he conflates this with a fundamental shift in the center of gravity of story-telling, ignoring that many of these extreme works have a narrow public appeal and are not considered as having intrinsic lasting importance. Frankly, his reactionary rage (notable in his columns) is barely suppressed.
Ch. 27: Sexism. In discussing the movie Alien, he states "the basic plot is very similar to that of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" (p. 486). He astonishingly ignores the fundamental distinction between mayhem performed by humans, *acting as monsters*, and that performed by actual monsters. The perverse horror of Chainsaw is in the very disturbing transformation of humans into monsters -- even into a family of cooperating monsters. Being killed and consumed by the Alien is basically no worse than an attack by a shark, or a lion.
Also, he seems to be quite sexist here, or at least comes very close to it. "The image of women was becoming de-feminised. No longer were the styles of women's clothing intended to express such traditional feminine attributes as grace, allure, prettiness, elegance: they were designed to be either, in a hard direct way, sexually provocative, or sexlessly businesslike." [Frankly, I find Trinity in The Matrix (which he doesn't discuss) to be an paragon of grace, allure and elegance as well as sexually provocative.:] Apparently an archetypal hero must be masculine, and thus to portray a woman in heroic terms is a contradiction of the archetype. He sounds outraged: "There was now a premium in showing animus-driven women capable of competing with men and outperforming them in masculine terms. Female characters were expected to be show as just as clever and tough as men, mentally and physically." His only saving grace is the uncertainty whether he believes (prescriptively) that women should properly behave only in a ladylike way, or whether he believes (descriptively) that the fundamental archetypes in our psyches are limited thus.
But, frankly, his chapters on the modern subversion of the archetypes display more irritation than admiration, and many readers will probably have a sneaking suspicion that the author is a social reactionary, which also seems to be evident in his columns for the Telegraph.
Consider: the author makes a strong case that these plot archetypes are fundamental and universal (as, I understand, Jung had attempted to establish with personality archetypes?). But does this make them eternal and unchanging? And even if that is given, does it make them good and true? Many inheritances from our evolutionary past are dysfunctional; perhaps it is proper that we should rebel against aspects of these archetypes, especially those that are arbitrarily constraining. Booker doesn't perceive this possibility, implicitly treating any deviation from his perception of these rules as dysfunctional. (Although he isn't consistent: the fact that Ripley in Alien is a woman he finds distressing; the fact that Oedipus marries and has children with his mother is brilliance.)
Ch. 31 (beginning of Part IV): "[If:] there is one thing we have seen emerging from the past few hundred pages it is the extent to which the stories told by even the greatest of them are not their own." The stories told by Shakespeare, Dickens, Hugo -- not their own? Because they have been influenced by ghostly skeletons of plots and characters in their subconscious? This is incredibly arrogant. Booker has spent so many decades in his labors that he can't see the forest for the trees.
Side note illuminating arrogance: fn. 3, p. 553: "Various attempts have been made in recent years to provide a scientific definition of the difference between human consciousness and that of other animals. A *fundamental flaw* in all of them lies in their failure to take account of the consequences arising from the split between ego and instinct...." Booker -- a journalist and author -- apparently believes himself competent to evaluate and judge anyone.
Q: quote attributed to Churchill belongs to Bernard Shaw? (p. 576)(less)
(Excellent article discussing this book's major theme was printed in the New York Times on 3 March 2009.)
Less than halfway through, but this is a good...more(Excellent article discussing this book's major theme was printed in the New York Times on 3 March 2009.)
Less than halfway through, but this is a good book and I've got to start getting my notes into coherent form.
• Hrdy is an academic (over 100 pages of this book is allocated to endnotes and bibliography), but her writing style is very accessible given the subject.
• Key proposition: "the crucial different between human cognition and that of other species is the ability to participate with others in collaborative activities with shared goals and intentions" (p. 9).
• Two revelations, one quite startling. First, the way we got to the above is via collaborative caregiving to children.
• Second: children — even neonatal — are subject to evolutionary pressures just as adults are. Becoming cute is fundamentally adaptive: a child that becomes attractive to caregivers increases the likelihood that it will survive compared to its non-cute competitors. Evolution has provided infants and children with instinctive abilities and subconscious strategies intended to co-opt others into providing care.
