I am having a hard time finding words for this book. It is ostensibly about Psychiatry, and a few sections treat that subject fairly specifically, butI am having a hard time finding words for this book. It is ostensibly about Psychiatry, and a few sections treat that subject fairly specifically, but the more striking parts of the book seem to have a much more general significance. In particular, chapters 1, 3, and 4 are . . . woah. They are incredibly striking and left me stunned. It fits in a lot with Derrick Jensen themes, although his wording is much more severe and "prophetic" than Jensen's. Particularly, Chapter Four, Us and Them, takes the traditional Anarchist rejection of nations and borders and all that garbage, and applies it in a much wider, more profound sense, bringing it to its logical and very scary conclusion.
Definitely read this, put it on the top of a list or something, go get it, and read it now! It is very short and very worthwhile. ...more
The theory of relativity is amazing and important, but contrary to what the tagline says, Einstein himself is probably not the best person to have expThe theory of relativity is amazing and important, but contrary to what the tagline says, Einstein himself is probably not the best person to have explain it to you. I read this class for Freshman Studies in college, and I honestly have to admit that I wouldn't have gotten much of it without the significant aid of in-depth lectures and classroom discussions. This is not because the ideas themselves are too complex, but because Einstein fails in his attempt to make his ideas understood to a layman. I don't know what book you ought to read instead, but there are certainly many alternatives, of which some must be good. Einstein does not assume any knowledge of physics, but he does kind of glide over what his variables mean or where they come from, and this makes it hard to grasp what the math means and how it fits in. ...more
Plato's poor logic, odd assumptions, and the irrelevancy of all of his conclusions to modern-day understandings of pretty much everything made this woPlato's poor logic, odd assumptions, and the irrelevancy of all of his conclusions to modern-day understandings of pretty much everything made this work merely annoying to me. His logic is truly execrable. I was quite disappointed, given its reputation, and though our class had some good discussions on it and I am glad to be familiar with it, I wouldn't recommend it to another. ...more
Milgram's book came at a fortuitous time for me, a time when I was experiencing a paradigm shift towards an obsession with social determinism. I had tMilgram's book came at a fortuitous time for me, a time when I was experiencing a paradigm shift towards an obsession with social determinism. I had to read the book as part of my University's Freshman Studies curriculum, but I found that it fit extremely nicely into my personal intellectual search to understand what I refer to as the "Problem of Civilization." I had learned that there was a problem (a very serious one, at that) and I had learned what that problem was and how it worked.
But I didn't know really well how it had come to be; I didn't understand the social natural selection that had brought humanity to the point where it is now. And I still don't, completely, but Milgram fills in a big piece of that puzzle. Even if you are not concerned explicitly with the Problem of civilization, if you are at all interested in understanding human history in general (and the two are intertwined to the point that they are nearly indistinguishable), then you will find this book worth reading....more
Reading the Rocks is a perfect book for me, since its two themes, geology and humanity's atrocities against the planet, are both things that fascinateReading the Rocks is a perfect book for me, since its two themes, geology and humanity's atrocities against the planet, are both things that fascinate me more than most things. And as a pop geology book, Bjornerud makes a contribution worth reading alongside books that are perhaps better written or give more information, like Richard Fortey's Earth, or Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything. She does give information that is still new and fascinating after reading those two books.
However, the latter issue, which seems to be the major theme of the book and her personal preoccupation, is given very little treatment in the book. It is simply stated that we should change our attitude towards the Earth, that we should be less presumptuous and more respectful, and that we should consider our actions more before we take them. She offers no analysis of what humans have done so far, nor does she give any suggestions for the reader about what they can do. She treats the whole of humanity as one individual, with particular attitudes towards the environment and an overarching consciousness and cohesive decision-making process, and then acts as though this unified human consciousness is her audience. This all ignores the fact that human actions collectively are determined as a result of natural social selection and emergence, not of conscious group decisions. And thus the problems we face will not be solved by mere attitude change. The social forces that are destroying our planet operate at a much deeper level than our personal ideologies and attitudes.
P.S. - This afternoon I went to a Q&A session with the author, who made it clear that the things I found fault with above. She apparently wanted to avoid being preachy or proselytizing, and instead merely present the evidence and her sentiment and let the reader judge for itself.
It is overall worth reading for its science value, but it is not particularly deep....more
Borges really is everything he's made out to be. He is a deity of erudition, who stands in my mind as the librarian of a Mount Olympus of brilliant auBorges really is everything he's made out to be. He is a deity of erudition, who stands in my mind as the librarian of a Mount Olympus of brilliant authors and philosophers from all of human history. He appreciates on the deepest level what his companions there really meant, and who they really are. Thus in Borges' work one finds glorious apologia for the whole history of speculative metaphysics and its parallels in fiction and poetry.
However, Borges is not merely a man who wrote about books; insofar as he did, he did so to enrich by contextualization his own brilliant ideas. It is for these, to have one's own stock of ideas thus enriched by the endless well of Borges' mind, that one really reads him.