• Primate contrast: the other Great Apes besides humans exhibit obsessive and jealous maternal care. If a gorilla or orangutan infant in the wild is ever not in its mother's embrace, it is almost certainly because the mother is dead. Mothers not only don't permit others to assist in caregiving, they literally aren't out of contact with the infant for the first four or six months of the infant's life (p. 68ff).
• More like humans are the callitrichids, which as New World monkeys, aren't even all that closely related to humans. But they: (1) breed fast, like humans (other Great Apes breed much slower than we do), (2) enlist many others in caregiving, (3) adapt quickly to new environments and thus spread quickly (p. 94ff).
• Disconcerting quote: "Children do best in societies where childrearing is considered too important to be left entirely to parents" (p. 103). A corollary of the "It Takes a Village" hypothesis, heavily backed by empirical evidence.
• Disconcerting research: A child's nutritional status is best predicted by the security of a child's attachment to his mother, however that attachment shows no significant association to the child's socio-emotional development. "The strongest predictor of empathy, dominance, independence, and achievement orientation often turned out to be a strong attachment to a non-parental caregiver" (p. 131).
Basic theory: humans differentiated from other Great Apes when they adopted the novel (compared to the other Great Apes) strategy for cooperative caregiving of the young. By enlisting others in care (especially pre- and post-fertile females), a mother is free to acquire calories and accelerate the next breeding cycle.
» This isn't novel across all species, just within Great Apes. Plenty of other species have collaborative care.
» However, Great Apes had already evolved social tribes, for collaboration in defense. Most social animals rely on biochemical cues; Great Apes had developed large-ish brains instead, using them to track relationships and hierarchy.
» Large brains already using social cognition, when paired with collaborative caregiving, put evolutionary pressure on children to develop social strategies to enhance survival odds: become attractive to alloparents or die.
» Babies instinctively scan adult faces for cues to emotional states to gauge intention, and thus which might become caregivers and what strategy to use to manipulate those adults. For example, an infant must choose whether to cry or coo, to babble and giggle or be coy (p. 139). Proto-human infants are subject to cognitive challenges that will have evolutionary survival significance.
» Babbling, for example, may be a strategy to capture the attention of adults long enough to co-opt them. Note that infants babble at strangers more often than mothers. Babbling doesn't occur in continuous-care-and-contact species such as chimpanzees, but does among a few other collaborative caregivers, such as marmosets (callitrichids). Hrdy believes babbling arose long before speech. (P. 122ff.)
» Evolutionary pressures developed social skills in infants and children, and increase the social abilities of the adult brain as well, thus giving rise to more and more complex societies.
» Other Great Apes juveniles play, just as humans do. But those other apes will have spent their infancy with their mothers in continuous-care-and-contact, where interacting with others is not a critical part of survival. Proto-humans, in contrast, will already be relative masters at empathy and engagement (p. 138).
• Role of father. The most significant aspect of paternal care seems to be the provision of meat. In many primitive cultures it is not provided reliably, but can still be a major source of annual calories. But in some cultures meat is major: the Ache derive 87% of their annual calories from game (p. 152).
• When assistance in provisioning for children looks sketchy, women (or both parents) would add an extra "father" to the family. Among the Ache, children with two "fathers" were better fed and on average more likely to survive (p. 155).
• In traditional China, a nominally patriarchal society, extra men might be added to provide additional wages (p. 153). (Perhaps we'll see this again to deal with the surplus of males in China.)
• "When they find themselves 'hungry for meat', Kulina women order men to go hunting. On their return, each woman selects a hunter other than her own husband as a partner. 'At the end of the day the men return in a group to the village, where the adult women form a large semicircle and sing erotically provocative songs ... asking for their "meat"' (p. 156ff). (Didn't Michener use something like this in his Hawaii?)
• Stepchildren are notoriously vulnerable. However, "one stepchild ... who fared unusually well was also a nephew, the child of a deceased brother whose mother the hunter had married" (p. 158). (Doesn't the Old Testament command something like this? Hmmm, no: Deuteronomy 25:5-10 only applies to brothers without issue. Strange.)
Children are addictive. Keeping children fed is so crucial that parental brains are heavily conditioned.
» Example one. Animals respond instinctively to stimuli that might sometimes be triggered inappropriately. Here a Northern Cardinal is feeding a goldfish, whose gaping mouth apparently was similar enough to a chick's (p. 201).
» You know that rats will chose cocaine over food, right? They'll starve themselves to death to feed their addition. So which wins: cocaine or infants? No contest: the mother rat will forgo the cocaine for pups (p. 213).
» Babies encourage kidnapping. Immature female lemurs will hunger for experience with babies so much that if none are available in their troop, they'll risk kidnapping one from a neighboring troop (p. 219).
» Babies do this on purpose. Even at the risk of higher predation, babies evolve signs that indicate "Baby on board": coloration that is very highly visible, for example. Or, for humans, extra plumpness that indicates they are healthy and full-term and thus worth keeping (p. 223ff).
» Humans have more resistance — this comes with cooperative breeding. If a new mother doesn't perceive adequate social resources, she is more likely to abandon the baby or suffer post-partum depression. Both humans and other socially breeding primates are more provisional regarding care; continuous-care-and-contact primate mothers are obsessive and not provisional at all.
• "Among foragers, any girl sufficiently well-fed to ovulate in her early teens was, almost by definition, a girl surrounded by supportive kin, people who after she gave birth were likely to be willing to help her rear her young. After the Pleistocene, and increasingly over the ensuing centuries, even young women still psychologically immature and woefully lacking in sympathy or social support could nevertheless be well-fed enough to ovulate and conceive while still in their early teens." (p. 287)
• "Perverse as it sounds ... it appears that children today have begun to survive too well. ... Back in the Pleistocene, any child who was fortunate enough to grow up acquired a sense of emotional security by default. Those without committed mothers and also lacking allomothers responsive to their needs would rarely have survived long enough for the emotional sequelae of neglect to matter. Today, this is no longer true..." (p. 290).
• Alarmist conclusion: "If empathy and understanding develop only under particular rearing circumstances, and if an ever-increasing proportion of the species fails to encounter those conditions but nevertheless survives to to reproduce, it won't matter how valuable the underpinnings for collaborations were in the past. Compassion and the quest for emotional connection will fade away as surely as sight in cave-dwelling fish" (p. 293). Probably wrong. Even if the circumstances that gave rise to these attributes in evolutionary history were to disappear, the traits themselves are strongly adaptive (recall the monkeys-on-a-plane story the book opened with), and the fact that the attributes can be expressed means evolution is more likely to select for their continued presence by other means than for their absences.
Back to central thesis: Before evolutionary divergence, we shared with other great apes advanced cognitive capacities, Machiavellian intelligence, and an incipient "theory of mind". What triggered our development into more advanced humans was the shift to cooperative breeding, which isn't actually very rare, even among primates (just not among apes). Larger brains, language, etc., arose from that convergence (p. 280).
(Somehow I missed this one in my Hardy-reading kick decades ago. Have to add it in during a re-read of the oeuvre. In Christopher Booker'sThe Seven B...more(Somehow I missed this one in my Hardy-reading kick decades ago. Have to add it in during a re-read of the oeuvre. In Christopher Booker'sThe Seven Basic Plots, this book is midway into the author's personal tragedy, and thus is dark, but not as dark as he's gonna get. This is placed, along with the preceding The Mayor of Casterbridge under the penultimate subheading "Disintegration: The second stage".)(less)
(Not actually a review. Others have done that perfectly well. This is actually a reminder to myself — and a pointer to anyone else that stumbles over...more(Not actually a review. Others have done that perfectly well. This is actually a reminder to myself — and a pointer to anyone else that stumbles over here — that The Atlantic has a significant and enthusiastic series of blog posts discussing the HBO adaptation of this series. They also have an interview with the author of "Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution" on why we are in the third Golden Age of television. GoT isn't mentioned, but the complexity and moral ambiguity clearly applies — of course, the book can go deeper into both of those, and is better for it.)
(Hmmm, I only gave this four stars? I guess so — the third book is when the series hit its high notes, and convinced me that this is the best epic fantasy series ever written.)(less)
Apropos whilst reading a book on climate change, the New York Times just published a fairly in-depth article on investigations of sea level rise. The...moreApropos whilst reading a book on climate change, the New York Times just published a fairly in-depth article on investigations of sea level rise. The article, As Glaciers Melt, Science Seeks Data on Rising Seas, also has some interesting multimedia attachments. One fairly alarming tidbit I learned is that the ice piled on top of just Greenland would, if melted, raise sea levels by twenty feet.