He is the best, the Master, one of the very few authors I deify in my personal pantheon. ...more
I found this to be a nice discussion of Taoism, worlds easier to extract meaning from than the Tao Te Ching, though not quite as clear as the Tao of PI found this to be a nice discussion of Taoism, worlds easier to extract meaning from than the Tao Te Ching, though not quite as clear as the Tao of Pooh. It has all the trappings of ancient philosophy: parables, dialogues, and very poor logical constructions (though, unlike in Plato, these are essentially irrelevant for Zhuangzi; the point is never expressed in logical terms, but rather by illustration in analogy and parable).
The parables are somewhat repetitious, both in tone and in ideas, and sometimes parables are explicitly repeated in slightly altered form. They express three central ideas:
1. That Virtue (happiness, lack of suffering, contentment) is to be found in a middle way, which makes no pretense to glory, riches, or power, nor to asceticism or isolation. It advocates acceptance of your lot in life as the truest road to happiness.
2. That fate is the ultimate determinant of the life you live. You are given a body, a society, a mind, etc, which all conspire to make you who you are and make you do what you do.
3. That all divisions of the world and experience into categories are fallacious and indeed the source of all discontent. This means that language and thought themselves are facetious and don't necessarily have anything to do with the objective universe, and that the only way to truly understand is to abandon all attempts to understand.
These ideas are pretty damned nice for a philosopher who thought such a long time ago. They're not perfect, of course, but I'd say it is probably worth reading. Maybe not. I dunno. Definitely read the Tao of Pooh over Zhuangzi, I'd say, but maybe complement them with each other.
This translation has a nice straightforward character, in that the translator provides many footnotes that are up front about the fact that in many places he didn't really know what Zhuangzi was trying to say. This makes it easier to find the spots that aren't worth trying to parse, since he points them out as dubiously translated and maintained from the original.
"Words exist because of meaning; once you've gotten the meaning, you can forget the words. Where can I find a man who has forgotten words so I can have a word with him?"...more
Novella's urban farming adventures are charming, and she describes them with enthusiasm and wit. Her experience is inspirational and reinforces both tNovella's urban farming adventures are charming, and she describes them with enthusiasm and wit. Her experience is inspirational and reinforces both the importance and felicitous ease of small-scale, local agriculture. However, while Novella is quite articulate and draws on a wide range of references, she offers very few significant ideas and ruminations, and provides little information. Thus, though I enjoyed reading her book, and found it to justify the short time it asked, I wouldn't necessarily recommend it to anyone. ...more
Consuming Nature examines the role accelerating development and consumerism as a paradigm for understanding one's relationship to nature influenced anConsuming Nature examines the role accelerating development and consumerism as a paradigm for understanding one's relationship to nature influenced and in many ways enabled the environmental movement of the middle 1900s. To do this, he chooses the Fox River Valley, where I go to school, as a case study. His thesis is that, somewhat ironically, the increasingly intense use of nature for production enabled the consumerist culture that obscured that dependency and enabled people to view nature as a commodity for recreation.
To prove his thesis, he examines the history of both production and attitudes towards nature in the valley between 1850 and 1950. The former is interesting to me largely because I have now lived here for two years, and because it sheds some light into nationwide transitions in technology. The latter tells a more interesting story. In the 1800s, people largely thought of nature as a set of resources to be developed and exploited to fuel societal "progress." The conservation movement arose as a way to continue and expand the exploitation of nature in the future, driven by emerging shortages of many formerly abundant resources and by the growing availability of scientific knowledge that could inform sustainable management. The conservation movement was fundamentally pro-business and pro-development.
In the 1900s, people began to see nature not as something to be exploited for industry but as a huge park for them to go out and recreate in. The modern tourism and outdoor recreation industries grew up in this period, and Wisconsin's development for both mirrored the patterns of industrial development and exploitation typified by the timber and paper industries. Citizens thought of the matter differently, however, and sought a pristine wilderness that no longer existed and whose creation was at odds with the development and exploitation their lifestyles depended on. This discrepancy led to the election of some radical politicians who demanded unreasonable things of all Wisconsin industries, like the elimination of all pollution.
Even after taking Environmental Economics last term, it wasn't until reading this book that I finally grasped fully why zero pollution and zero externalities aren't, in many cases, the socially optimum outcome.
It's a very interesting story, and it's very well told - as, it seems, all environmental histories are. Both Summers and William Cronon, whose Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England we read previously, exhibit all the best traits I could ask for in an intellectual. Their prose is elegant and clear. Their theses and generalizations are always tempered by acknowledgments of their limitations - both are circumspect in avoiding overstating their case. They are fabulous at stating and minimizing the influence of their own biases, avoiding the kind of ideologicalism that has plagued some of my previous world-views. Finally, the entire way of thinking that is environmental history seems to be precisely the way of looking at the world I'd been trying to develop on my own for two years now. That is, it is inclusive of all the myriad and involved factors implicated in the movements of human and ecological history. It views history as a natural, deterministic system driven by real, observed forces rather than vague, ideological abstracts. Yay!...more