The new Matt Damon hyperkinetic action movie The Adjustment Bureau is based on the PDK short story The Adjustment Team, in this collection. The New Yo...moreThe new Matt Damon hyperkinetic action movie The Adjustment Bureau is based on the PDK short story The Adjustment Team, in this collection. The New York Times review of the movie, “Creepy People With a Plan, and a Couple on the Run” is surprisingly positive. The last word: “As it turns out, romance for grown-ups isn’t dead in Hollywood — it’s just been on extended leave.”
I’m pleased that Manohla Dargis, in her review, agrees with my analysis of the appeal of PDK. She just says it better:
One reason filmmakers like Mr. Nolfi seem attracted to Philip K. Dick’s work, beyond the brilliance of its ideas, is that his unembellished writing style leaves them room to make the stories visually their own.
Tomasello has written a short, sweet technical introduction to his theory of cooperation, which is a pretty hot topic in cognitive circles these days....moreTomasello has written a short, sweet technical introduction to his theory of cooperation, which is a pretty hot topic in cognitive circles these days. The book was adapted from a series of lectures (Stanford's 2008 Tanner Lectures), so it isn't as heavily footnoted or quite as academic in tone as an academic journal article, but it doesn't spend quite as much time on background and basics as a typical pop-cog book. Still, it does cover a lot of territory in its short length (only 172 pages, with pretty big margins).
Tomasello explores cooperation with several different comparisons. He is most famous for comparing infants and toddlers to young chimpanzees, but that is just one aspect — he also explores cross cultural differences, for example. Children and chimps, however, are a very intriguing place to start, which is why the New York Times leaned heavily on his work in the December 2009 article We May Be Born With an Urge to Help (well worth reading).
He focuses on two basic phenomena (p. xvii): (1) Altruism: one individual sacrificing in some way for another; and (2) Collaboration: multiple individuals working together for mutual benefit.
This book is about cognitive frameworks, or, more precisely: about two frameworks that plausibly explain many of the differences between liberals and...moreThis book is about cognitive frameworks, or, more precisely: about two frameworks that plausibly explain many of the differences between liberals and conservatives.
Oddly enough, I'm still struggling with how this book interacts with my own cognitive framework. I have several pages of notes that should eventually go into a review, but Lakoff's focus on those two political perspectives was so ultimately frustrating that the book left me incredibly frustrated.
As far as the book goes, it is a fascinating dissection at how personalities can share deep similarities across a broad spectrum of society due to those frameworks.
But so many questions: are these supposed to be the innate two? Or are these just the current dominant pair due in our evolving culture? If the latter, what other frameworks have been used by, say, the founding generation of the United States? Or of the Socratic Greeks? How does one research such questions?
In our own time, do these dominant two account for 99% of everyone in the United States? Eighty percent? Fifty-one percent? I know it isn't 100%, because I'm certain I don't fit either framework. How many hyper-rationalists like me are there out there?
The problem is that I've left the book sitting on my desk for so long un-reviewed that I have to return it to the library tomorrow: no more renewals.
So some notes that might help me do a better job after I've read Lakoff's Philosophy in the Flesh, currently holding down my bedside table.
» P. 72: Morality is Strength (thus, Meta-morality is morality): "One consequence of this metaphor is that punishment can be good for you, since going through hardships builds moral strength. Hence, the homily, 'spare the rod and spoil the child'. By the logic of this metaphor, moral weakness is in itself a form of immorality. The reasoning goes like this: A morally weak person is likely to fall, to give in to evil, to perform immoral acts, and thus become part of the forces of evil. Moral weakness is thus nascent immorality, immorality waiting to happen." What does this say about the myth of pure evil? Is the prospect of moral weakness and nascent immorality illuminated in Wilde's Picture of Dorian Gray or Conrad's Heart of Darkness?
» P. 76: Moral Authority: "... Within the Strict Father model, the parent (typically the father) sets standards of behavior and punishes the child if the standards are not met. Moral behavior by the child is obedience to the parent's authority...." This incorporates the profoundly disturbing implication that the parent is always right. Actually, the model has the caveat that the parent must be acting in the child's best interest and have "the ability to know what is best for the child", but these still blithely ignore what happens when the parent is well-meaning yet wrong. My personal framework demands that all authority is contingent, and that a very high priority goes to every individual's responsibility to be capable of evaluating the demands of authority and considering, when necessary, whether the consequences of denying such authority is worth the entailed costs. While I believe I see evidence of Lakoff's "Strict Parent" model throughout society, my personal framework directly contradicts it. What framework is the "Question Authority" bumper sticker a reflection of?
» P. 109: Nurturant Parent Morality: "... Open, two-way, mutually respectful communication is crucial. If parents' authority is to be legitimate, they must tell their children why their decisions serve the cause of protection and nurturance. The questioning of parents by children is positive, since children need to learn why their parents do what they do, since children often have good ideas that should be taken seriously, and since all family members should participate in important decisions. Responsible parents, of course, have to make the ultimate decisions and that must be clear." Sounds good (and consistent with "Question Authority") but also sounds incredibly naive, much like communist idealism. This completely ignores the less mature reasoning abilities of children, and ignores the limited patience of normal parents. Seems like a caricature.
» P. 112: "What does the world have to be like if people like this are to develop and thrive? The world must be as nurturant as possible and respond positively to nurturance. It must be a world that encourages people to develop their potential and provides help when necessary. And correspondingly, it must be a place where those who are helped feel a responsibility to help others and carry out that responsibility. It must be a world governed maximally by empathy, where the weak who need hep get it from the strong." Oh, please, what world are we living in? Human nature is both cooperative and competitive. ('What's so great about being among "the strong" if that just means you have to do more work', he was heard to whine.) What about when people don't want to "develop their potential"? Plenty of people spend hours online, but how many of them are taking the free online classes at the Open University, etc.? Folks don't seem to optimize themselves to meet society's needs; free-riding behavior kicks in far too easily. Always remember: we've all descended from the people that won their wars; genes that say "turn the other cheek" are too easy to take advantage of to last long.
» P. 127: "In Nurturant Parent morality, the virtues to be taught—the moral strengths—are the opposites of the internal evils: social responsibility, generosity, respect for the values of others, open-mindedness, a capacity for pleasure, aesthetic sensitivity, inquisitiveness, ability to communicate, honesty, sensitivity to feelings, considerateness, cooperativeness, kindness, community-mindedness, and self-respect." Again the caricature of the liberal. This reminds me of the "always cooperate" tactic used in iterative Prisoner's Dilemma: a naively nice strategy that is quickly wiped out by any predators. Of course, the Strict Father morality is paranoid and easily falls into predatory patterns — and we know who wins that battle. Will Lakoff ever find elements of a cognitive framework that mimic the best PD strategy, tit-for-tat? Actually, *generous* tit-for-tat beats tit-for-tat in a chaotic environment, and it is that element of generosity that appears to have been seized upon as the core of the NP morality. But this only survives in a highly benevolent environment, and probably isn't stable even then.
» P. 242: Re: the culture wars and the possibility teaching pluralism: "There may be a problem in taking this route to teaching morality and avoiding partisan moral and political indoctrination. Many conservatives believe that there is only one possible view of morality—Strict Father morality. Many religious conservatives believe that teaching both moral systems is itself immoral." Well, no duh. Witness the quote I found while reading Founding Myths: Stories That Hide Our Patriotic Past:
An officer of the Daughters of the Colonial Wars, for instance, complained about books that “give a child an unbiased viewpoint instead of teaching him real Americanism. All the old histories taught my country right or wrong. That's the point of view we want our children to adopt. We can't afford to teach them to be unbiased and let them make up their own minds.”
Ecumenicalism logically can't include zealots that want to burns the others at the stake.
» P. 261: After a somewhat labored exploration of how Christianity as each of the two paradigms interpret it: "Finally, the two forms of Christianity have very different understandings of what the world should be like so that such ideal persons can be produced. Strict Father Christianity requires that the world be competitive and survival difficult if the right kind of people (strong people) are to be produced and rewarded. Nurturant Parent Christianity requires that the world be as interdependent, nurturant and benign as possible, if the right kind of people—nurturant people—are to be produced." Sounds like Warriors for Christ versus Mother Teresa, eh?
» P. 269: In the chapter on Abortion, Lakoff points out the variants of each model exist. For example, if the "Men are dominant over Women" aspect of the Strict Father model is removed, one gets conservative feminism. Lakoff plausibly argues that this indirectly removes a crucial condition for requiring opposition to abortion, and thus these conservatives "are not bound by the logic of their morality to be either pro-life or pro-choice. In short, the model predicts that there should be conservatives who are pro-choice, and that they should be those who do not rank men above women in the moral order." One of the glaring holes of Lakoff's book is the lack of empirical evidence or even a research program that would produce testable hypotheses. This is understandable, since research on human ethics and morality can't easily be separated from the messy world in which we live. The book is largely a thoughtful exposition based on plausible initial assumptions, and is no more scientific than Plato's Dialogs. That Lakoff shows that this model can explain or predict counter-intuitive beliefs is the only sign of scientific rigor I recall.
» P. 280: Liberal often castigate the conservative morality for whipping up anger and outrage, thus creating social conditions that foster immoral behavior. The relatively recent assassination of a doctor who performed abortions is one example; another is even more recent example of the militant who flew his small plane into a government building, killing himself and one government employee. "To the conservative, immoral behavior is attributable to individual character, not to social causes: What is right and what is wrong are clear, and the question is whether you are morally strong enough to do what is right. It's a matter of character. Conservatives believe that if an extreme conservative commits a crime, say killing people, in the name of vigilante justice, then conservatism itself cannot be held to blame, nor can those who spew hate over the airwaves. The explanation instead is that that individual had a bad character, that is, a bad moral essence. ...explanations on the basis of social causes are excluded."
» P. 296: Good example of when the cognitive frameworks can be intermixed even within one person.
Consider someone who is a thorough going liberal, but whose intellectual views are as follows: • There are intellectual authorities who maintain strict standards for the conduct of scholarly research and for reporting on such research. • It is unscholarly for someone to violate those standards. • Young scholars require a rigorous training to learn to meet those scholarly standards. ... • Students should not be "coddled." They should be held to strict scholarly standards at all times. ...
» P. 356: In his chapter "Raising Real Children", Lakoff discusses research that shows strongly that children raised within the Strict Fatherr morality tend to be more dysfunctional than those raised in the Nurturant Parent morality, even by the standards of the former: "This overall picture is quite damning for the Strict Father model. That model seems to be a myth. If this research is right, a Strict Father upbringing does not produce the kind of child it claims to produce. Incidentally, this picture is not from one study or from studies by one researcher. This is the overall picture gathered from many studies by many different researchers (see References, B2)." Yes... but...
Lakoff starts his book claiming he will be as non-partisan through most of the book, only explaining his conclusions the beliefs fostered by those conclusions in the final chapters. Yet, despite being a liberal myself I couldn't help but feel throughout the book that his bias was evident. I had the impression that his examples were chosen to highlight the failures of the Strict Father model and hide, or at least not address, those of the Nurturant Parent model.
Moreover, the picture Lakoff presents is that of a strict dichotomy, and I have reasons (someone eccentric ones) to think this is fundamentally flawed. Years ago I read a book on game theory which hinted that the iterated Prisoner's Dilemma was a thought experiment that provide astonishing insight into the eternal conflict between cooperation and competition. Sophisticated iPD models shows that blind "niceness" fails quickly in the face of predation; it also shows that predation fails more slowly, but no less inevitably when there are no more nice "suckers" around to prey on; the winning strategy is nice, but cautious, and strikes a middle ground between the two poles.
That Lakoff has formulated a model of cognition that somehow manages to completely ignore this golden mean makes me deeply suspicious. Certainly our genetic heritage from millions of years of cognitive development should provide the underpinnings that assist not just in "Strict Father" competitiveness or "Nurturant Mother" cooperation, but what lies between, what has allowed us to muddle through eons of flawed civilizations.
These comments, lengthy as they are, don't even tap into the several pages of notes I've got. They are only comments triggered by the post-it-note bookmarks I use to highlight specific passages.
It should be clear that this is, at least to me, a very important book. It is very flawed as well; even beyond the preceding complaints, Lakoff's style is pedantic and verbose, and often repetitive. I wish he had written a better book, however what he gave us still will be a source of deep thinking and surprising insights for those willing to wade in. (less)
The author gave a talk on experimental physics and the contributions of the under-acclaimed Emmy Noether at one of the local Science Cafés. The chat w...moreThe author gave a talk on experimental physics and the contributions of the under-acclaimed Emmy Noether at one of the local Science Cafés. The chat was a bit too dense to accumulate all at once, but helped clarify contemporary physics somewhat. Featured — and quite intriguing — was the role of Noether's theorem in the exploration of symmetry and the derivation of... er... the laws that are, uh, implied? By that symmetry. Or something. Gauge theories were also mentioned, and we ended up with Higgs and his eponymous field and boson.
If Kurzweil is right and I end up living forever, I swear I'm going to study math until I get this stuff. But Tensor algebra comes first, just because the name sounds so cool.
Much to my astonishment and delight, the professor I learned IPE from finally got around to writing this textbook after teaching the stuff for well ov...moreMuch to my astonishment and delight, the professor I learned IPE from finally got around to writing this textbook after teaching the stuff for well over forty years. The class was so well taught and the complex material presented so clearly that I signed up to TA his class twice after taking it.
I've order a copy, but simply based on what I learned in his class, I'm giving this a tentative five-star review. After I get it I might discover some disappointment, but from the single review over on Amazon I infer that I won't.
The obvious question is: is this a biased recommendation? No: this text was written ten years after I left the university, which was the last time I spoke to the good professor.
We'll, yeah. This has been on my "currently reading" shelf for years. It's near the bottom of the stack on my bedside table. I keep it there on fond remembrance of the author, my professor in International Political Economy. I want to say that if anyone wants to understand, as deeply as *necessary*, our contemporary economics, this is a great textbook.
But since I haven't read the whole thing, I'm basing that conclusion on his classroom lectures. Is this that good? I hope it is...(less)
Stumbled on a visit from the author to the SFPL, and was quite impressed by the prose. A tiny bit disappointed that he read from the mountain lion-Big...moreStumbled on a visit from the author to the SFPL, and was quite impressed by the prose. A tiny bit disappointed that he read from the mountain lion-Big Sur passage instead of the geology-of-the-Sierras passage, but I guess that's what his quick survey indicated the audience preferred. (It's just I'm planning on doing the JMT in six or seven weeks...)(less)
(So, I took a look at NPR’s “Your Picks: Top 100 Science-Fiction, Fantasy Books”, and skimming through I was a bit surprised to find a series at position 12 that I've never read and don't really know anything about. That doesn't mean I'll enjoy this — some of the stuff on that list is crap, IMHO. And the fact that this is the Conan the Barbarian guy doesn't bode well. But the overall ratings are excellent, and at least one of my GR ‘friends’ gave this five stars, so I’ll take a look.)
Hard to tell how much I liked this one — I can see it going from 3 to 4.5, but it ends somewhat abruptly. That isn't a complaint, though — McKillip wa...moreHard to tell how much I liked this one — I can see it going from 3 to 4.5, but it ends somewhat abruptly. That isn't a complaint, though — McKillip warns the reader up front that this is the first of a series and the reader shouldn't expect a comfy ending.
So the rating and full review will have to wait.
I will say that I love McKillip's style — lyrical and thoughtful, with her world-building quietly tucked into the interstices of the story, not laboriously explained.
I'd previously read her Alphabet of Thorn and gave it five stars, although I never got around to writing a review. But that was two and a half years ago, and the memory of her writing has always been calling me back to read more, much like Guy Gavriel Kay. I can see how many folks might grow bored with her quiet and slow style, but it works for me.(less)
Steven Pinker certain ranges widely in intellectual circles. Although he is nominally a professor of psychology at Harvard, but even with specialties...moreSteven Pinker certain ranges widely in intellectual circles. Although he is nominally a professor of psychology at Harvard, but even with specialties (per Wikipedia) in experimental psychology, cognitive science, linguistics, he somehow dove into history to present one of the best TED Talks, back in 2007: Steven Pinker on the myth of violence (watch those nineteen minutes, if you haven't already).
Wonderfully, he has now followed that presentation up with an entire volume.
Peter Singer wrote the glowing review of this book for the New York Times, and that somewhat lengthy essay is itself well worth reading: Is Violence History?.
Update — the Autumn 2011 issue of the excellent pop sociology quarterly The Wilson Quarterly also enthusiastically recommends the book (with minor caveats) in Peace on Earth.
Update — Just got this from the library; must read within three weeks since the number of holds will prevent me from renewing. Curiously, the podcast I was listening to on the way to the library was on a related topic. The U.C. Berkeley School of Law professor (and socioologist) Franklin Zimring wrote an article back in August on the precipitous decline in crime in New York City, and was interviewed by the charming SciAm editor Steve Mirsky, The City That Became Safe: What New York Teaches about Urban Crime and Its Control. Check it out!